MuniFi Gear Maker BelAir Gets Cash

Cities like San Francisco are continuing to push city-wide WiFi and startups selling to that market are still getting funding. Today Ontario-based wireless mesh startup BelAir Networks said it has raised a fourth round of funding of $21.4 million, bringing the company’s total funding to $65.4 million. The funding was led by Ventures West Management Inc, and included Trilogy Equity Partners, along with existing investors Comcast Interactive Capital, T-Mobile Venture Fund, Panorama Capital, VenGrowth Capital Partners Inc., BDC Venture Capital, and MMV Financial.

BelAir says its different from the long list of competing wireless mesh hardware companies like Tropos, Strix, Motorola, Cisco, SkyPilot and Firetide, because its multi-radio technology creates a stronger, faster network, and the company has also more recently concentrated on selling to cable companies and telcos. The market for this equipment is growing rapidly and Heavy Reading says it will be a $1 billion market by the end of 2008.

That’s a lot of growth, but there are also a lot of companies selling to the market. What will happen to all these muni WiFi equipment providers, we’re not sure, but likely some sort of consolidation and aquisition is in the industry’s future. Telco equipment makers like Nortel could be willing to spend a lot for a well-funded company like BelAir looking to boost its own muni WiFi offering.

Wireless startups have gotten significant funding this year, and according to VentureOne $790 million was invested in wireless deals as of the first quarter of this year. That’s the largest quarter for wireless in the last three years. But funding in wide area network startups has slipped this year says VentureOne.

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