Cubic Telecom gets $46.5M to connect cars and other devices globally

As automakers ramp up their connected car initiatives, a company that has built a solution to link vehicles up to mobile networks globally has raised a significant round of funding from a group of investors that includes Audi and Qualcomm.

Cubic Telecom, a startup out of Dublin, Ireland, that has built a virtual networking solution that lets cars (and other devices) automatically connect to service providers in whichever country they happen to be, has raised $46.5 million.

This round values Cubic Telecom at €180 million ($215 million), according to sources close to the company.

Barry Napier, Cubic’s CEO, said in an interview that the funding will be used to expand its team — today the team is 80 percent engineers and the company is planning to hire more — and to expand its solution into new markets, specifically China and the rest of Asia, and the US.

In addition to strategic investments from Audi and Qualcomm, this Series C round also includes backing from Valid Soluciones Tecnologicas SAU and Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), along with other unnamed investors.

If you have observed the world of tech and telecoms in Europe in the last several years, Cubic may be a familiar name to you. The company has been around since 2007, originally founded by Pat Phelan (who then went on to found an identity management company called Trustev, acquired by TransUnion).

It made a name for itself originally as a “virtual” mobile network provider that provided a solution for mobile users to make calls when travelling that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. (We also highlighted it back in the day at our first-ever Battlefield-style pitch event.)

In more recent years, though, roaming is something that regulators, carriers and app makers have worked on fixing for mobile consumers. In some regions you have roaming price caps; in others people buy “travel” packages ahead of their journeys; in other cases users simply opt to make calls via apps that bypass carrier call charges altogether.

And so Cubic has shifted its focus to other “hardware”, like cars, that have their own sets of hurdles when it comes to global connectivity.

As Napier describes it, typically when automakers manufacture connected cars, they have to arrange network agreements with carriers in each country where those cars are rolled out into the market. Each deal comes with its own SIM (similar to phones), and its own associated labor, time and operational cost.

Cubic’s proposal is to solve that with a software-based solution using an eSIM (working with Valid, another strategic investor) that is pre-loaded into the car at the point of manufacture.

Then, when the car is sold into one country or another, the car automatically links up to a local network to run its connected car services. That local network link-up is also part of Cubic’s offering: to date, it has mobile voice and data deals with 30 mobile operators covering over 180 countries.

“We are pleased to strengthen our partnership by participating in this latest funding round, said Dr. Peter Steiner, managing director Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, in a statement. “By utilizing Cubic’s technology we are able to offer seamless Audi connect services to our customers in many countries all over the world without roaming costs and volume limitation.”

The company has been working with Audi — which is part of the Volkswagen Group, one of the biggest car makers in the world that also owns brands like Porsche, SEAT and Skoda — for some time already, and Napier said it is on track to have its tech in some 1 million cars.

“Our ‘connected intelligence’ platform  has been growing between 23 percent to 25 percent every 55 days this year,” he said. “Our software has updated over 500,000 cars this year via OTA (over the Air) and we will hit over 1 million cars this year live.” In terms of active users, he said Cubic sees 600,000 unique automotive customers on its platform per month.

Other OEMs that Cubic works with point to how it is also positioning itself in the larger IoT trend. They include HP, Lenovo, Panasonic, Rakuten and Woolworth’s. And it’s building its connectivity also into processors from Qualcomm as part of that larger opportunity.

To date, Cubic has raised $83.5 million in funding.