Bell Canada backs Open RAN hopeful Cohere Technologies

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Jan 30, 2023

  • Cohere Technologies has developed spectrum multiplier technology
  • Its main target market is Open RAN deployments
  • Bell Canada is its latest investor
  • The operator will trial Cohere’s technology as part of its Open RAN R&D efforts

As part of its ongoing Open RAN trials, Bell Canada is to trial the spectrum multiplier technology developed by Cohere Technologies and, for good measure, is taking a stake in the San Jose, California-based vendor.

The news comes almost a year after Cohere announced its previous funding – $46m from Koch Strategic Platforms (part of Koch Industries), VMware, Telstra Ventures, Juniper Networks, Intel Capital, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Lightspeed Venture Partners. 

Now Bell Ventures, which is Bell Canada’s corporate venture capital unit, has invested an unspecified sum in Cohere as it prepares to trial the vendor’s Universal Spectrum Multiplier (USM) software for use in the operator’s Open RAN and 5G networks. Cohere claims its USM technology can boost the capacity of the mobile network cells by 100%. 

“Bell Ventures is delighted to collaborate with Cohere Technologies to further differentiate Bell’s world-class networks and to accelerate the maturity of the Open RAN ecosystem and support the global development of more Open RAN standards,” stated Mark McDonald, Bell Canada’s vice president of wireless access.  

Financial terms were not disclosed, but previous investors have pumped between $5m and $10m into the specialist technology developer.

Cohere also declined to comment on how much the company is now worth as a result of the latest investment, but Bloomberg has previously assigned a $500m valuation to the vendor (though that was about a year ago). The vendor also declined to comment on how many staff it now has, saying in an emailed response to questions only that it is “growing and hiring”. 

While USM can be used in existing mobile networks, Cohere is primarily pitching the software as an xApp that can run on third-party near-real time RAN intelligent controller (RIC) platforms. It has already been involved in tests at Deutsche Telekom with RIC partner (and investor) VMware, and has an ongoing dialogue with Vodafone Group, though the operator is not believed to be directly engaged in trials of Cohere’s technology. Vodafone fellow and director of network architecture, Yago Tenorio, namechecked Cohere when discussing the potential of RIC platforms and their associated applications during an exclusive interview with TelecomTV, which was made available on demand last week – see Vodafone's Yago Tenorio on Open RAN progress.

Cohere’s chief marketing officer and senior VP of business development, Ronny Haraldsvik, confirmed the company is also working with a RIC partner for the Bell Canada trials, but declined to identify the company. 

In addition to VMware, Juniper Networks (another of its investors) is known to be a RIC platform partner.   

The development of RIC platforms and the xApps and rApps that will run on them is still at a relatively early stage, but is regarded as vital if Open RAN architectures are to enable the innovation and best-of-breed multivendor environments that its supporters claim will give Open RAN an edge over traditional single-vendor radio access network (RAN) technology stacks. Cohere is clearly confident of some meaningful activity this year, though, as Haraldsvik noted that Cohere’s aim is to start generating revenues in 2023.

RIC developments will be the focus of the next episode of the Open RAN Show, TelecomTV’s new monthly programme that launched last week – see Episode one: Accelerating Open RAN Developments.

 In addition to its trial of Cohere’s USM software, Bell Canada also plans to “evaluate” the vendor’s orthogonal Time frequency space (OTFS) technology as something that could play a part in its 6G plans. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Bell Ventures as an investor and look forward to our technical collaboration. This investment aligns our interests and allows us to scale faster toward commercialising our support for 4G and 5G with our Universal Spectrum Multiplier,” stated Cohere’s chairman and CEO, Ray Dolan. “Bell’s interest, collaboration and support is also intended to accelerate OTFS as a candidate for 6G that has unique benefits to the global defence industry as well as satellite connectivity,” he added. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

 

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