LAS VEGAS — Fresh off a $17.9 million Series A round of funding, wireless startup Pivotal Commware is hoping to take its state-of-the-art holographic beamforming technology from trials to commercial deployments. The company is currently testing its technology in two Tier 1 carriers’ 4G networks, but it hopes to play an even bigger role in 5G networks.
On the sidelines of the CES 2018 conference, Pivotal Commware CEO Brian Deutsch told SDxCentral that the company’s holographic beamforming builds on phased-array beamforming technology that has been around for many years. However, holographic beamforming, which Deutsch calls “beams-as-a-service,” addresses the shortfalls in existing beamforming technology by using software-enabled antennas to narrow the beams so they have better propagation. That also leads to less interference. And because the beams are so precisely pinpointed, the same frequency of spectrum can be reused, which in turn makes for a much more efficient use of the spectrum.
Deutsch envisions the technology being used in conjunction by operators to extend coverage, particularly in the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. MmWave spectrum is known for providing a lot of capacity, but the spectrum can only carry signals a short distance. Pivotal’s technology would be able to fill in the gaps, particularly in buildings where mmWave coverage is weak to non-existent.
Pivotal has about 250 patents on its technology, which are held by technology incubator Intellectual Ventures. Intellectual Ventures is a patent licensing company that focuses on metamaterials technology. Pivotal is one company incubated by Intellectual Ventures. Others include Kymeta, which makes flat-panel satellite antennas, and Echodyne, which builds radar systems for connected cars. Bill Gates is an investor in all of them.
The startup recently relocated its headquarters to Kirkland, Washington. The new facilities will include an anechoic chamber for precise measuring of the holographic beamforming antennas as well as an outdoor test range for larger, high-gain antenna testing.
Deutsch said besides more testing of the technology in different environments, it also needs to work on making its technology self-installable so that it can be widely deployed. Plus, Deutsch said that the company is working closely with the 3GPP standards body to make sure the technology is interoperable with different vendor equipment.
Analyst Monica Paolini, founder and president of Senza Fila Consuling, predicts that beamforming technologies like that of Pivotal’s will play a key role in the expansion of 4G capacity and 5G deployment.