Google Pushes Forward on Private Wireless with Celona


By: Mary Jander

Private cellular LAN startup Celona has partnered with Alphabet's Google Cloud to bring private 5G networks to the enterprise edge. The deal is the latest in a series of announcements from both companies highlighting the growing popularity of private wireless networks.

To start at the top: Google two weeks ago announced the integration of its Google Distributed Cloud Edge (GDC Edge) with private cellular networks via a series of ecosystem partnerships, including the one with Celona. (The other partners in that announcement were Betacom, Boingo Wireless, Crown Castle, and Kajeet.) The GDC Edge, based on Google Cloud’s telecom-oriented Anthos technology, brings 5G and radio access network (RAN) functions to the edge of networks built natively on Google Cloud.

The thrust of Google’s early June announcement is that enterprises seeking improved performance and security for applications such as intelligent manufacturing that require substantial edge computing can now do so by deploying a single, cloud-native solution – GDC Edge. Depending on the specific requirements, customers can pick one of the ecosystem partners integrated with that solution to create LTE/5G private cellular networks at the network edge.

From Celona’s standpoint, the GDC Edge provides a vehicle for delivering the startup’s 5G LAN products to the edge of networks for apps such as smart manufacturing, healthcare, and real estate management.

What's Being Delivered and How

Celona's LAN products include LTE/5G access points, SIM cards with mobile core functionality, and artificial intelligence (AI) software for network monitoring and control. A patent-pending function called micro-slicing lets enterprises assign bandwidth as needed to meet performance requirements of specific groups or applications. Celona also supplies a license for Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), supporting frequencies between 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz.

The GDC Edge integration is now an option for Celona LANs as well. The combined Celona/GDC Edge solution will be sold and supported by Celona, with Google referring customers to the startup as needed.

Celona Widens Its Ecosystem

The GDC Edge announcement adds to the ecosystem Celona is building around its 5G LAN products – a strategy that is essential to its success. Celona has reseller arrangements with Verizon Business and NTT Ltd. (NTT’s venture arm is also an investor in Celona) and it also has teamed with tower supplier SBA Communications to deliver a private wireless network to Purdue University’s Research Foundation. Other alliances include ones with HPE (NYSE: HPE).

The GDC Edge announcement brings potential additions to Celona’s roster, such as Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI), which also supplies cellular towers to the likes of T-Mobile. The potential permutations of relationships is impressive.

Celona Is Ready to Fight

Celona faces competition from a rising tide of players intent on making the most of the enterprise move to private wireless. Among these is AWS, which announced its own CBRS-based AWS Private 5G solution late in 2021 – though the AWS product already supports spectrum outside the range of CBRS.

So Celona has work to do. Making the most of partnerships, particularly on the international front, will require Celona to stretch its capabilities to 5G based on services other than CBRS, an adaptation that should be relatively easy for the startup.

Celona, a Futuriom 40 company, has the resources for the fight. In March of this year, it scored $60 million in a C round of funding led by DigitalBridge Ventures with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, NTTVC, Qualcomm Ventures, and Cervin Ventures. Celona said the money, which brings its total funding to $100 million, will be used in part to grow its ecosystem.

With substantial backing and an expanding network of partnerships, it will be interesting to see how far Celona can go.