Tessares: efficient and sustainable bonding of hybrid Internet access networks for a superior user experience

(full version)

Tessares, the 70th spin-off of Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), was founded in March 2015. It is a technology startup that is active in the research, development, go-to-market and deployment of software solutions that significantly improve the performance and the quality of Internet access without requiring the deployment of additional resource-hungry infrastructure.

Tessares just completed a first round of financing (Round A) financed by Proximus and Vives II - Louvain Technology Fund.

Internet: from traffic explosion to the rise of a new Internet protocol

Internet usage continues to grow steadily driven on one hand by an ever increasing number of connected devices (which are not limited to PC’s, laptops or smartphones but now moving towards vehicles, watches or other wearables) and on the other hand by new and data-hungry services and applications (e.g. cloud).

This continuous growth, both in terms of quantity of information to convey and performance and reliability of the connectivity, creates a demand for an improved Internet experience: more speed, more mobility, more resilience and more security.

A yet untapped way to address this demand is the aggregation (or bonding) of several Internet access links, using similar or heterogeneous underlying technologies.

During the last years, researchers, including several from Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), have designed, implemented and standardised a new Internet protocol: Multipath TCP (MPTCP). More specifically, it is an evolution of TCP, invented 40 years ago and used for over 90% of Internet traffic. This protocol is getting more and more attention from the telecommunications industry. In comparison to alternative solutions, it offers many benefits in particular in terms of deployability. It is simpler and cheaper to deploy.

The promise of this approach is to offer an improved Internet experience by better monetizing the existing network assets of telecom operators.

For the Internet user, the promise is to offer a superior Internet experience by taking advantage of the existing infrastructure. This approach meets their growing concern in terms of eco-responsibility for a better use of resources (whatever they may be, and in this case, telecom resources).

For the telecom operators, the benefits are also attractive: in addition to offering their customers a better service, it also allows them to better leverage their existing infrastructure with an efficient convergence solution. This perfectly fits with the trends towards fixed-mobile consolidation observed among operators.    

Tessares, the 70th spin-off of UCL

In addition to having greatly contributed to the definition of this new protocol, the UCL researchers were the very first to develop a prototype software solution for industrial applications embedding this new standard. The demonstration of this prototype to telecom operators received a very positive feedback. Indeed, the results obtained with the prototype are promising: in residential use, a combined throughput of over 50 Mbps was demonstrated on existing equipment by aggregating a DSL connection (25 Mbps) with a mobile LTE connection (30 Mbps). A much higher rate was even obtained in the laboratory. Since the addressable market is very large, the decision to create a new company to turn that prototype into a commercial solution for telecom operators became obvious.

Tessares, spin-off of the UCL, was founded in early March 2015 by Prof. Olivier Bonaventure, head of the laboratory in which the research was conducted, Sébastien Barré and Gregory Detal two senior researchers who contributed most to the development of the prototype, Denis Périquet who brings a wealth of industry experience in the telecom world and SOPARTEC, the UCL technology transfer company.

Tessares’s vision is that in the future all consumers will access the Internet by combining in an efficient way the available Access Networks. Today, each Internet consumer selects consciously or unconsciously a single access network through which she or he connects to the Internet. This selection is often based on a combination of criteria such as availability, speed or price. Thanks to Tessares’s software solution, each consumer will be offered the possibility to connect to the Internet by using simultaneously several access networks. Whether these access networks are based on similar or different underlying technologies does not matter: e.g. DSL + DSL or DSL+LTE or LTE + WiFi.

Bonding heterogeneous access networks together improves the Internet Experience by combining 4 key benefits: 1) Improved speed/bandwidth: the bandwidth available for the consumer is roughly the sum of the bandwidth of the bonded access networks; 2) Improved mobility: switching (hopping) from one access network to another becomes extremely fluid as access networks are used simultaneously; 3) Improved resilience: Internet access does not anymore depend on the availability of one access network and can continue even in case of outages on one access network; 4) Improved security: as data can be distributed over independent access networks, it will be extremely complex for a malicious entity to capture the entire content.

The first objective of Tessares is to develop a commercial implementation of a solution consisting of a set of software components that enable an Internet Service Provider owning both an xDSL network and a mobile network (preferably 4G / LTE) to intelligently combine the resources of these two networks. This will improve the bandwidth made available to customers via their Internet access home router.

A crucial step: the first successful funding round

Within several cooperative research projects funded by the European Commission since 2009, the laboratory was able to push the frontiers of knowledge in this specialized field.

Since 2012, the "leap from lab to market" has been supported by the LTTO (Louvain Technology Transfer Office), industrial sponsors (including Proximus since 2012) and Walloon Region fundings.

In September 2014, Tessares partnered up with WSL, the Walloon incubator of engineering sciences, which brings valuable support on a range of key topics such as the study of the potential market, the establishment of a financial plan, etc.

In April 2015, Tessares finalized its first fundraising Proximus and investment fund VIVES II - Louvain Technology Fund decided to invest together to bring the prototype to an industrial level of maturity. The Proximus contribution goes well beyond financial support and also will also take the form of a technology collaboration to build a solution that meets the requirements from network operators around the world.

By the end of 2016, Tessares intends to recruit a dozen employees. The sought-after profiles are computer and telecommunications engineers with a good knowledge of Internet protocols.

“ We're very pleased to collaborate with Tessares to co-develop a new technology that fits perfectly within our strategy of convergence and our objectives of enhanced customer experience. This agreement with Tessares clearly shows Proximus' commitment to innovation and our intention to strengthen the partnerships with the academic world, which is a major driving force of innovation in our country.„ Dominique Leroy, Proximus CEO
“ Having Proximus among the initial investors of Tessares is a very strong and positive signal for our company as our solution will be associated with one of the currently most innovative and exacting telecom operators in Europe.„ Denis Périquet, Tessares CEO
“ This new technology transfer is the result of over six years of research funded by the European Commission and the Walloon Region. It shows once again how important our academic research is to stimulate innovation and the UCL’s significant contribution to regional economic development.„ Vincent Blondel, Rector of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL)
“ This partnership shows the ability of VIVES II – Louvain Technology Fund to unite a consortium of passionate founders and reference partners in raising funds of a critical size allowing the growth of UCL spin-offs and technological start-ups„ Philippe Durieux, CEO of VIVES II – Louvain Technology Fund

More info

About Tessares:

Tessares is a UCL spin-off founded in March 2015 by Olivier Bonaventure, Gregory Detal, Sébastien Barré, Denis Périquet and SOPARTEC. It is above all a technological start-up which is active in research, development, marketing and deployment of software solutions that significantly improve the performance and quality of Internet connectivity by leveraging existing networks.

Contact : Denis Périquet, CEO / +32 10 392 254 / denis.periquet@tessares.net / www.tessares.net

About VIVES II – Louvain Technology Fund:

VIVES II – Louvain Technology Fund is a multi-sector technology investment fund which invests in spin-offs of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) and start-ups in Belgium and neighboring countries. The aim of the fund is to invest in the development of start-ups, from technological validation to commercial maturity. This fund of EUR 43 million is managed by SOPARTEC, the UCL's technology transfer company.

Contact : Philippe Durieux, CEO / +32 10 390 050 / p.durieux@sopartec.com / www.vivesfund.com

About tessares

Tessares is a Belgian software company, specialising in multi-path connectivity technologies. Our solutions have been commercially deployed by several operators including: Proximus, KPN, BT, and Telia benefitting hundreds of thousands of households and businesses across Europe.