Archive for the ‘Wireless’ Category

Key UMA innovator Kineto raises more funds

February 28, 2007

Fixed mobile convergence rally continues to gain momentum even when we have yet to come across large scale successful deployment stories. Yesterday Milpitas, CA based Kineto Wireless announced that it has raised $10 million in Series C round of funding. The funding round was led by  InterDigital with an investment of $5 million, and also participated by Kineto’s existing investors including Sutter Hill Ventures, Venrock Associates, 3i, Oak Investment Partners, SeaPoint Ventures and Storm Ventures. Kineto is one of the key innovators of UMA(Unlicensed Mobile Access) technology that enables call handover between WiFi and wireless operator network on a dual-mode handset.

We also have Seattle-based Sotto Wireless looking to take FMG over to SMBs. Selling any new technology to SMBs is tough ’cause of the obvious lack of resources for implementing and maintaining new systems. Anyway, Sotto will be providing both hardware and software piece to enable the VoIP part. Right now they are testing out their product on Nokia’s dual-mode handset E61 and also looking into some Linksys options. Biggest part that will hold back Sotto uptake is that it has yet to implement hand-off of voice calls between cellular and Wi-Fi networks. Still Sotto is proceeding ahead with implementing its plan while also working towards round 2 of venture funding. Sotto had earlier raised $8 million in funding from venture capital firms Ignition Partners and Vantage Point Venture Partners.

Last month I had written about Mountain View based Nuvoiz showcasing its enterprise targeted softphone at DEMO. Simens and DiVitas Networks are couple of other companies competing in this space. All said and done, one of the biggest challenge each of these service providers will face is as they go alone is that nothing stops major wireless carriers from implementing these solutions. With Deutsche Telekom and its subsidiary T-Mobile, BT, Orange already offering consumer facing WiFi-wireless call switching plans, I am not about the strategy for these upstarts. Basic idea of going for the lower price path would again be a loosers game for everyone. However working as technology partners for carriers, just like Kineto, beyond US should prove to be more effective.


FONbucks, CrossLoop local, vMix+NBC, Skype’s wireless plans

February 22, 2007

FON: The worldwide WiFi community enabler in on the move again. Today FON launched WiFi connection manager for Symbian based phones. This will enable FONeros to easily locate and connect to the FONspots from their Nokia E60, E61, E70, N80, N91, N92, N93 y N95. Another fun partnership that FON announced is with Starbucks. People living above or near a Starbucks can get a FON router for free to being streaming the signal to Starbucks patrons and start earning some real bucks. Even though universal WiFi is a dream located light years away, I like the energy and enthusiasm displayed by the FON team.

CrossLoop: Remember the free remote access client from CrossLoop I had written about last year and expressed my doubts about how long the service will remain free? After exchanging few messages with Mrinal Desai at CrossLoop, it seems they are really serious about maintaining the free version while adding premium plan with additional features pretty soon. In the meantime CrossLoop team is cranking out localized version of the client which will be available in 21 different languages from 27th Feb. Supported languages will now include Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, German, Dutch, Portuguese, and Hindi among others.

vMix + NBC = Friends ? At least that is what the vMix site says. Did vMix sign a deal with NBC off late? Will need to dig more into this. In case you have forgotten, vMix had raised undisclosed amount funds in its second round last month. Traffic graphs go allover Alexa/Quantcast/Compete show a bit of uptick for this month, but stagnant for the previous 6 months.

Skype: The IM voice calling king is petitioning FCC to take down the rule that enables wireless carriers to prohibit use of Skype type voice service on their networks, according to Ars Technica. Skype basically wants to get the 1968 Carterfone decision, which currently enables use of  non-carrier provided devices be hooked onto the cable TV and Internet networks at home, be extended over to the wireless world. Idea is good, but FCC loves Verizon, At&t, and all. Good luck with that. Anyway, why doesn’t Skype build a mobile client for real that doesn’t eat the network and phone, and than try spreading the word around in Europe before moving to US?


Vonage plans to become Vonage Wireless

February 20, 2007

Vonage is looking to prevent its VoIP ship from sinking by making a switch over to wireless side of world. And this news comes with a new name for the cheap calls for all provider- rebranded as Vonage Wireless. According to a BusinessWeek report, Vonage is planning the MVNO route as it struggles with falling customer acquisition rate for its traditional business and competition intensifies from  cable companies, bad-old telcos, and likes of SunRocket, Skype,… which are all eating into Vonage’s market share. And all this is happening while Vonage fights out with Verizon over patent dispute related to use of the core technology behind its system. The patent claims, which cover pretty broad part of Vonage service including fraud detection, billing, and features such as call-forwarding, threaten the very existence of Vonage service and other VoIP providers. 

Coming back to the MVNO plans, Vonage has not disclosed much details in regards to what exactly it plans to offer. Will it be another hippy targeted Virgin Mobile in making, or Vonage would finally try to do something disruptive, which we have no hopes off. According to BW, during its last earnings call Vonage had indicated that it will start selling dual-mode phones offering cellular as well as Wi-Fi access. Bigger issue will always remain the same, where does Vonage get the WiFi beamed onto these mobiles. Partnerships with Clearwire, Earthlink(which, by the way won the Houston WiFi buildout contract last week) could give its WiFi phones broader coverage. On the whole I can see a pretty patchy plan in making that would somehow manage to wade the Vonage ship forward.

Clearwire gets ready for IPO

February 14, 2007

Kirkland, Washington based Clearwire is getting ready for the pay day for its WiMax based network. The company is hoping to raise between $460 million to $500 million from 20 million shares offered at $23 to $25 per share. It was only last year that Clearwire had raised $900 million from Intel and Motorola. On the whole Clearwire has raised $1.54 billion till date from its investors, and yet to make any profit from the costly network buildout. Clearwire fixed WiMax service is mainly available on the West cost in addition to NC, Alaska, Hawaii, MN, WI, and TX.

As for competitors, Sprint has been working on building out its own WiMax network and plans to launch its broadband services in initial markets by year-end 2007. Spring is expected to spend more than $3 billion on the project and has backing from the same investors – Intel and Motorola.

Clearwire launches WiMax service in Seattle area
Aha! WiMax for North-East
Sparkplug – WiMax provider scores $22.5 million

Mac fans can be FONeros and more

January 29, 2007

FON’s partnerships and reaching out to newer platforms just seems to go on. Latest from FON is access point software for Macs. Not available for download immediately, users can email FON team to get access to the software. Interesting thing about the release is that Mac users can also connect to their 3G, EVDO or HSDPA connection and offer FON WiFi. If I understand correctly it means offering your 3G connection as a WiFi hotspot. Haven’t seen that for windows platform though. I have heard Verizon kicking out people for overuse of EVDO network, so users need to be careful. Meanwhile FON also is entering into partnership with Spotigo to enable smartphone users to connect to FON hotspots. Based out of Germany, Spotigo WiFI hotspot locater and also provides a mobile broadband connection suite that enables wireless signal based localization of end-users. After the contract officially goes through, users with windows mobile and Symbian phones will be able to piggy-back on FON access points to power their devices.



Aha! WiMax for North-East

January 19, 2007

Finally some news about WiMax out in my area. 3 year old startup, Horizon Wi-Com, is planning to launch its WiMax based high-speed wireless broadband service in the Northeast US sometime this year. Horizon, based out of Alexandria, VA, is funded by primarily by Telecom Ventures. Horizon plans to initially rollout the service for residential, and business users located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Richmond, and Cincinnati areas. Horizon basically cut out a deal with Verizon to buy its 2.3 Ghz spectrum whose default date was coming up quickly. Horizon will be using WiMax 802.16e equipment from Texas based Navini Networks. Before we get too happy – Horizon will focus exclusively on fixed WiMax.

While we are at WiMax, there are was a report from ABI Research which shows significant cost saving in terms of energy using WiMax as compared to 3G networks. In an analysis of the report published at ZDNet, energy costs represent the third most expensive operating expense for mobile operators which might force them to integrate WiMax and WiFi options into their networks. Besides others, this factor might have definitely played a part in Sprint’s aggressive and costly push into WiMax.



Sparkplug – WiMax provider scores $22.5 million

January 17, 2007

Sparkplug, provider of WiMax based wireless business broadband services, today announced that it has received $22.5 million in funding. The funding which is part equity and part debt, was led by Ignition Partners, The Greenspun Corp, and Trilogy Equity Partners. Other investors in this round included Allen & Co. and Square 1 Bank.

Sparkplug was formed last year from the merger of three established companies: Sparkplug in Chicago, Prairie iNet in Des Moines, Iowa; and Telespectra in Phoenix. Sparkplug operates in 8 Midwest and Southwestern states including Arizona, Tennessee, Iowa, and Illinois. As compared to that Clearwire operates in 13 states currently.

However the mobile WiMax dream continues since Sparkplug is a business facing fixed WiMax based broadband service provider. As for the spectrum range, Sparkplug operates in the 5 Ghz range. Sparkplug’s starting subscription plans comes for $295/month for up/down speeds of 2 mbps. Speeds are scalable to from 2mbps to 200mbps with higher pricing.