Celona Focuses on Private Cellular Device Interoperability with Certification Initiatives

Kathryn Weldon – Research Director, Business Network and IT Services – Americas

Summary Bullets:

• Celona raises the profile of its private network offering by introducing device certification and enterprise training programs to address interoperability, enhance plug-and-play experience, and increase the number of devices that work on its network.

• The new program streamlines the device certification process while providing rigorous performance testing, including suites for enterprise applications and measurements of parameters such as packet error rate, latency, handover time, and features for QoS and 5G routing.

Celona’s new device certification and customer training programs have several key aims. In order to expand its share of the increasingly competitive private wireless network market, Celona needs to expand the number of certified devices that work with its private wireless offering and edge software. At the same time, it wants to ease customer pain points, which it claims have not been addressed well by other providers. These include (1) the difficulty of finding the best devices for the customers’ particular use cases and environments; (2) making sure these devices work properly, not just from the perspective of the standard certification criteria such as regulatory compliance and device specifications for macro networks, but based on more rigorous performance testing; and (3) ensuring that these devices are interoperable. All of these issues feed into its marketing claims about having turnkey, plug-and-play solutions. The new customer training modules are also aimed at frictionless deployments, which in turn provide more satisfied customers and potential references. Specific elements of its new programs include:

  • Streamlining the device certification process while providing rigorous testing and enlarging the number of devices that work on a plug-and-play basis with its 5G LAN access points, edge software, and SIM/eSIM credentials. Twenty-five devices have already gone through Celona’s certification process, including industrial handhelds, tablets, smartphones, IoT gateways, routers, and other customer premises equipment from vendors such as Apple, Google, Cradlepoint, Inseego, MultiTech, Sercomm, Sierra Wireless, Getac, and Zebra.
  • Use of test suites and procedures for different enterprise applications and measurements of parameters such as packet error rates, latency, handover times, and features related to QoS and 5G routing.
  • A free six-hour enterprise training program that promises a vendor-neutral introduction to private LTE/5G solutions and technologies and is aimed at customers’ network engineers, architects, decision-makers, and technology advisors.

While still viewed as a startup (having been founded in 2019), Celona has been receiving praise among partners, customers, and the media for its plug-and-play solutions, open ecosystem positioning, ease of use and on-boarding, and fitness of purpose for small/mid-market deployments with relatively straight-forward requirements. However, its association with CBRS in the US, and its positioning by partners such as NTT and Verizon, have made it seem a bit like a secondary alternative of private wireless solutions – i.e., it is not necessarily touted as their number one option to serve large enterprises with complex requirements. Verizon, for example, still prioritizes the sales of its private network solutions that (1) use its licensed spectrum, (2) take advantage of its experience with large enterprises, and (3) leverage its abilities to expand options to serve customized environments and use cases. This makes sense as there is more revenue to be gained from larger deployments with major customers that prefer licensed spectrum and well-known brands such as Nokia and Ericsson for infrastructure equipment. NTT names Celona as the provider of the key LTE/5G componentry in its P5G bundle, with in-house brands NTT Transatel and NTT Data providing the global roaming and IT services functions, but it notes that further partners for devices, applications, and network integration services will be announced in due course.

Celona is playing on its strengths in the SMB/mid-market sectors with its new certification and training programs. However, the more devices that are certified for its 5G LAN and are interoperable with each other, the more it positions itself as a provider of rigorous performance testing, and the more it can be positioned as an advisor and enabler of private network applications, devices, and use cases, which means the more credibility it can gain. Customer training also serves as fodder for marketing collateral and credibility building. It also may ultimately gain more favor in the large enterprise and MNC segments that appreciate its turnkey positioning and open ecosystem enablement activities. Operators that are not partners need to watch out for Celona’s initiatives carefully. Celona’s positioning relating to managed, turnkey, easy-to-use solutions, the ability to offer a wide range of interoperable certified devices, the extension of certification procedures to include rigorous network performance testing, and free customer training can all be seen as important take-aways potentially influencing product strategy from both service providers and competitive infrastructure vendors offering private cellular networks.

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