Celona Scores $60 Million Funding Round

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By: Mary Jander

Celona, a private cellular LAN startup, has closed a $60 million Series C round of funding, bringing its total raised to $100 million and signaling a rise in demand for its products and services.

Over the past two years, Celona has sold networks for enterprises looking to extend high-speed wireless networking to edge locations. Customers include Purdue University’s Research Foundation, California State University’s Stanislaus campus, SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC), and St. Luke’s Hospital System in Idaho, to name a few.

But Celona’s most impressive progress has been in creating an ecosystem of profitable partnerships and reseller arrangements. These include a deal with NTT to offer Private 5G to enterprise customers and a an agreement with Verizon that will enable that carrier to resell Celona solutions as part of a Verizon On Site LTE and 5G network service for businesses. Celona also has alliances with Cradlepoint and with the Aruba subsidiary of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE).

Celona Leverages CBRS

In all instances, Celona’s LTE/5G enterprise LANs is deployed on networks supported by the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which comprises a band of frequency spectrum between 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz opened by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to mobile users in 2015. In its reseller arrangements, Celona will be used to create private wireless LANs as part of services offered by partners.

For each wireless LAN, Celona supplies a SAS license for CBRS spectrum usage, along with its own access points, SIM cards with 5G-enabled mobile core capabilities, and software the vendor says is suitable for AIOps monitoring and network automation.

Celona also features a patent-pending technique it calls MicroSlicing as a key differentiator. MicroSlicing allows each LTE/5G private wireless LAN to assign priorities to applications or groups of devices and to control traffic flows to meet specified service parameters.

Competition and Validation from AWS

Celona, a Futuriom 40 company founded in 2019 and headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., with facilities in India, faces competition from a range of suppliers in the private wireless space. Perhaps the most significant challenge comes from AWS, which unveiled AWS Private 5G late last year. Celona publicly applauded AWS’s move as proof of market momentum, while touting its MicroSlicing as a feature that distinguishes Celona from others.

Competition will only increase. Private wireless shows signs of being the driving force behind adoption of 5G applications at the edge, an area that is just starting to show significant progress in a few key areas.

A New SVP Joins the Team

Celona not only announced funding today, it also revealed that it’s hired a new SVP of worldwide sales, Robert Mustarde, who previously worked at Versa Networks and Ruckus Wireless and was also a principal at Mapache Capital, a venture firm in San Francisco.

Notably, Mehmet Yavuz, the CTO and co-founder of Celona, also worked at Ruckus, as well as at Qualcomm and Federated Wireless. The other three co-founders, Vinay Anneboina, Ravi Mulam, and CEO Rajeev Shah, also have extensive experience in wireless networking – Anneboina and Shah worked at Aruba; Shah also worked at Federated Wireless.

Celona’s C round was led by DigitalBridge Ventures with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, NTTVC, Qualcomm Ventures, and Cervin Ventures. The vendor plans to use the money to expand internationally and to grow its ecosystem and R&D.

Bottom line? Celona is well positioned on the ground floor of a market segment that could prove to be the driving force for wireless edge computing. The vendor has set its sights on alliances that stand to benefit its forward moves. And fresh funding validates the mission.