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Hunting for 5G: top 5 deals with fifth-generation communications startups


5G is the new, fifth generation of connectivity with much faster data upload and download speeds, coverage and stable connection. Everything that has already worked on 4G will work even better, and thanks to low latency, there will be plenty more opportunities for application of technology.

The 5G standard has not yet been approved, but active development of technology for working on fifth-generation networks is already underway. Venture investors and corporations have been searching for startups in this area for the last five years, so as not to miss the pivotal moment.


We have compiled a ranking of the most significant 5G project deals in the recent years. It is worth mentioning that such transactions were concluded abroad, and some start-ups were taken from the incubators in this area. Today Russia has entered the race, and MTS in partnership with Nokia has launched an incubator for startups ready to create products for 5G networks.


Medivis: $2.3 million for visualization of images of internal organs using 5G


Medivis, which develops augmented reality data integration and visualization tools for surgeons, raised $2.3 million in funding in February 2019, including from Initialized Capital and other investors. The company, along with other startups, was chosen to work in the first Verizon 5Gg laboratory. Thanks to the fifth generation technology, Medivis can not only create detailed holographic three-dimensional images of internal organs of ultra-high accuracy, which can be viewed from any angle (and even project them on the human body in the operating room), but also share them remotely through a Verizon 5G broadband connection.


Among Microsoft's partners: by using Microsoft HoloLens, Medivis SurgicalAR technology platform allows physicians to superimpose images directly on the patient, providing superior accuracy and real-time decision-making - both in and out of the operating room.


Movandi: $20 million to compete with Intel and Qualcomm


Movandi startup is building antennas for the higher 5G frequencies that were just recently allocated to fifth-generation networks - frequencies in the range of 20 GHz to 40 GHz, or millimeter waves. The company has already raised about $50 million, of which $20.7 million - in the second round of funding in November 2017. Sierra Ventures, Cota Capital, Wistron NeWeb Corp. and DraperNexus Ventures were investors in the project.


Millimeter-wave antennas used to be expensive, cumbersome, and inefficient. Movandi, in contrast, creates mmWave antenna arrays that are more compact, energy efficient over a wider power range, spectrum efficient and cheaper to manufacture. The startup aims to combat the problem of interference in millimeter waves. Development product of the company called BeamXR is an efficient signal amplifier and repeater. By providing better signal quality at lower power, Movandi hopes to compete with established electronics giants like Intel and Qualcomm.


This is not the first company created by siblings - Maryam and Reza Rofougaran: they once founded Innovent Systems, the largest provider of wireless technology - the pioneer of wireless chips. The company was acquired by Broadcom. Then they founded Movandi.


Common Networks: $25 million to develop 5G Internet in the Valley


Common Networks, founded in the Silicon Valley, provides 5G home Internet using 60 GHz frequency. In August 2018, the company raised $ 25 million in a second round of funding from General Catalyst, with the participation of existing investors - Eclipse Ventures and Lux Capital. Total amount invested in Common Networks is estimated at $34.3 million.


The company became one of the first to use Facebook's open source Terragraph system in the US. The solution is planned to be used in the suburban areas of Alameda, which, as do many other areas in the United States, experience low network data rates and unreliable Internet.


The technology is designed to bypass expensive fiber optic lines by means of Internet passing through buildings along a network of cell towers over short distances. The Terragraph device itself can be connected to the existing infrastructure, such as a street lamp or a residential building.


Pivotal Commware: $30 million from Bill Gates and his partners - to improve 5G signal


Startup Pivotal Commware uses beamforming technology, which provides for the formation of a directed beam towards the receiving wireless signal device. In September 2018, the company raised $20 million from unnamed investors as part of a second round of funding. Total funding is estimated at $30 million, investors include DIG Investment, Lux Capital, Starwood Capital Group and Bill Gates.


5G networks use waves that not only have a high frequency, but are also very short, making it harder for them to pass through solid objects. The technology uses multiple antennas, thus allowing the signals to bounce off objects. Pivotal's holographic beamforming technology uses low-cost, low-power antenna that shapes and directs beams in such a way that frequencies can be reused without interfering with each other.


Pivotal Commware believes that it has created a solution with the lowest possible cost, size, weight and energy consumption, and has brought together an advanced team of experts to implement this technology.


Starry: $100 million on home Internet via 5G


«Starry» startup uses millimeter wave spectrum to provide wireless broadband services. In total, the company has raised more than $ 160 million, including from FirstMark Capital, IAC, Tiger Global, KKR, HLVP and Quantum Strategic Partners. In July 2018, the company closed round C with a volume of $100 million. At the moment, the startup has applied for up to $ 125 million dollars as part of the current round D.


Starry, having launched beta testing in Boston in 2016, became the first company in the US to commission 5G wireless technology that provides in-home gigabit connectivity. The entire technological base was developed in-house: from a network node (Starry Beam) to a local transceiver (Starry Point) and a home wifi hub (Starry Station). Starry offers a long-term contract to American consumers, unlimited, costing $ 50 at a speed of 200 Mbit/s. By US standards, these are favorable terms: local journalists, for example, claim that they pay $ 71 per month for less "friendly" conditions.


Today, the company conducts its business in Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Washington. In 2019, Starry won the tender and got spectrum licenses for 24 GHz millimeter-wave frequencies in 25 states, covering 60 million people and 25 million households. This can make Starry the largest millimeter-wave wireless Internet provider not only in the US, but also in the world.


It is worth noting that this is a startup from the Aereo company team, which raised $97 million for the organization of live broadcasts over the Internet, but was closed by the ruling of the Supreme Court – the case initiated by major broadcast networks.


Bonus: Google bought a 5G development startup as early as 2014


This transaction took place 5 years ago and formally does not fall into our rating, but we could not help noting it. Google aimed for the development of 5G before many, and as far back as 2014 acquired “Alpental Technologies” startup to develop this standard. Parameters of the transaction were not disclosed. Prior to that, Alpental had raised $ 850,000 in funding.

The company was developing high-speed network technology operating in the 60 GHz frequency range. The spectrum was used to connect buildings located at a distance of up to one mile away from each other. Connection speed was up to 7 GB per second. The technology allowed to save on installing fiber optic cable. Pete Gelbman, one of the startup’s founders, described Alpental as “ultra-low energy consumption, self-organizing gigabit wireless technology” that extends the reach of fiber networks. The startup was meant to operate in cities with densely developed areas with 5G and Wi-Fi wireless networks.

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