Move over, Ericsson: U.S. firm challenging global wireless players set to open Kanata R&D hub

Radio access network stock image

A U.S.-based company that’s looking to loosen the big wireless equipment providers’ stranglehold on a key piece of 5G infrastructure is setting up shop in the National Capital Region.

Parallel Wireless announced last week it’s opening an R&D lab in Kanata as part of a global expansion aimed at pushing its radio access network technology into more markets.

Eugina Jordan, the firm’s vice-president of marketing, told Techopia in a recent interview that Ottawa’s reputation as a hotbed of wireless network engineering talent made it a natural spot for Parallel Wireless to plant its flag in Canada.

“It’s always been a telecom hub,” she said. “You cannot develop the most innovative technology without having the right talent.”

"We’re really at the bleeding edge, and we need to be in that pool of talent."

Founded in 2012, Parallel Wireless is developing cloud-based radio access network (RAN) technology that connects individual mobile devices such as smartphones to other parts of a telecom provider’s core network via radio signals.

Maxime Dumas, the Quebec City-based head of Parallel’s Canadian operations, said the company has already begun hiring local engineering talent. The firm is currently hunting for office space in the west end and is hoping to partner with Canadian network operators such as Bell, Rogers and Videotron, he added.

“We’re really at the bleeding edge, and we need to be in that pool of talent,” Dumas said, citing the region’s “great ecosystem” of post-secondary schools as another one of its major selling points.

Jordan said the world’s largest suppliers of such technology – Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland-based Nokia and Chinese tech giant Huawei – typically require telcos to use the same company’s hardware, meaning they can’t “mix and match” competitors’ components.

“That creates a big challenge for mobile operators because they’re locked in,” she said. “The cost goes up and innovation is stifled.”

Partnerships with network operators

Parallel is building RAN software that will be open for use with servers and hardware from companies around the world, Jordan explained. The company is already partnering with a number of mobile network operators in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, including Vodafone and Millicom.

“Operators don’t like being told what to do by vendors,” she said. “Once they realized that there is a better way to open up interfaces … they started embracing it.”

Now at more than 800 employees, the New Hampshire-based company says it’s aiming to double its headcount by the end of the year as it extends its footprint in North America and Europe. 

In addition to its Kanata location, Parallel is also launching an R&D facility in Stockholm, the birthplace of Ericsson and another global telecom hub.