BelAir Raises $15M for Wi-Fi Units

Wireless networking is so hot that perhaps it’s no surprise an obscure Canadian company received a second round of funding last week.

However, the fact that JPMorgan Partners stepped up as the lead investor, along with previous investors VenGrowth Capital Partners and BDC Venture Capital, in the Ottawa, Canada-based BelAir Networks’ Series B round of $15 million, indicates this startup may have something more to offer than promises of the future in the overcrowded world of Wi-Fi startups.

That something is the watermelon-sized product, built by BelAir, for configuration in groups of four, and costing between $2,000 and $6,000, which allows companies to create networks across multiple buildings in a campus environment. These 802.11 Wi-Fi networks can support users up to one mile apart. And with a transmission rate of between 11 to 54 megabits per second, it will make any user at say a Starbucks, which uses the slower 100 kbps throughput, green with envy.

BelAir, like San Francisco-based Vivato, another Wi-Fi LAN startup, is betting on its ability to connect users over long distances. Vivato, which is backed by Advanced Technology Ventures, Leapfrog Ventures, U.S. Venture Partners and Walden International has raised $67 million to date. Symbol Technologies (NYSE:SBL), an earlier competitor in the space, has yet to announce products like those of either BelAir or Vivato.

BelAir President and CEO Bernard Herscovich says his devices are a cross between wireless LAN broadcast stations and cellular network broadcast stations.

Already certified for use in Canada, the patented product is currently in certification testing by the FCC for use in the United States. Each of the 20-pound units has four independent radio broadcast units, 10 antennas, a backup battery and router technology enclosed in a hardened box designed to withstand any temperature.

The company’s first active trial is at the Radisson Hotel on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where the four-unit configuration supplies occupants of the 10-story building with wireless Internet connectivity.

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