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4G/3G/WiFi

Beceem Gets $40M

Chipmaker Beceem Communications Inc. has grabbed over $40 million in its latest round of venture funding as the company prepares for mobile WiMax deployments in the latter half of 2007.

The Californian startup's Series D round was led by Teachers' Private Capital and included a new investor in NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701). The company has raised over $90 million in venture funding since its inception in 2003.

Beceem has focused entirely on building 802.16e mobile WiMax chipsets, rather than trying to support fixed and mobile wireless broadband. "Mobile WiMax is all we do," says Lars Johnsson, VP of Business Development for Beceem. The company's latest "wave two" supports features like multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) antenna arrays that boost the speed and range offered via WiMax base stations and devices.

Mary Dotz, the company's CFO, says that some of the new money will be spent on "field testing" as carriers start to deploy mobile networks toward the end of 2007. "To deploy a new network out there, it's very expensive," she notes.

Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) are both planning to build mobile WiMax networks in the U.S. Johnsson expects to see Japanese operators NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) and Softbank potentially move toward mobile WiMax by the end of the year as well.

$90 million may seem like a lot of money for a company that just designs chipsets, contracting out the actual manufacture of its semiconductors. Similar "fabless" WiMax rivals such as Picochip and Sequans Communications have yet to break the $50 million mark.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Beceem currently has a shade over 200 employees in the U.S. and in Bangalore, India. Dotz declined to give specifics on whether Beceem will look for more funding after this round.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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