Qualcomm acquires network software startup Cellwize to grow its carrier business

Qualcomm acquires network software startup Cellwize to grow its carrier business

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Qualcomm Inc. has acquired Cellwize Wireless Technologies Pte. Ltd., a startup with a software platform that helps carriers operate their networks more efficiently.

Qualcomm didn’t disclose the financial terms in its announcement of the acquisition today. Tel Aviv-based Cellwize previously raised $56.5 million in funding from investors, most of it through a $32 million round announced last November.

Cellwize provides a software platform that carriers use to manage their radio access network infrastructure. RAN is the industry term for a carrier’s cell towers and certain supporting components. According to Cellwize, its software powers about 3 million cell towers for 40 mobile network operators worldwide.

One of the tasks that the startup promises to ease for carriers is the process of upgrading RAN infrastructure to the latest 5G standard. Usually, such infrastructure upgrades involve replacing existing cell tower components with new hardware. Cellwize’s platform uses artificial intelligence to help carriers optimize the configuration settings of newly deployed 5G hardware.

If a component of a carrier’s infrastructure experiences issues, Cellwize can assist with troubleshooting. The startup provides tools that technicians can use to access a malfunctioning system and adjust its configuration settings. For network management teams, Cellwize’s platform offers a set of features designed to ease the task of implementing large-scale configuration changes that affect a significant portion of a carrier’s infrastructure.

Cellwize’s technology will help Qualcomm grow its presence in the carrier market. Qualcomm is a major maker of the mobile modem chips that smartphones use to connect to carrier networks. In recent  years, the company has also started offering specialized processors for 5G cell towers.

Through the acquisition of Cellwize, Qualcomm will gain the ability to offer its 5G chips together with carrier network management software. Offering both hardware and software should enable the company to present a more competitive value proposition to carriers. 

“Global mobile operators and private enterprises are deploying 5G networks at an unprecedented pace,” said Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm’s cellular modems and infrastructure business. “The addition of Cellwize’s best-in-class RAN automation technologies strengthens Qualcomm Technologies’ ability to drive the development of the modern 5G network.” 

The deal is similar in certain respects to Qualcomm’s recent acquisition of autonomous vehicle specialist Arriver. Like the purchase of Cellwize, the Arriver acquisition bought Qualcomm software that it can combine with its chips to provide a more extensive set of features. The result is a more competitive value proposition. 

Arriver was originally a joint venture between Qualcomm and Veoneer Inc., a supplier of components for smart cars. Arriver provides software that can be installed in a vehicle to equip it with partly autonomous autonomous driving features. Prior to the acquisition, Qualcomm introduced a lineup of chips for powering autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles represent an important component of Qualcomm’s revenue growth strategy. Last year, Qualcomm estimated that its auto business would achieve annual revenues of $3.5 billion in five years and reach a $8 billion annual revenue run rate within a decade. The acquisition of Cellwize suggests that the 5G infrastructure market is also emerging as an increasingly important focus for the company. 

Qualcomm’s efforts to expand its focus beyond the mobile chip market to other areas is already paying dividends. Last quarter, the company’s revenue jumped 41% year-over-year to $11.16 billion, well above the $10.60 billion expected that analysts had expected.

Photo: Qualcomm

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