Mimosa wins new funds for rural WiFi May 22 2014

Start-up will launch first product next month, working with Quantenna to bring 802.11ac to rural service providers

By Caroline Gabriel

As WiFi moves to the heart of large carriers' network strategies, companies like Ruckus and Ericsson's BelAir are coming into their own. Such firms have been using clever antenna technology to turn a technology devised for LANs into a platform suited to telco-class broadband. But they will not be able to rest on their laurels, as a clutch of new start-ups are waiting to challenge them. One is Mimosa Networks, which has closed a third round of funding, worth $20m, to support its gigabit WiFi system, which is particularly targeted at rural access.

The funding round was led by previous investor New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Oak Investment Partners., taking the start-up's total financing to date to over $38m. The injection also sees Mimosa coming out of stealth mode and promising a product launch next month.

Unlike established carrier WiFi vendors - which have tended to play up the opportunity in urban areas where cellular networks are under strain from rising data usage - Mimosa is focusing first on the traditional market for broadband wireless platforms, the underserved rural regions. It is banking on the fact that demand for broadband, especially in emerging economies, will far outstrip the pace of roll-out of wireline connections by telcos or under national broadband plans.

The Californian company was founded in 2012 by Brian Hinman and Jaime Fink. The former previously co-founded videoconferencing vendors PictureTel and Polycom and home networking specialist 2Wire. Fink was CTO at 2Wire and worked at set-top box maker Pace when it acquired the smaller firm.

Like most carrier WiFi innovators, Mimosa's performance derives from its particular take on MIMO antenna arrays (from which it gets its name). It has been partnering with Quantenna Communications, the pioneer in gigabit WiFi chipsets with advanced MIMO, and the latter's 802.11ac wave 2 silicon will power Mimosa's debut products. Quantenna has consistently stolen a march on Broadcom and Qualcomm Atheros with the latest fast WiFi developments, and recently promised the world's first 10Gbps WiFi chipset, using eight-stream (8x8) MIMO. This will appear in Mimosa offerings next year.

The two start-ups are also cooperating on joint development of enhanced physical layer and link layer technologies.

While Mimosa currently concentrates on 5GHz, the usual band for the latest WiFi iteration, 802.11ac, it believes new unlicensed spectrum will be needed to cope with data demand. Some WiFi vendors are interested in 802.11ad, which supports very high speeds in the 60GHz band, but has limited range. For Mimosa's rural model, range will be important, so it favors the 10GHz spectrum for future WiFi expansion, and has petitioned the FCC to open this up under a lightly licensed scheme (this is being opposed by amateur radio enthusiasts, in particular).

Mimosa claims it has developed high speed equipment in low cost form factors, which will offer 10 times the speed and five times the capacity of current wireless broadband options open to rural ISPs.

"The next great frontier in wireless technology is the ability to transmit independent streams to multiple clients simultaneously. With constantly increasing internet demands, wireless hardware must leverage these innovations to leap forward in speed and client capacity," Hinman said in a statement earlier this year. "Quantenna's development efforts focus on using wider channels, more streams and multiuser MIMO to address the next phase of network demand, making their chipsets a perfect fit for the Mimosa product suite."