Eridan Reinvents Mobile Infrastructure and Raises $42 Million in Funding

For the most part, we don’t even have to think about how the mobile networks we all depend on work. But, as is often the case with infrastructure, it’s not surprising to hear that some are newer and others haven’t changed in decades. Eridan is a well-funded startup that aims to replace one of the latter with a radically different hardware approach that could make mobile networks much more efficient.

Everywhere you look, or just above where you look, is a base station that connects your phone to the wider Internet. These can be thought of as consisting of three large parts. The modem exchanges data with the rest of the network. antennas that emit radio signals in synchronization with dozens or hundreds of nearby devices; And a transceiver sits in between and converts the digital data from the modem into the actual RF signal output by the antenna.

Obviously, modems change with the times and have to increase capacity and they have done so. Likewise, antennas must change to reflect the new uses of spectral fragments used for mobile data. However, transceivers are similar to digital-to-analog converters in that operations such as data input and signal output have not really changed much.

Recently, however, they have begun to explore the limits of the technologically dinosaur middlebeat.

Doug Kirkpatrick, co-founder of Eridan, said, “The way transceivers power antennas has not changed over the past 70 years. “It’s called a linear amplifier, and that device, its circuit architecture approach is literally the limit for today’s 5G.”

These amplifiers are analog devices in nature, and due to their fundamental nature, the more power they put in, the less efficient they become. And over the years the power used has increased as the number and complexity of the signals increased. 5G transceivers are roughly half the efficiency of 4G transceivers and half that of 3G, but require significantly more 5G cells due to spectrum limitations and growing demand. Even if the difference is only a few watts, it adds up very quickly if you plan to include all densely populated areas and highways.

As Kirkpatrick said, “If you want to reach everywhere, you have 20 times more radios and 50% of the electricity in the United States at the same time being less efficient.” “This dog is not hunting.”

“What we’ve done is what the industry has been pursuing for probably 30 years, and what every wireless company has been spending billions of dollars on. If we want everyone to use 5G without melting the planet, we are the only way this is possible,” he said.

The size of a standard pole-based cell and a cell using Eridan’s technology.

And what exactly did Eridan do? I hinted at the skepticism that startups with limited means can outrun the decades-long study of the wealthiest companies on the planet.

“Well, we cheated,” Kirkpatrick admitted. Earl McCune, one of the company’s founders, Sadly passed away 2 years ago During development, his approach was one of those conducting research in large telecommunications companies that never succeeded. Not to mention that he took trade secrets with him, of course, they just found a way to make theory a reality outside of corporate structures.

The founders who met after failing to recruit to work for a large company liked each other and decided to pursue the concept independently.

“We did what you had to do, and we sat down with bar napkins and beer,” he recalled, after filling up the think tank a bit. “It was one of those realizations. Everyone’s eyebrows went up and they said, ‘That’s a crazy idea… Then when I turned it on for the first time, literally, it was the most complete sign I’ve ever seen. We said, ‘Who the hell are we going to explain this to?’ “

eridan render

How the Eridan troops will look from the void to the uncharacteristic pillars.

Power generation is in some ways as simple as going from a tube to a transistor.

“A linear amplifier is an analog amplifier. They made the most of a bad deal because they are concerned about cost and efficiency. [i.e. how noisy] Can you signal and still be efficient? This is the basics of what a linear amplifier does,” he explains. “We are a digital switch. We send a very clean signal. We paired our switch-mode architecture with gallium nitride and silicon, and the efficiency improved from 60% to over 99%. A hundred times smaller and a hundred times cheaper.”

“On this type of direct polar architecture, Earl wrote a book,” Kirkpatrick said. “He was well versed in this kind of approach.” his other co-founders, Dubravco Babitz, is a materials specialist focusing on gallium nitride. Gallium nitride is used in combination with silicon to create high-efficiency chip architectures without digging too deeply into the details. They initially thought they could collect a $5 million contract from DARPA and use it to scale down military radios, but soon realized that the technology went far beyond the defense category and brought it into telecommunications.

The resulting “miracle” device ( It looks like a regular PCB., by the way) was so different from the existing infrastructure that potential companies had a hard time understanding its quality. “But a little over a year ago, the doubters got everything they needed. We demonstrated it on the mast. You can doubt your skills as much as you want, but when you light the mast, the game is over,” Kirkpatrick said.

However, he acknowledged that the infrastructure market is conservative. These are companies that pay huge sums to build millions of installations to serve hundreds of millions of people. Even with better new users, they tend to use what they know will work. And cheaper. However, Fort Hood’s pilot tests should demonstrate Eridan’s 5G small cell capabilities, which should lead to commercialization by the end of the year, assuming all goes well.

Eridan Team Photo

Eridan team and owner. CEO Doug Kirkpatrick is at the heart of the pink shirt.

It is the further scalability of Eridan technology that has convinced them beyond the existential threat of linear amplifiers reaching the theoretical limit of the amount of data they can handle. It’s enough to make 5G deployments cheaper and better, but what about the next upgrade?

Modern signaling protocols from mobile data institutions and standards setters include 8-bit signals pushing 256 QAM. I won’t go into technical details here again, but you can think of it as equivalent to your home internet bandwidth. Basically, the more bits you can put in a given signal, the more data it can carry, but as always with wireless, there is a greater risk of an increasingly complex and fragile signal arriving intact.

As you can imagine, generating that signal from analog to digital has a huge impact on how effective the transmission is. “Which one do you think propagates farther, a clean signal or a dirty signal?” Kirkpatrick asked clearly rhetorically. GaN allows the system to operate at high voltages, so no amplifier is needed at all, and it further improves the signal because the amplifier amplifies the “garbage with the good” in the dirty signal.

Eridan released an experimental 10-bit 1024-QAM released by 3GPP just hours after release, and showed that it can transmit 16-bit, 64K (ie 65,536)-QAM signals in a lab setup. (Lovers of wireless protocols will find this number very impressive.)

The promise of being a major part of the infrastructure that will have to be built over a decade or more has clearly spurred the check-writing part of investors’ brains. After $5 million from DARPA, Eridan has raised a total of $46 million between today’s round B announcement and a secret $8MA round. led the last round Capricorn Investment Group, Monta Vista Capital and Social Capital.

The funds will be used for employment and manufacturing. “We’re getting ready to make tens or hundreds of millions of products,” Kirkpatrick said. He couldn’t name potential customers, but it’s not hard to imagine who would benefit from this hardware. Basically, if you’ve heard a shout about 5G at some point in the last five years, it’s probably on the list.

Commercial distribution should start showing up early next year after official demonstrations at Ft Hood and elsewhere. You probably won’t notice anything. But again, that’s kind of the point.

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