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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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freetoair 12/5/2012 | 3:10:01 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M [Major] "You are on the ball park with your assessment about the NAvinis, Flarions and IPW..."
>> OK so who is left? Alvarion, Airspan, Aperto, Soma??? Where are the market makers?

[Major] GǣWhat do you think of the WIMAX, in general?Gǥ
>> Technology or Business?
>> Technology is not any leap forward as many unbiased studies have shown. 802.16 / OFDM(A) will theoretically deliver an improvement of ~0.2 bits/hz over 3G WCDMA (minding that 3G has a lot more real world performance data that is used in these comparisons, not just paper thoery). So Gǣin theoryGǥ the data rate performance is the same at best. OFDM is a good technology but not any exponential improvement. Meanwhile the spectral efficiency / interference rejection is not as good as WCMDA, so realistically more spectrum is required to build a cellular type network/coverage. MIMO is applicable to OFDM & CDMA so folks should stop with that single-ended argument (ignoring the many other GǣdetailsGǥ of what MIMO would really mean in a wide-area network).

Could go on, but the bottom line is there are a lot of folks out there that GǣtalkGǥ like they know radio/RF but are GǣposersGǥ. So it is not worth the effort here.

Technology standards are generally good. But this one does not solve a problem per se it is just another method. So why is it here? Well if there is a train system and you cannot get your cars on the track (barrier to entry) G build a new train network and make they will come or maybe you will disrupt the other system enough to get on the track (Remember the Intel news quote on this site indicating they were spending "exponentially" more on 3G than WiMAX? Gosh I thought they were the primary builders of the new train system?).

Business
Technology, in this case not being any significant step forward, is not a business driver.

>> The reality is the fixed wireless T1/E1/OC-x, etc. market for enterprise is a stagnant, limited opportunity. Fixed subscriber broadband (cable/dsl) is a large addressable market but one where each day the % of subscribers without broadband shrinks, while at the same time capital equipment costs & subscriber prices have/are dropping toward zero. Guess what? WiMAX costs are much higher and service providers cannot make the business case. Lastly with the price of broadband dropping revenues are falling on a per subscriber basis. So new services are required like Voice/VoIP, IPTV, VoD, etc. Well WiMAX does not have a good story (not that 3G has any better story) for future evolution in data rates (or latency, BER, etc.), the numbers now are aggressive and not portrayed in the context of real-world performance factors. So it is impossible for me to see how WIMAX will provide a cost competitive solution that can evolve to provide a bunch of new services or significantly higher real world data rates. Oh and then there is service predictability, reliability, etc.

And there is the little bitty spectrum issue. 3G has worldwide allocations (but they will need more to support a lot of data in addition to current/growing voice traffic). WiMAX is a patchwork, mostly in higher frequencies where propagation is worse (hence coverage, in building penetration, etc. is worse). This is a major problem for WiMAX but you would not know it from the media.

>> The business guys do not need to understand technology in-depth and now after asking simple questions have come around to ask Gǣwhat is the applicationGǥ. WiMAX Forum answer: GǣMobility, 802.16eGǥ. Yes Mobility and that means higher BER/FER and lower data rates, battery powered, etc. A bunch of Gǣnetwork functionsGǥ. Gee starts to look like 3G. So add in all the mobility functions (and roaming, etc.) & options for redundancy, etc. and the infrastructure starts looking like 3G. And guess where the 802.16e folks are getting their models from? Please do not even start on the Gǣall IPGǥ aspect of WiMAX vs 3G, please unless you really know what you are talking about G thanks.


[Major] GǣHow will they integrate the CPE into Laptops as they have been claiming?Gǥ
>> Quite easily from a pure electronics integration standpoint.
>> And of course the CPE cost/price will drop from an end user perspective if the cost is absorbed in Gǣnew (initially high-end) laptop" purchase. Which is good.

>> But the questions are what does WiMAX mean to battery life, heat dissipation, etc.
>> If this is fixed, ok it is larger & sets in a fixed location (and will not burn your hand!), plug it in to power, etc.

>> But again fixed is really a very limited GǣbusinessGǥ, isnGt it? Ah yes Mobility. Am I going to use a laptop walking down the street? Or a smartphone, pda, etc.? Well battery is critical so again the RF power / link budget must be tuned for this reality. And again you are looking like 3G. Well guess what there are a billion plus mobile phones out there now, and growing, and a very quick turnover cycle. The innovation on terminals is happening there naturally. Yada yada yada.

>>I am not a technology bigot one way or another, 3G vs WiMAX, but I am not stupid and I do not see any technology advantage to WiMAX for Mobile applications which is the GǣbigGǥ market. You can extrapolate the rest.

>> Think I have said enough.
FastEeee 12/5/2012 | 3:10:00 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M ...I can always tell when Verizon/Qualcomm people are logging on to this site----the obvious uneasiness in the tone of their posts regarding any speculation that they may actually lose a market to one of their teeny tiny competitor....its really ashame that the antitrust laws aren;t what they used to be. The greedyness of these two giants, and their squelching of any innovation by even the remote possibility of competition is a price to be paid by all.....just imagine how many markets Qualcomm would own if they couldn't try and bribe the prospective clinet with massive subsidation of costs once they've crushed any competition.
techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:10:00 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M >>>"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."

Did I miss something? Several deployments underway? Slovakia only rumour, Finland not even licensed? How are we defining "deployment" and "underway"?

Maybe we use different definitions but both terms are usually accompanied by PR and actual service availability. IPW in CZ seems to meet this at least from the PR perspective. Lucent and Nortel meet it with CDMA being in actual service in Romania and CZ. Lets see some news on Flarion before we call it deployed.

And to the overall broadband comment As we would say in the Germany if we had this saying, ,,je h+her das Schwein fliegt, desto tiefer f+llt es dann auch--
techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:09:59 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M not affiliate with either QC nor Verizon, if that was aimed here. I like buzz, i like roomors, and wish the Flarions/IPWs all the success in world. I just dont like calling it a deployments when there' s not one commercial radio unit putting out RF to a paying subscriber - because those are what pays the bills. Anything else is a trial or a pre-deployment. Call it semantics, i call it reality.
Boloman 12/5/2012 | 3:09:46 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M See this http://www.valtioneuvosto.fi/v...

Finland chooses OFDM for a wireless broadband network

The Government of Finland has granted an operating licence to build a new digital mobile communications network. Flash-OFDM was chosen as the technology for the network. This is the first time in the world the technology will be taken in extensive use in mobile networks.

The Government granted the licence to Digita Oy on 22 June 2005. The network will be built using the frequency released from NMT 450 service.

Digita will be a network operator only. A condition is attached to the licence according to which it has to lease the network to all service providers on equal conditions.

Ms Leena L u h t a n e n, Minister of Transport and Communications, says that this decision will implement the national broadband strategy's focal points on promoting mobile broadband.

Minister Luhtanen believes that this choice of technology is progressive even on international scale.

Alternative technology option was CDMA. OFDM has originally been planned for Internet use, which is considered to be its advantage. For example in phone calls the VoIP protocol is being used.

Digita is committed to build the network in three stages. The first stage includes sparsely populated areas, such as Lapland and Eastern Finland, the archipelago and coastal areas. That will be completed in September 2006. Nearly all of Finland will be covered by December 2007 and the last shadow regions by September 2009.

Altogether seven operators applied for the operating licence. Five of them offered OFDM technology.

For further information please contact:
Mr Antti Kohtala, Director of Unit for Networks and Competition, tel. +358 500 812 505
techgnochhi 12/5/2012 | 3:09:45 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M no, not all.

Surprising announcement and surprisingly late target for phase 1 (September 2006). I thought they would be more aggresive in trying to prove themself.

At least a deal confirmed by official announcement.
stevenglapa 12/5/2012 | 3:08:50 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Just for the record, there is one genuine and meaningful technology difference between CDMA and OFDM related to smart antennas (whether in MIMO or MISO/AAS architectures) -- which we understand from first-hand experience implementing smart antennas in both. OFDM is inherently more capable of leveraging the more sophisticated forms of smart antenna processing -- active nulling of co-channel interferers and SDMA -- than is CDMA. Since in CDMA all users are co-channel interferers, nulling and spatial channels are essentially impossible with any practical number of antennas. This means, ceteris paribus, OFDM systems will end up with marginally higher link budgets and spectral efficiency than CDMA systems -- which both, as you appear to understand well, translate directly into strategic cost and/or service-definition advantages for operators, particularly when true-broadband data services are on the agenda. All things are not yet equal, obviously, but in the long run this is likely to have more impact on the market than you appear to estimate currently.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Steven Glapa
Director of Marketing
ArrayComm LLC
[email protected]
freetoair 12/5/2012 | 3:08:48 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Fair enough.
Would have to go back and read my original post but essentially I believe we are in agreement. As you state: GǣOFDM systems will end up with marginally higher link budgets and spectral efficiency than CDMA systemsGǪGǥ MARGINALLY being the keyword.

And: GǣGǪin the long run this is likely to have more impact on the marketGǪGǥ LIKELY being the keyword here.

My point is that given all evidence at hand it is GǣmarginalGǥ and this GǣlikelyGǥ will lead to some advantages. But they do not appear significant to the economic business case at this time. I could be underestimating, but the data just is not there (or at least I have not seen it) that could lead me to get very exciting that there is any major leap forward or advantage. Furthermore thinking about the business case I have to consider the frequency reuse / planning differences between CDMA & OFDM as significant - given the minimal spectrum currently available. So many points to consider. What would be interesting is to take a sample deployment using both technologies and compare them in economic vs performance terms. Any work there to share?
stevenglapa 12/5/2012 | 3:08:14 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M you bet. see

http://www.arraycomm.com/docs/...

for an overview. my use of the term "marginal" may have been ill-advised -- the spectral efficiency improvements that can be achieved through nulling and spatial channels are 3 to 4x. In true-broadband wireless, spectral efficiency is the dominant long-run driver of network costs, so this is indeed material.

Steven
luddea 12/5/2012 | 3:06:55 AM
re: SOMA Scores $50M Steven, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

I have a quick question about what you said about the minor effect that nulling and SDMA has with CDMA. On ArraComm.com i find this:

...The result of IntelliCell technology continuously manipulating the parameters of signals to and from multiple antennas is the signal being strengthened or nulled in specific locations....


....This enables multiple users to share a single conventional TDMA, FDMA, or CDMA channel....


http://www.arraycomm.com/pcct/...

Is this in contrast to what you posted earlier or am I missing something?

cheers,

Ludde
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