Friday, February 24, 2006
Interview with Suresh Nihalani, Omnilux
I recently caught up with Suresh Nihalani, CEO of Omnilux, an Idealab startup that is developing hardware for the wireless broadband networking space. Suresh was the founder of Accelerated Networks, and more recently the founder of Nevis Networks, an enterprise security appliance vendor in the Bay Area. I spoke to Suresh and Stephan West, Idealab's PR person, about the firm.
Ben Kuo: So what are you up to nowadays?
SN: In April, I joined Omnilux, backed by Idealab, which has incubated a number of successful ventures in the past. Since I joined in April, we have been in the product development phase. Our underlying technology is the wireless optical mesh, which enables the company's products to reliably distribute fiber grade capacity without trenching additional fiber. Currently, there is no easy way to distribute very high bandwidth except to stretch fiber; this requires significant investment and takes a lot of time. There are many service providers with significant fiber assets in the ground, but they're not necessarily located where they're needed. Our products offer these service providers a cost-effective way to stretch fiber without trenching. They can use our wireless optical mesh to tap in at their existing fiber termination points and distribute high capacity bandwidth to reach campus, business and residential customers, and we're focusing on this opportunity.
SW: For example, when we moved into our current facilities, we solicited a quote from Time Warner Telecom for a 10Mbps Internet connection. Since TWT has fiber running along Colorado Boulevard, just a few blocks away, they offered to trench the fiber to our building - at a cost of more than $100K, taking 3 months to complete, and we'd have to sign a long term contract for bandwidth. We were not in the position to sign up for that offer and we suspect that most small and medium businesses would not be willing to do that either. Our only viable alternative was to get a couple of T1 lines from the ILEC - barely enough for our needs. Today, there is just no cost-effective alternative. Talking with service providers, there's an opportunity for a wireless high capacity distribution system that installs very quickly and at a very low cost.
BK: What specific kinds of installations are you targeting?
SN: We are targeting campus networks, MDU/MTU clusters and multi-SMB locations where customers need 10-100 megabits of bandwidth but have no direct connection to fiber. These customers are not well serviced by the existing copper plant and RF wireless connections typically can't offer business-grade services at these rates. The unique benefits of the Omnilux solution are generating genuine interest and we're getting traction with service providers and large property owners. The product line is currently in field trials; we estimate commercial shipments before the middle of the year.
BK: So you're looking at a full launch soon?
SN: Yes, in the next few months we are going to do a full launch of Omnilux and our products. We've recently revamped the management team, and are now in the process of securing additional funding. We're starting to talk to venture firms. Overall it's a very exciting time - we have a unique product and strong offering. We're looking at using the new funding to fund our sales and growth.