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Betacom makes its private-wireless-network bid with $15M in funding

After years of constructing wireless systems for the major carriers in such complicated spaces as convention centers, stadiums and airports, a Bellevue, Washington-based firm says it's ready to build and run private networks for enterprise customers.

And the company said it scored $15 million in funding for the effort. The company said the funding came from private investors including Braxton Carter, the former CFO of T-Mobile.

Betacom announced what it calls "the industry's first fully-managed private 5G network service" Tuesday morning – a new venture into designing, building and operating private wireless networks for business firms.

"When I say fully managed private wireless, the entire thing is in-house," Brian Watkins, the company's executive vice president of business development, told Light Reading.

That includes the company's combined Microsoft Azure-hosted security operations and network operations center. The company told FierceWireless it would also rely on radio access network hardware from US-based companies, though it didn't name any.

"We're one company bringing everything to the table, including staying behind and operating it to an SLA [service level agreement]," he added.

The company is relying on mostly unlicensed CBRS spectrum to build these networks – which, notwithstanding all the mentions of 5G in its press release, will probably be LTE-centric at first.

"I think the ecosystem hasn't really invested heavily into 5G solutions," Watkins said. "Demand hasn't been there."

For example, he said that while a private 5G network using CBRS frequencies might be able to support 1 million devices, a comparable private LTE network on the same spectrum could accommodate 4,000 devices – still a lot for many use cases.

Betacom's press release also cites a study released last July by TechAnalysis Research that found 53% of respondents among medium and large US enterprises planned to add private 5G networks, versus 51% that said they would add more Wi-Fi hotspots, 47% would upgrade wireless networks to Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, and 44% would opt for private LTE.

Watkins could not name any clients last week for Betacom, but he said the firm is "heavily engaged" in such business settings as airports, retail and warehouses.

Those build off Betacom's experience building network systems for carriers since 1991 in such venues as Atlanta's Georgia International Convention Center and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Amalie Arena in Tampa, and Hard Rock Stadium outside of Miami.

"If you need me to pull fiber, look, I pulled 12 miles of fiber at Hard Rock Stadium," said Watkins. "We really know what it takes to build out an environment."

But he added that with so many enterprises needing private networks but not wanting to have to manage them, he expects Betacom to have competition soon enough from other firms, even if they must combine offerings from various partners.

"The market's way too big," he said. "There's more than enough for all of us."

Indeed, companies ranging from Verizon to Microsoft have been targeting the private wireless networking space in 4G and 5G.

— Rob Pegoraro, special to Light Reading. Follow him @robpegoraro.

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