Israel’s technology innovation sector attracts billions of dollars a year in foreign investment, earning it the nickname, Startup Nation. For all the accolades, however, the country’s rollout of 5G telecommunications infrastructure is far from the cutting edge.
The next-generation telecom networks promise faster download speeds, high reliability, and quick response times. That will provide the computing and communications infrastructure for autonomous vehicles, smart city applications, and digital health services.
While 5G networks went live this year around the world, including in the Middle East, Israel’s communications ministry only published its tender for 5G frequency licenses in July and has yet to announce any winners. What’s more, competition among Israel’s cellular service providers has been so intense that they’ve been laying off workers — financing the network upgrade will be a challenge.
Despite the infrastructure lag, Israeli startups are developing technology designed to drive 5G revolution globally. Some companies make network building blocks, while others are developing applications that will rely on the advanced networks. Below are several promising Israeli 5G-related ventures:
Year founded: 2015
Funding: US$117 million
Headquarters: Ra’anana, Israel
CEO: Ido Susan
What they do: DriveNets makes software for telecommunications network operators meant to significantly reduce the cost of upgrading to 5G networking equipment. Their software involves a shift away from legacy network hardware offered by companies like Cisco and Juniper Networks.
DriveNets dubs its software-centric model the “network cloud.” It’s intended to both simplify network architecture, allow easy scaling, and require less investment in routers and switches. The DriveNets Network Operating System was developed from the ground up for the cloud, and supports the distributed disaggregated chassis white box architecture submitted to the Open Compute Project by AT&T. It incorporates Docker technology, allowing services to run in separate containers. This allows, for example, service providers to expand routing capabilities with no performance degradation or downtime, the company says. The company says its systems can transmit information at speeds on par with legacy 5G network equipment makers.
Competitors include: Cisco, Juniper Networks, Huawei, Nokia.
Customers: According to the company, an unnamed Tier 1 US service provider.
Why they are a hot startup to watch: DriveNets wants telecom service providers to shift to a model that would change networking in the same way that cloud computing changed enterprise IT. DriveNets emerged from stealth earlier this year with a first round of funding totaling $114 million. Its investors include Microsoft Chairman John Thompson, and Bessemer Venture Partners. Founder Ido Susan sold his first networking startup to Cisco for $475 million.
Year founded: 2008
Funding: $90 million
Headquarters: Kfar Netter, Israel
CEO: Haggai Zyss
What they do: Autotalks makes semiconductors that will allow vehicles to communicate with one another on the road, as well as nearby pedestrians and traffic infrastructure like traffic lights. The company’s chipsets support the two major variants of “vehicle to everything,” or V2X technology – DSRC and C-V2X. V2X is designed to enable the situational awareness of autonomous cars to avoid accidents, and improve road safety. By creating dual-mode chipsets, AutoTalks lets manufacturers and developers develop applications for a single V2X platform, allowing for cost saving that can be passed on to end users. The technology will allow cars to identify potential hazards lurking around corners or obscured by other obstacles. V2X will also help manage rush hour traffic more efficiently and cut down on congestion.
Though V2X technology can operate on existing cellular networks, the increased bandwidth and response time of 5G networks will be able to fully realize the potential of an ecosystem of automobiles communicating in real time.
Competitors include: Commsignia, Cohda Wireless, Peloton Technology
Why they are a hot startup to watch: Autotalks is considered a pioneer of vehicle to everything technology, and boasts Hyundai Motors and Samsung ventures as investors. The company has a presence in China, and earlier in 2019, it completed a road test in real-time conditions with a local partner.
SAM Seamless Network
Year founded: 2016
Funding: $15.5 million
Headquarters: Tel Aviv
CEO: Sivan Rauscher
What they do: SAM wants to secure the in-home and office IoT devices that will dramatically increase with the rollout of 5G networks. Most smart home connected devices like doorbells or or home security systems lack robust security to keep hackers out. SAM makes systems that allows telecommunications service providers to offer cyber security, parental control and device management service to their customers.
SAM’s cloud-based system first fingerprints network-connected devices and then learns their behavior using machine learning and behavioral analysis technology. It builds a device profile and crafts individual security policies to detect harmful code and malicious use. Though SAM operates from the cloud, it works through on-site routers to provide a secure envelope for each device.
Competitors include: Cujo AI, F-Secure, McAfee;
Customers: Bezeq, Telenet Group (Belgium)
Why they are a hot startup to watch: Intel’s venture capital arm is an investor and the company is being advised by the founders of Team 8, an Israeli start-up foundry run by veterans of the military’s elite intelligence unit 8200. SAM announced in December a partnership with Belgium’s Telenet Group.
Year founded: 2016
Headquarters: Tel Aviv
CEO: Nir Raz
What they do: Vorpal’s “VigilAir” system monitors drone traffic in rural and urban environments. The system is based on a database of 95% of the commercially available drones. That allows VigilAir sensors on the ground and in the air to detect and track potentially hazardous drone traffic. The system enables public safety, law enforcement and civil aviation to monitor the skies to avoid mishaps. While Vorpal doesn’t make 5G technology, the ability VigilAir to effectively track thousands of drones will depend on computing power enabled by 5G networks.
Competitors include: WhiteFox Defense Technologies
Customers: Israel’s police force and defense ministry.
Partners: AT&T, Microsoft
Why they are a hot startup to watch: Vorpal has honed its system in partnership with the AT&T Foundry and Microsoft’s edge computing cloud network. The Israel police force used Vorpal to protect the Tel Aviv airspace during the 2019 Eurovision song contest. Customers include global intelligence and police forces.