Nokia’s hidden WiFi smarts

Nokia made a mildly interesting non-public acquisition.

Here’s something mildly interesting that probably doesn’t deserve a whole actual write up of a news story, especially as it is not really news as it concerns events a few months old. It concerns a “hidden” acquisition by Nokia.

You may remember a company called Xcellair. This was a company, spun out of Interdigital, that had developed cloud-based WiFi performance analytics. It had a platform that could monitor multiple WiFi access points, either in your home or in multi-tenant units.

It could do things like load balance traffic between different bands, make sure devices in-building were attaching to the correct APs, pick up on issues and try to fix remotely and so on. All automated from the cloud.

TMN did a whole series of work with Xcellair, videos, visual, webinar and an eBook. Soon after that the company exited as an acquisition to Fontech, the technology arm of FON. FON technology was behind many of the “shared private WiFi” offerings you see, such as BTFon. 

Clearly FON was interested in offering Xcellair’s “smarts” to its service provider customers. Monitoring and managing WiFi performance – you may have noticed terms such as “whole home WiFi” – was becoming more of a hot potato. 

That was in April 2018. And then in late 2020, TMN has learnt, Nokia bought the technology out of FON. There was no announcement of the deal but Nokia has since confirmed that it has indeed taken on the former Xcellair assets. 

Nokia says that the technology assest are now part of “Nokia WiFi”. And if you look at Nokia’s “WiFi for Service Providers” page it talks about “self optimising” solutions, MDU WiFi and other solutions that would be a great fit with this sort of tech.

So what are the lessons?

1. Work with TMN 🙂 One possible result is you get a trade sale exit and end up enriching the portfolio of one of the world’s major telco manufacturers. 

2. WiFi smarts is not just about great access points – but about enabling automated service provider management of those access points. Self optimisng and self-healing WiFi as a differentiator.

3. It’s probably pretty useful for Nokia to have kept this one quiet – giving it an edge over its competitors.