Intensifying global demand from mobile operators for slick and stable small cell backhaul technology is accelerating growth at exciting Cambridge UK wireless startup, CCS.A new fundraising is around the corner, fresh hires are being coralled and the company could expand into the US, China, Singapore and South Africa over the coming months.
The pace of Cambridge Communication Systems’ global expansion will be dictated by the success of two current trials with operators in the UK.
A Chinese operator is coming to Cambridge in August to check on progress of one of the trials, Business Weekly can exclusively reveal.
Co-founder Steve Greaves disclosed: “We have just successfully completed a laboratory trial with a Tier One mobile vendor. We cannot name the operator but this is a major milestone.
“We are now approved for deployment in the operator’s network. I think this is quite impressive as when we secured our funding last December all we had was a plastic model!
“We are also undertaking a field trial with a second Tier One operator in Cambridge in the next couple of weeks. If things go well the operator plans to deploy our system in a UK city to backhaul WiFi small cells in August. We are also close to securing trials in the US, Africa and Asia (China and Singapore) in Q4 this year, perhaps Q1 next.”
The first UK test city could well be Barnsley – rooting the historic trial in the native county of Greaves and co-founder John Porter, both proud Yorkshiremen.
From a standing start CCS is up to 14 staff and that number will swell further in the next six months, says Greaves.
The company is eyeing a new funding round later this year or early next but Greaves said: “It’s hard to call how much we will go for but it won’t be big bucks. The last thing we want is a huge valuation around our necks. We’ll simply be seeking enough money to work with over 18 months.”
The company raised £1.3 million in January to fund early deployments of its small-cell microwave backhaul system in the mobile industry. CCS set its own agenda for growth based on sound market research and close dialogue with its end customers – Tier 1 and 2 mobile operators.
But Greaves conceded that the company’s focus on steady, measured growth was being tested by demand.
He said: “The pace has already picked up, which is a measure of the desperation in the market for our kind of small cell technology. Mobile operators are anxious to deploy our solution as a matter of urgency.
“Our view is that what the industry needs is a proven solution that is thoroughly tested and shown to be stable over, say a six-month timescale. That will boost confidence in the technology and lead to widespread adoption.
“We said we would probably work with one key partner at the outset to prove the technology; that has grown into two in parallel but we haven’t been able to stem interest in the technology from America, Asia and South Africa.
“We have had a couple of big leads from the US but we really don’t want to go gung-ho and out of our control until we are utterly satisfied that the technology is rock solid.
“A potential Chinese partner is attending the Cambridge demo in July and will then wait for proof of stability before coming on board. Chinese assistance in manufacture will eventually be valuable but we don’t intend to take the core assembly and manufacturing process out of the UK before we have proven stability and are ready to make a few hundred or a few thousand of these systems.
“So we’re still doing our utmost to pace ourselves and manage the expectations of the operators but I must say things are moving pretty fast. It’s astonishing to think that we went to the angel funders last November with a great idea and plastic model, yet we have already advanced the trial process with two operators and are now fielding global demand.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Steve Greaves