The communications industry is driven by and simultaneously dependent on data. Oddly enough, most markets don’t have access to a comprehensive radio frequency spectrum database, according to Jennifer Alvarez, CEO of Aurora Insight.
Enter, Aurora Insight, a company that provides accurate, impartial, data-driven insights regarding radio frequency spectrum. Catering to infrastructure owners, network operators, IoT and wireless users and regulators and advisors, it measures, analyzes and reports on spectrum and wireless infrastructure, allowing organizations to realize opportunities, innovate, invest and move forward.
“Our goal is to help improve wireless communication for everyone,” says Alvarez. “The information we produce is used by tower owners, wireless operators and industries that rely on connectivity to inform their decision making.”
Aurora Insight’s physical headquarters are in Denver, CO and it has an office in Washington D.C., but the company gives new meaning to “satellite office.” Aurora Insight has a satellite currently in orbit, surveying RF spectrum on a daily basis and creating true, global reach. They are launching two more satellites in the next few months.
The company leverages several data capture methods, beginning with patented sensors. “We deploy sensors
at fixed locations, in cars, in aircraft and on satellites. These sensors are so advanced they take trillions of
radio frequency spectrum measurements. That’s really the key to our solution.”
These trillions of measurements are translated into useful insights. If a customer was to use test equipment to replicate this process, they could take similar measurements in a small geographic area but would be left with raw data.
Mass quantities of data can only take you so far. The challenge is producing useful and actionable information, according to Alvarez. It has to be interpreted. “We use cloud-based processing, statistical analysis, signal processing, machine learning and other techniques to combine this data and extract usable information,” explains Alvarez. “Using this information, we’re able to compare, for example, markets and operators.”
Tower owners, take note. The information that started as raw radio frequency spectrum measurements equates to valuable intelligence about tenants. Tower owners know their tenants, but they may not know what frequencies are being used or what technologies are being used – is it 3G, 4G, or 5G that is deployed? How many antennas are there? Aurora Insight provides these valuable details, so tower owners can assess their lease-up space, structural loading and streamline their RF planning. Then, they take it one step further.
“We provide the same information about their competitors’ towers, so they have competitive and business intelligence,” says Alvarez. “We provide tower owners with information about coverage and service gaps plus maps of operators’ equipment. This will allow them to evaluate where they need to invest in new infrastructure.”
Tower owners, small to large, are a key customer but Aurora Insight also caters to network operators. “We can detect, identify and map 5G wireless infrastructure for all 5G frequencies and operators as this equipment is deployed,” Alvarez explains, even prior to announcements. It’s not all macro mapping, either. A key differentiator for Aurora Insight is its ability to execute the same analytical process for small cells.
Historically, infrastructure owners have relied on crowd-sourced data and drive-test data for business intelligence decisions, but that data is incomplete. Crowd-sourced data depends on handset information but requires users in an area, so rural regions don’t make the cut.
Drive-test data’s weakness? “You can only drive so much. The key difference is that we measure the RF spectrum. We’re not using theoretical models; we’re not tied to a network. We’re not limited by a network configuration. We measure all frequencies, all technologies, all networks and we don’t need any special configurations to do so,” says Alvarez. From there, Aurora Insight aggregates the information in the cloud and fuses the data sets which allows for measurement, even in vast, rural areas.
Through its involvement in professional organizations, industry associations, and regulatory proceedings, Aurora Insight is always tracking trends, changes and activity in the industry which informs its R&D investments, product roadmaps and more.
The CBRS and C-Band auctions have changed the spectrum game. Because spectrum is a finite resource, Alvarez expects spectrum sharing will only grow. “We’ll also see an increase in indoor and private wireless networks because of unlimited general access usage of CBRS bands.” Aurora Insight has the ability to measure all of the CBRS bands and determine how companies are using the band for new deployments in market niches. She expects to see aggressive bidding for the C-band auction in December as well.
The biggest COVID-19 challenge for Aurora Insight has been keeping its data collection momentum, since it relies on general aviation aircraft. General travel restriction presented obstacles, “but the data collection team is creative and resilient and found ways to work within these new constraints and keep the data collection going.” The pandemic, which has also highlighted the digital divide in the U.S., makes Alvarez more impassioned to be a part of the industry that she feels, “can change the world.”
Aurora Insight was founded three years ago. Alvarez, who has a strong technical background, immediately saw its opportunity and potential. “I spent about 25 years as a defense contractor, and I was intrigued by this idea from the start. I had the technical background to vet the idea from a technology development standpoint and when I saw how we could affect real change in how business decisions were made – in strategic investments, or network optimization or business development growth – I was all in.”
With 18 full time employees, the company is, “Poised for growth and looking for top talent.” The ideal candidate is start-up savvy and has the flexibility to be reactive to new information. With a 2020 goal to complete a survey of the entire United States, it’s no surprise, to work at Aurora Insight, you must also be technically exceptional.
It’s full speed ahead for Aurora Insight, with plans to propel a second and third satellite in a few months. Stay tuned, in the most literal sense – there’s a lot more to come.
For more information about Aurora Insight or to contact the company, visit https://aurorainsight.com/.