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Michigan county deploys 802.16e network

In what Unstrung's Richard Martin rightly calls "one of the most significant WiMAX deployments to date," regional Midwest service provider Arialink Broadband says it will build out a broadband wireless network for all of Muskegon County, MI, using 802.16e equipment from Samsung. Muskegon County borders Lake Michigan. It is about 200 miles northeast of Chicago and 200 miles northwest west of Detroit. The network is a public-private partnership funded by a $2.2 million federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, together with a $4.5 million loan from the state of Michigan's Economic Development Corporation. Arialink CEO Jason Schreiber said the company will invest $6 million to build the network, aiming to provide Internet access at speeds of 3 Mbps at a cost of $18.99 a month. Faster, higher-priced versions of the service will be available to residents and businesses in the area.

This may not quite be "a small step for man, a giant leap for mankind" moment, but still, as Martin notes: "Clearly... the Muskegon deployment--originally conceived as a low-cost alternative access service for low-income residents--will be a step forward for wide-area, mobile wireless broadband services based on the newly ratified 802.16e standard." Schreiber concludes: "When we initially submitted our application, WiMAX was pretty much hyperbole... But it became clear that Samsung was ready to deploy this technology. We believe that WiMAX is the future. That's our strategy--it's where the service providers will ultimately converge."

For more on the Muskegon 802.16e deployment:
- see Richard Martin's Unstrung report
- read Arialink's press release

PLUS: It is not clear what Santa Clara, CA-based Beceem Communications does more assiduously--develop chip sets or persuade investors to invest in it. For the second time in as many months the company announced the closing of a major investment. Last month Intel Capital invested an undisclosed sum in the company (some press releases referred to a "considerable investment," others to "substantial investment"), and earlier this week DoCoMo Capital said it would invest in Beceem, a developer of mobile chip sets for WiMAX. DoCoMo Capital is a subsidiary of NTT DoCoMo of Japan. Nobuyuki Akimoto, CEO of DoCoMo Capital, said that his company was especially attracted to Beceem's MIMO and Smart Antenna techniques. "This relationship will give us a good view of the capabilities of the Wireless Broadband technology as we investigate the future of OFDMA based Wireless Broadband solutions," he said. Release

ALSO: Beceem is not the only 802.16 developer attracting the attention of savvy investors. Milpitas, CA-based Aperto Networks has raised $26 million in venture funding for its WiMAX base stations and subscriber units. Aperto is an active member of the WiMAX Forum and an important contributor to IEEE 802.16 and the ETSI-BRAN standards. The company claims more than 200 customers in 65 countries. The new Series E follow-on financing round brings the company's total capitalization to an impressive $120 million. The financing round was led by GunnAllen Venture Partners with significant participation from existing investors including JK&B Capital, Canaan Partners, Alliance Ventures, Innovacom, JAFCO and Labrador Ventures. Release

FINALLY: Following their recent contract for development of the WiMAX Forum's 802.16e protocol conformance test solution, Aeroflex and Cetecom Spain have now outlined the road map for the product's planned development and introduction. Report

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