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SOMA Scores $50M

Broadband wireless vendor SOMA Networks Inc. has scored a $50 million VC cash injection, taking its total investment raised to a massive $175 million.

Founded in 1998, the San Francisco company targets the last-mile Internet access market untouched by DSL and cable, with a focus on internet service providers (ISPs), competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), and incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs). (See SOMA Untethers the Last Mile.)

To date, SOMA has kept a relatively low profile in the broadband wireless space, touting only three commercial deployments: Always on Network and 3 Rivers Communications in the U.S., and Jaring in Malaysia (see 3 Rivers Deploys SOMA and SOMA Powers Jaring). Today’s funding announcement, however, makes it one of the best funded broadband wireless players, eclipsing the likes of ArrayComm Inc. and Navini Networks Inc. (see ArrayComm Gets Greenbacks and Navini Nabs $30M).

The round was led by Morgan Stanley Venture Partners and Asian VC Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd. and included investment from Endeavour Investments Ltd. and NeoCarta Ventures Inc.

SOMA’s COO, Greg Caltabiano, says the company will use the major investment to boost its “geographic expansion” and is on track to make a return on the massive investment. “SOMA is at a place where it has products and customers, and now it is all about growth and execution… I can’t go into too much detail but now we are working with these late-stage type of investors, I can say we are making very good progress. It’s moving along well. The investors are patient, but, of course, they are also looking at results.”

So what exactly does SOMA offer?

SOMA’s air interface is based on wideband-CDMA technology, but the startup has had to add proprietary extensions to accommodate its antenna technology -- meaning SOMA’s customers have to buy both base stations and customer terminals. The payoff is that its terminals aren’t susceptible to multipath interference, and they can seek out the strongest signal path by continually listening in all directions.

The terminals pack the software to automatically assign priority to certain traffic types, such as voice, and they can also adjust to changing signal conditions. If coverage becomes weak, the connection will boost its level of forward error correction to compensate. SOMA claims its base stations can each serve more than 1,000 users at up to 12 Mbit/s per user. On the customer side, SOMA's box plugs into whatever network infrastructure is set up: Ethernet, wireless LAN, or plain old telephone service.

Looking ahead, SOMA’s COO says the company is keeping a close eye on development of WiMax technology and will support the 802.16 standard. “We have worked hard over the last five years to make sure the entire system is abstracted from the air interface so we can plug in the chips and make them work with the rest of our network.”

Tomorrow the vendor will announce a partnership with Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. (Nasdaq: SANYY) for the development of broadband wireless kit, following successful trial deployments, and later this month it's expected to tout further extensions to its VOIP offering.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:11:11 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M unbelievable that a startup that doesn't even list its products operating frequencies on their web page and has completely proprietary technology can secure this kind of funding...

Bubble days are here again.

FYI, interesting headline news from Jaring's website:

13-06-2005 12:06 pm
Urgent Maintenance Works on June 14, 2005 at Serdang Node (JARING Wireless Broadband). new
09-06-2005 12:05 pm
Maintenance Works on June 11th, 2005 at Uptown node.
06-06-2005 3:03 pm
Maintenance Works on June 9, 2005 at all JARING wireless nodes.
06-06-2005 1:11 pm
Service Interruption in area USJ, Sunway and Petaling Jaya (JARING "Wireless Broadband") has been resolved

Hmm, maybe not so service ready after all.
freetoair 12/5/2012 | 3:11:09 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Sounds like envy?
They must be doing something right?
Understand they are wcdma/3gpp/hsdpa now, with WiMAX coming soon.

And suspect the technology is fairly mature given the time/effort they have already put in to it.

Another way to look at it is the amount of funding put into wifi stuff like Aruba, Trapeze, Tropos, etc., $450M for Airespace?, etc., these which while standard at the air interface contain a lot of proprietary stuff. But moreover are just commodity radios for unsophisticated, un-radio-savey enterprise customers. In that context the amount does not strike me as that large.

Bigger issue is the BWA market in general - will the pig ever fly in a significant way?
techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:10:38 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M true, a touch of envy mixed with a healthy dose of post bubblist scepticism.

Would love to find out more, but their public info is not too revealing.

As to your final point: well said. Will the pig fly? And if it does fly, how many vendors will it take to keep it aloft?

Alvarion, Flarion, Navini, IPW, Aruba, Tropos, Redline, Airspan, Aperto....don't need to make a fool of myself listing them here, but one wonders who will remain when reality hits.
attwi2002 12/5/2012 | 3:10:31 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M It appears to our team that the "pigs do indeed fly" (what an expression). Aruba is doing well with MSFT and large enterprise customers, making entry into UK as well. From what we see and hear, Navini is doing OK with US and Australia deployments. Flarion and Siemens have several country-wide deployments underway here in Europe, and from what we hear, soon in Malaysia and other parts of Asia too. IP Wireless is making progress with its TDD solution for fixed wireless in NZ and in Eastern Europe.

Broadband fixed and mobile is under way. As you say in the US, "the pigs do indeed fly"

AW
freetoair 12/5/2012 | 3:10:23 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Agree there has been some progress and room hope.

Aruba - very different space, would not include in this discussion space. MSFT deal is not all that big initially, but good nonetheless. What are they anyway a wifi company? a security GW company? a lan switch company? what is next?

Navini - not much new here, limping along on life support.

Flarion and Siemens - need to monitor this in Europe, it could be the biggest to date but still early. Have not heard of any immediate action in Asia, they have been working it for years...Nextel deal put them in throes of death, maybe Euro deal can save them but the clock is ticking.

IP Wireless - NZ, Ger, SAfr all have been going for sometime and not all that well. They were shifting strategies out of the system business so I wonder? May change as UTStarcom, for one, may no longer be able to support them in systems given the China fall out. Still on life support.

None of these companies are anywhere close to cash flow positive. And the cost price pressures keep going lower so building out a BWA network is still not a great economic model. Moreover the technologies really cannot support or evolve easily to support new services - the datarates/throughput, latency and capacity are not adequate for anything other than <1Mbps web access in moderate cellsite capacities. Not to mention service predictability & reliability.

Not a pretty picture.
Boloman 12/5/2012 | 3:10:14 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M RaviK
Why are you asking this here? Why not email or phone Flarion? This board deals in rumors and stuff, not facts.
RaviK 12/5/2012 | 3:10:14 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Do these technologis offer mobile dsl?

Our firm was resently contacted by consultant who asked about interest in dsl mobility in Delhi. She mentioned flash OFDM. Is the technologi in service anywhere, except Siemens? Is flarion owned by Lucent. Does Lucent service CDMA and flash OFDM? Your advice is kindly appreciated.

Yours sincerely;

Ravi
RaviK 12/5/2012 | 3:10:03 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Mr. Boloman
Kindly accept my apologies. I hope the board could help me with an urgent request on a Sunday (Monday in Delhi). I will not ask for the board help again.

Ravi K.
major_general 12/5/2012 | 3:10:02 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Ravi,

This forum is for unstrung discussions, if you take anything written over here seriously, it will be at your own perils.

The best way to go about getting information from vendors, is to ask them for a formal proposal, and then during your assessment, you will realize the truth from the crap.

So, whether it is IPW or any other vendor, talk to them directly.... if you want to scoop up some insider stuff....then dump it over here.

take it easy,

Major_General
major_general 12/5/2012 | 3:10:01 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Freetoair

You are on the ball park with your assessment about the NAvinis, Flarions and IPW...

What do you think of the WIMAX, in general?

How will they integrate the CPE into Laptops as they have been claiming?

Thanks,

Major_General
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