Betacom, a longtime design and deployment partner for the biggest U.S. carriers, announced it has secured $15 million in funding from private investors, including former T-Mobile executive Braxton Carter, who retired as CFO last year.
The funds will be used to support Betacom’s 5G-as-a-Service, which it describes as the industry’s first fully managed private wireless service.
“Private 5G networks have incredible potential to revolutionize the way that a number of industries, including transportation, manufacturing and logistics, conduct their business and accelerate their progress,” Carter said in a prepared statement. “But design, deployment and management of these complex networks can be strong barriers to realizing the benefits. Betacom is exactly the right company to eliminate those barriers for enterprises of all sizes, and I am extremely enthusiastic to be able to partner with and support them as they bring this much-needed new offering to market.”
Betacom’s history includes distributed antenna systems (DAS) and other projects for big carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. It’s been around since 1991 and counts more than 800 design and deployment wins.
In the fall of 2019, Johan Bjorkland and Bruce Morrison, with private investors mostly from the San Francisco and Seattle areas, acquired the company and set out on a new growth trajectory. In the past couple of years, a new management team moved its headquarters from Tampa, Florida, to Bellevue, Washington; hired a team of engineers and increased revenue from about $35 million per year to about $100 million.
Now, it’s introducing a private 5G-as-a-service offering, directed at enterprises that are focused on security and want to retain ownership and control of their data. It’s using the unlicensed General Authorized Access (GAA) portion of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.5 GHz band, and ready to field calls from enterprises that want to jump head-first into their own private network.
Betacom’s capabilities include a security and service operating center, which is basically a modern, cloud-based network operations center (NOC), according to Bjorklund. The NOC is hosted on Microsoft Azure.
“We’re focusing our solution a lot around security, which is what our customers express interest in,” he told Fierce. “We’re offering them an enterprise-grade service level agreement, where they own the network and we operate the network. They focus on their core business. Our goal is for them to have their own private wireless network without having to add one single staff to their headcount.”
One of the key advantages is it fits inside the enterprise’s firewall, he said. Wi-Fi can do this as well, but it has other challenges, such as lack of mobility. Betacom is focused on 3GPP-based technology because it has an advantage over Wi-Fi, he said.
Questions about the future of DAS have been swirling around the industry for years. Some people say DAS will be replaced by small cells. “I think there’s still a role for DAS,” he said.
The company, which employs about 300, plans to announce radio and other vendors at a later time; it favors American-based vendors in the open RAN space, talking to many and trialing solutions from some of them, he said.
The 5G devices for CBRS aren’t quite yet ready, so Betacom is deploying radios that are 5G-enabled with a software upgrade. As more devices become available, the company will update radios through software. It’s starting with 4G because that’s the ecosystem that’s available, he said.
“We see a huge trajectory over the next few years,” he said. “Right now, we see a lot of interest with enterprises, but it’s really mostly trial based at this point and time. 5G is not really quite here now… but we see a lot of interest amongst our customers wanting to get their toe in the water, try out new use cases and so forth. But I also believe that when we bring edge cloud solutions,” such as from Microsoft Azure, to the enterprises, that will help speed innovation around 5G services. “It’s going to take a little bit of time, but we want to be in there early.”