Describe Movandi's market and product focus and the company's overall goal.

To deliver on the full promise of 5G to customers, service providers must be able to support both sub-6 and mmWave technologies. However, there have been substantial technical challenges including range, line of site blockage, indoor building and connectivity while mobile.

Movandi’s approach enables operators and device makers to unlock the potential of 5G and other multi-gigabit millimeter communication applications, including cutting-edge 5G applications, such as smart home, self-driving cars and future mobile cloud-based services, that require reduced lag time between the devices and cell towers. All signals must be connected—all the time, everywhere. Even in the most remote, hard-to-reach indoor areas. Carriers and mobile device providers need highly efficient and reliable 5G connectivity solutions. Plus, cost-efficiency is a critical factor in realizing the goal of taking 5G to the edge.

Our RF technology, intellectual property and unique engineering methodology enable service providers and industry partners to launch indoor, outdoor and mobile enhanced 5G mmWave services at 50 percent lower costs and cuts deployment schedules by up to 50 percent and increases installation flexibility.

What types of products are you developing?

Our 5G mmWave solutions include 5G BeamXR active routers/repeaters and BeamX RF front-end for fixed wireless CPE, mobile devices, small cells and open radio access networks (O-RAN) radio units.

What is the state of mmWave 5G? Is it being adopted as you envisioned?

5G can reach its true potential of delivering the promise of minimum latency, highest capacity and multi-gigabit throughputs using virtualized networks that support mobile edge compute. “True 5G” means that the 5G mobile networks need to change in two major ways:

First, expanding the spectrum portfolio by adding a higher bandwidth 5G mmWave spectrum to the existing 5G, sub-6 GHz spectrum to enable significantly higher capacity, multiple gigabit throughputs and lower cost per GB, among other benefits.

Second, change from existing 5G NR NSA (non-standalone) to 5G NR SA (standalone) architecture, enabling many true 5G use cases, network slicing and lower latency networks.

5G mmWave can reduce the total cost of ownership significantly to help accelerate the ROI for CSPs (cellular service providers).

While 4G and its predecessors have traditionally expanded capacity and coverage primarily by adding more and more base stations, this, historically, has had limited capacity. 5G base stations have significantly more capacity but with mmWave limited range. The result has been that the mmWave base capacity is not fully utilized, and service providers have needed to add many more expensive gNodeBs (gNB) than required.

The Movandi approach changes this paradigm by reducing the number of very expensive next-generation gNB radios required, while using more cost-effective smart repeaters to reach outdoor and indoor areas that are resistant to mmWave signals. Movandi BeamXR-powered smart repeaters, with their flexible form factors and low power consumption, can be placed virtually anywhere—from light poles to ceilings in office buildings and throughout stadiums and other large venues—using simple mounting hardware. For this reason, Verizon Wireless and other operators has already adopted Movandi-powered smart repeaters, and they are beginning deployment nationwide.

You say Movandi can lower the cost of a mmWave network by 50 percent and accelerate an operator's deployment. Walk us through that calculation.

Independent expert assessment shows that mmWave coverage costs can be cut in half. To determine how well the Movandi approach might work, Joe Madden, founder and chief analyst at Mobile Experts, analyzed whether mmWave repeaters can save money in a dense urban area and if they can save substantial deployment costs. As its baseline, the study examined a neighborhood in Dallas covering 1.4 square miles with a high density of sub-6 GHz traffic.

During the peak hour, this area currently generates about 31 Gbps of traffic, but by January 2024, it is expected to nearly double to 61 Gbps. After comparing three deployment scenarios, he concluded that rather than employing large numbers of gNodeB radios, a mesh of repeaters can be an effective way to satisfy both coverage and capacity.

Radio Equipment CAPEX comparison Source: Mobile Experts, Inc.

Radio Equipment CAPEX comparison Source: Mobile Experts, Inc.

Using repeaters can cut total cost in half

Repeaters can cut total cost in half. Source: Mobile Experts, Inc.

The results of this work are contained in a white paper entitled “Repeaters cut 5G mmWave cost in half” and can be downloaded here.

What’s required is a new network design model in which smart repeaters, advanced software and algorithms, digital beamforming and other techniques allow mmWave signals to permeate RF-restrictive environments without dramatically increasing the number of small-cell base stations. This is precisely what Movandi has achieved with its patented mmWave silicon solutions and advanced software-based virtualized platform.

You recently published the results of an automotive drive test to demonstrate your BeamXR repeater. What were the goals and what were the results?

Outside of buildings, automotive remains a key market for 5G mmWave. In the recent field trial testing the Verizon Ultra Wideband mmWave network using a variety of smartphones in a moving vehicle, an independent analyst recorded the speed and reliability of the network with the basic commercial network, then again with a set of two Movandi repeaters attached to the vehicle.

With the Movandi BeamXR repeater turned off, downlink speeds averaged 114.3 Mbps, and varied from 87 Mbps at 130 m to 177 Mbps at 90 m. Performance was significantly affected by the location where a user held the phone, and it periodically switched back to sub-6 5G or 4G LTE when communication was not possible using the mmWave network.

With the Movandi BeamXR-powered smart repeater turned on, downlink speeds averaged 1.6 Gbps and 151.2 m with a maximum downlink speed of 2.7 Gbps at 250 m. Performance remained strong throughout the route regardless of where the smartphone was held in the car. Even videoconferencing calls with Blue Jeans, Zoom and Cisco Webex were maintained seamlessly without interruptions, which was not possible without the smart repeaters. The signal consistently remained in the mmWave network, never resorting to the lower 4G LTE frequencies.

The test showed that Movandi BeamXR-powered smart repeaters significantly enhanced 5G performance 19x compared to national averages and 14x without repeaters.

Movandi has a vertically integrated strategy, from ICs to system, including the software. Why did you choose this approach, rather than focusing on a single level in the chain?

Operating in the mmWave band presents unique technical challenges versus traditional connectivity and cellular systems. First, traditional approaches to RF design break down, requiring new and innovative architectures to achieve high performance in low-cost bulk CMOS foundries. Second, higher frequencies have greater transmission losses caused by distance, blockage and non-line-of-sight conditions, depending on the environment and the application.

Rather than using existing building blocks, Movandi has developed an entirely new 5G foundation using a system-level approach to achieve radical improvements—as compared to traditional, expensive, bulky and inefficient mmWave antennas—to deliver solutions that are more compact, highly scalable, more power-efficient over a wider power range, more spectrally efficient and more affordable to deploy. This is achieved through our distributed RF architecture and integrated with antenna arrays built-in. Using a system-level design combined with a distributed RF architecture, it provides scalability and supports any front-end application with any size phased array or antenna architecture.

Without disclosing your IP, describe several unique aspects of your RFIC and integrated antenna designs that our readers will find interesting.

The Movandi architecture is based on patented 5G mmWave chipsets, RF power amplifiers, MIMO antennas, BeamXR smart repeater modules and BeamX algorithms and software. It provides mesh networking capability with redundant and dynamic routing and will soon provide control via cloud-based data centers with AI to balance and optimize network routing based on traffic and quality of connectivity. These innovations reduce the number of gNodeBs through load-balancing traffic across networks to provide continuous connectivity, even in moving vehicles.

BeamX software-defined beam networking (SDBN) mesh-networking capability expands coverage to difficult-to-reach locations and enhances the end-user experience while maintaining a high MIMO rank. The gNodeB signals are received by a Movandi BeamXR smart repeater donor unit and then meshed with up to four additional server units (more in the future) via wireless or wired fiber or coaxial cable. The donor units can be placed at locations with high MIMO rank to maximize signal-to-noise ratio and traffic capacity.

The solution also significantly reduces deployment complexity and ongoing maintenance and, as they have optimized form factors that consume little power, they can help solve the onerous problems associated with permitting and legal fees. In short, the low-cost—about $3,000—of Movandi BeamXR-powered smart repeaters lets wireless carriers expand and enhance mmWave coverage to places where using traditional means would be far too expensive.

Who are your investors?

Our investors include Celesta Capital, COTA Capital, DNX Ventures and Sierra Ventures.

Tell us about your background and what led you to Movandi.

I was born and raised in Iran and came to the United States to study electrical engineering at UCLA. I have always been fascinated with wireless technology and after I graduated, I co-founded, along with my brother Reza, Innovent Systems, where we developed low-cost Bluetooth and Wi-Fi SoC solutions. In 2000, we were acquired by Broadcom, where Reza and I spent the next 16 years helping to grow the wireless business from zero to over $3 billion in revenue annually. In 2016, we realized there was a huge opportunity to apply our wireless expertise in high frequency, mmWave wireless and started a new venture. We formed our second startup, Movandi, with a laser focus to revolutionize mmWave wireless networks and enable the next generation of 5G and multi-gigabit connectivity.

Among the ways Movandi is unique is having a sister and brother run the company. How does your family relationship aid or challenge your business roles?

It has been a wonderful experience to work alongside Reza. We have worked in the wireless industry for over 25 years and have been involved with all different kinds of wireless applications such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular backhaul and 60 GHz. We understand the advantages and shortcomings of each standard and application. In the end, Reza and I both love to turn complex theorems and algorithms into products and services that can make a real difference in people's lives.