Beceem is a Santa Clara start-up that provides chips for mobile WiMax technology. WiMax has become all the rage because it allows broadband access for miles of territory.
WiMax ranges much as 10 miles, while the WiFi we know today reaches only a few hundred feet. Intel wants to use WiMax to allow someone to get wireless access on a laptop anywhere.
The WiMax technology is only now being deployed, so there is still a lot of risk still. But Beceem is the first to have demonstrated a suitable full-fleded “IEEE 802.16e” mobile WiMax chipset. Motorola is using it in Europe, for example.
It appears to be running away with a clear tech lead. Last week, we visited with Vinod Khosla, a well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist who is backing Beceem. And he was beaming. Beside him, was Beceem’s chief executive, Shahin Hedayat, who had just finished a meeting with Khosla. Later we found out why they were happy. Things are going so well for Beceem, its backers wanted to cough up more money to allow it to expand. Beceem has raised $27.1 million and may raise more. Its backers include Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Walden International and Global Catalyst Partners.
Turns out, Intel is having to resell Beceem’s chip for Intel’s WiMax efforts — even though Intel is spending $1 billion on distributing WiMax. You’d think Intel, the chip giant, would want to sell its own chips. You look behind the curtains, and there’s only this tiny start-up Beceem doing it all. Intel recently sold off a mobile handset chip unit too, so it doesn’t have too much momentum in the mobile space.
Beceem may be well-placed because it bypassed fixed WiMax and went straight to the mobile platform, which you’d think is more compelling since the trend is toward cell usage. A host of companies like Redpine Signals, RF Magic, Sequans, Sierra Monolithics, Telecis, and Wavesat have all been focused on fixed WiMax.
Earlier this year, Beceem raised $40 million, from Intel and Samsung, which is dominant in Korea, where WiMax is also being adopted.
There is another competitor, TeleCIS, but it doesn’t have near the funding.