There’s a growing digital divide between consumers who live in highly dense areas where it’s relatively cheap and easy to deploy fiber, versus more rural areas that lack the underlying infrastructure to support higher speeds. And, of course, there are developing parts of the world where wired infrastructure doesn’t exist at all, and where wireless connectivity is still expensive to deploy.
With three years of development and $38 million raised, a startup called Mimosa Networks is finally ready to take on the challenge of making wireless broadband a lot faster and more affordable, especially in areas that aren’t served by traditional wired broadband providers.
Mimosa was founded by a couple of veterans of the telecom and networking technology industry. That team includes Brian Hinman, who had previously co-founded PictureTel, Polycom, and 2Wire, and served as a venture partner at Oak Investment Partners. Joining him is Jamie Fink, who previously served as CTO of 2Wire and SVP of technology for Pace after it acquired the home networking equipment company.
The two were hoping to leverage their networking experience to build a new class of wireless broadband technology that will make it more affordable to reach consumers in underserved areas.
Fink tells me that while working with Tier-1 ISPs as they expanded their networks with 2Wire, “it was really clear that the big guys were cherry picking the best areas to invest in their networks.”
What they saw was a mix of WiFi technology that works just fine in the home but isn’t very scalable, and wireless networks that struggled to provide fast enough speeds for true broadband connectivity. So they began developing technology that would enable high-bandwidth, high-availability networks that used wireless as the underlying technology while still getting real gigabit speeds.
To do that, the team focused on leveraging unlicensed 5GHz spectrum for its high-speed wireless networking technology. By doing so, Mimosa hopes to be able to drastically lower the total cost of ownership for the equipment it sells to ISPs in those markets.
By deploying low-cost base stations and access points, Mimosa customers can get 10 times the speed and five times the capacity of current wireless networking equipment. And it comes at a cost that makes wireless broadband actually affordable to deploy for new entrants in the market.
In the past three years since being founded, Mimosa has raised a total of $38 million from New Enterprise Associates and Oak Investment Partners (where Hinman served as an investor). Most recently, it closed a $20 million Series C round from return investor NEA, which also led the Series B round.
The funding comes just as Mimosa is ready to begin deploying its first products into the market. It’s currently undergoing private engagements and ordering with some wireless ISPs, but is looking to announce its first line of products in the coming months and making them available to more customers.
To start, Mimosa sees an opportunity to supply a large number of small ISPs that are looking to provide consumer access to wireless broadband in places where there aren’t great options today. But it could see its technology also being used to improve mobile backhaul speeds between carriers, and also envisions a day where even some of the larger incumbent ISPs could leverage its products to improve their service.
If it’s successful, that could mean faster, cheaper mobile broadband for all of us.