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Comcast invests in wireless firm

Tue, 10/25/2005 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC) and McLean Watson Capital led a series C round of financing in BelAir Networks, a provider of wide-area wireless broadband technology.

CIC, which made an undisclosed investment, will also join the BelAir board and help the company iron out its strategy for the cable and service provider markets. Other series C investors included T-Mobile Venture Fund, JPMorgan Partners, VenGrowth Capital Partners Inc., and BDC Venture Capital. BelAir has raised $44 million so far.

BelAir specializes in environmentally-hardened Wireless Mesh Network (WMN) outdoor access points that handle wireless access, cellular backhaul and switching. BelAir said its technology is deployed in 100 networks around the world, including networks operated by seven cable MSOs.

In addition to the funding round, BelAir also introduced two 802.11g-based, strand-mounted wireless mesh node products optimized for cable systems: the BelAir50 and BelAir100. Both are designed to hook into existing cable networks and to help operators create their own city-wide wireless networks, or wireless connections for campuses, hotels and multiple dwelling units. Both models support a DOCSIS 2.0 interface. The "50" model supports one radio. The BelAir100 also supports a 5 GHz backhaul radio module.

In addition to WiFi, Canada-based BelAir also builds gear based on WiMAX and 3G cellular technologies.

"BelAir's modular, carrier-class architecture and scalability are well positioned to address the needs of multiple customer segments, including those of the cable market," said CIC Principal Deepak Sindwani.

In addition to opportunities presented by cable-based cellular backhaul, wireless mesh technology has become a hot button for the cable industry. As a recent example, Scientific-Atlanta just agreed to pair its HFC technology with Tropos Networks' "MetroMesh" WiFi platform. They expect to launch product by Q4.

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