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Strix Meshes With Samsung

WiFi mesh startup Strix Systems Inc. will announce this morning that WiMax player Samsung Corp. has invested an undisclosed amount of money in the company. The pair plan to cooperate on working with the two metropolitan area technologies, WiFi and WiMax, both in immediate deployments and more long-term projects.

Samsung has made a multimillion-dollar strategic investment in the startup, the financial details of which are not being revealed. Typically, however, companies such as Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Samsung have tended to make strategic investments on or under the $10 million mark.

Strix's VP of marketing, Nan Chen, says the new money will be spent on "expanding market opportunities and R&D." Excluding this strategic investment, Strix has so far gathered $54 million in venture funding since its inception in 2000. (See Strix Strikes $12M to Make Mesh.)

Chen says Strix will work together with Samsung on two fronts.

The first: "Immediate deployment opportunities where the combination of WiFi mesh and WiMax makes sense," he says. For example, WiFi mesh may need WiMax backhaul, or -- more interestingly -- WiMax networks may need WiFi mesh backhaul.

Unstrung did something of a double-take at this -- conventional wireless wisdom has it that WiMax is the technology that will provide the "fat pipe" to backhaul 802.11-based mesh networks, not the other way around. The Strix marketing man says that it ain't necessarily so.

"That's right, because WiMax, in current profiles defined by the WiMAX Forum , can't run faster than the theoretical max of 37.5 Mbit/s, yet current and foreseeable implementations of WiMax are limited to around 20 Mbit/s," Chen explains. "WiFi mesh with different [so-called smart antenna] techniques or 802.11n can run over 100 Mbit/s. Therefore, WiFi mesh can be a backhaul for WiMax."

Strix has always been lauded by analysts for its modular, multi-radio WiFi mesh capabilities -- technology that makes it suitable for wide-scale urban networks. (See Wireless Mesh: Ready!) Strix has long talked up the prospect of adding WiMax radios to its product line. (See Strix Has WiMax Plans.)

Further to being backhaul buddies, Samsung and Strix intend to look at "potential technology collaboration... to optimize products and deployment efficiency" in the future, Chen adds. He is, however, cagey about whether the firms are working together on any metropolitan deployments now.

Potential metropolitan collaborations could prove to be one of the most interesting aspects of the companies' work together, even if Chen isn't talking yet. Samsung is traditionally strong in its domestic South Korean market, which could help Strix build on some of its Asian wins. Samsung has also recently announced that it is working with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) on rolling out mobile WiMax networks in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md. This may prove to be a harbinger of further metropolitan ambitions for Samsung in the U.S. market.

The deal could help Strix stake out some fresh ground for itself in the ever-more crowded WiFi mesh market. The firm's biggest startup competitor is Tropos Networks Inc. , which now claims over 500 customers. Over the last year, however, established players such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) have become increasingly aggressive in the marketplace.

In fact, the deal could help Samsung put together a more Moto-esque portfolio for potential customers. Motorola has been pushing its so-called "Wi4" strategy heavily of late -- offering radio networks that encompass wireless broadband, WiMax, and WiFi mesh.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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