Kumu Among Many with Good Ideas on Extending Spectrum

Carl Weinschenk
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There are big bucks in solving big problems. That explains why Kumu Networks has raised $25 million from investors, which likely includes Deutsche Telekom and Verizon Ventures. The series C funding is being led by Cisco. Other participants are repeat investors NEA, Third Point Ventures and Khosla. The company, which was founded by Stanford University Ph.Ds, previously raised $20.43 million.

The use of wireless networks of all sorts is going in one direction: Up. There are many approaches to meeting the challenge of accommodating it all. One of them is for carriers to make better use of the spectrum they have. That’s what Kumu aims to do.

The idea is fairly simple: To date, one side in a communications link would patiently wait for the other side to send data and subsequently respond. Kumu, which is in advanced trials with partners, offers what is known as full duplex capabilities. This means that radios can transmit simultaneously. It’s like upgrading a conversation to the point at which no data is lost if both people speak at the same time.


That is exciting to potential users. So is the fact that it is not dependent on replacing equipment, according to TechCrunch:

The company claims that this can work out to ‘trillions of dollars’ in cost savings because it improves the investments already made in spectrum and equipment, while also putting off the need to get more. So it’s no surprise that carriers are describing it as a ‘breakthrough.’

Kumu is far from the only approach to more efficiently using available bandwidth. Another player in this broad game is xG Technology, a 13-year-old company that uses a variety of technologies, including software-defined radios (SDR) and multiple input multiple output (MIMO) antennas, to allow far more flexible use of bandwidth.

It increases efficiency by employing techniques that are far more opportunistic and capable of supporting communications in challenging environments. This week, xG – which markets under the xMax name -- was awarded a patent for an approach that enables radios to scan for channels that are vacant.

A third example of ways around looming spectrum issues is the advent of 5G. The key, according to David Hammarwall, Siemens’ Strategic Product Manager for LTE, is that it will operate in different spectrum than current wireless technologies, so it is additive to what exists.

There are many other approaches to alleviating the bandwidth crunch, and many variations within each. The good news is that business is increasing – and smart and innovative entrepreneurs are working hard to ensure that networks can accommodate it.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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