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ip.access deal shows importance of hardware in Open RAN

ip.access deal shows importance of hardware in Open RAN

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty



Small cell pioneer ip.access has been sold to US software developer Mavenir for an undisclosed sum in a deal that highlights a move to vertical supply chains in telecoms.

The company, owned by a holding company called Zip Wireless after a private equity deal with Zouk Capital in 2015, has raised just under $40m (€34m) since it was founded in 2002. It develops small cells that can fill in gaps in 3G and 4G networks to improve coverage.

It had backing from Intel, Qualcomm, ADC Communications and Herman Houser’s investment vehicle Amadeus Capital Partners, which led a £10m funding round back in 2007 when 3G was the thing when femtocells were a market push, and again in 2015.

However the turnover of £9.3m to March 2020 was down dramatically from the heady days of turnover of $25m a year and an annual run rate of $100m.

The deal will see ip.access operate as a business unit within Mavenir’s Emerging Business group and is expected to develop strong synergies with Mavenir’s OpenRAN, Cloud Core, Edge, and Analytics suites and boost Mavenir’s 5G Open RAN network activity with companies such as Vodafone in India and DISH in the US with 3G and 4G access. Ip.access has more than 50 live networks deployed globally with network operators, and hundreds of private networks for industry, critical infrastructures, data monetization, security and surveillance. 

“I’ve known Nick Johnson (founder and CTO) since 2001 as ip.access was founded about the same time as Picochip and was later a major Picochip customer,” said Peter Claydon, president of small cell silicon designer picoCom and co-founder of picoChip. “It’s a very interesting move from Mavenir. For ages the Mavenir line has been that it is a pure software company and that Open RAN is just software on standard hardware platforms, yet here it is acquiring a traditional hardware-focused company.

Next: Need for hardware


“This provides further evidence that Open RAN needs cost-optimised hardware if it’s going to succeed,” he said.

This has some irony as Open RAN defines the network interfaces to allow multiple hardware vendors to supply into the radio access network (RAN) for a more distributed supply chain.

Mavenir, based in Richardson, Texas, develops end-to-end cloud-native software for networks. It has a complex history, essentially formed in 2017 from Xura, which itself was formed from parts of US software development giant Comverse Tech and Canadian telecoms equipment maker Mitel Networks.

The UK lost another small cell pioneer, Ubiquisys, back in 2013 in a $310m sale to Cisco.

www.mavenir.com; www.ipaccess.com

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