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VCs Put $20 Million into Rural WiMAX

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DigitalBridge Communications, a provider of WiMAX-based broadband-to-rural communities, announced a $20 million Series B round of financing Monday, showing that some investors believe there might be gold to mine in them thar rural broadband markets. The new funding (which PE Hub says is closer to $23 million) joins the $17 million or so the company had raised previously. DigitalBridge CEO Kelley Dunne, contacted via phone Monday night, said the latest round should let the company “fully fund” its planned rollout to 15 markets, beyond its current list of served communities that includes the Idaho locales of Rexburg and Pocatello, along with Missoula, Mon., and Washington, Ind.

Dunne, a telecom veteran who spent time both at a CLEC and at Verizon, said that capital expenditures for a WiMAX provider today are “about one-tenth” of the costs that a wireline CLEC might need. Combining WiMAX with low-cost fiber agreements and easy-to-install customer-premise gear from Alvarion is a recipe that is already producing cash-flow-positive results in Rexburg, Dunne said.

What will be interesting is to see how smaller, more focused WiMAX upstarts like DigitalBridge and Towerstream perform in comparison to bigger players like Clearwire or the ailing Sprint Nextel, which is reportedly close to unveiling another round of layoffs. Dunne acknowledged that DigitalBridge’s strategy is to “build around Clearwire and Sprint,” aiming at underserved markets with 150,000 residents or less.

According to DigitalBridge, the latest funding round was led by Paladin Capital Group, and includes previous investors Redshift Ventures, CNF Investments and Novak Biddle Venture Partners. Though DigitalBridge is based in Ashburn, Va., the company is targeting underserved rural areas in many geographical markets, especially in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where the company owns licenses or leases to 193 MHz of spectrum.

Paul Kapustka, former managing editor for GigaOM, now has his own blog at Sidecut Reports.

5 Responses to “VCs Put $20 Million into Rural WiMAX”

  1. Small can be bigger than BIG in WiMAX!
    DigitalBridge USA, a company which had received $20 million in funding in Jan 2008 has taken the lead in announcing the launch of WiMAX services. It has commenced services initially in markets of Jackson,Wyo, Idhaho Falls and Appomatox,VA which will be expanded to other markets in the near future.
    The initial service launch branded as “ BridgeMaxx” has been offered at $ 25 per month and can be used with WiMAX enabling add on cards or USB modems. The demonstrations of the initial roll out featured YouTube Videos in moving vehicles among other applications.
    By being ahead of majors such as Sprint XOHM, it demonstrates that it is not necessary to have large capital outlays as a precursor tpo launch of these services as is usually made out to be. The technology is also not one which remains to be proven, as trials in over 300 locations have reinforced, nor is the availaibility of Customer devices such as modems auch a major isssue.

    Incidentally this also reflects a similar trends seen in other countries, and makes WiMAX one of the technologies to get ahead of established companies whose infrastructure can not be matched by newcomers But the services can, as well demonstrated by the $25 per month broadband access offering lauhced this month.
    One of the advantages touted by the CEO of DigitalBridge P.Kelly Dunne is the fact that such networks can be built to tailor to areas with unmet demand and networks built modularly.

  2. Digital Bridge just turned on a system in Appomattox Virginia. The system went live a week ago Thursday 1/10/08.

    [I was the overall Project Manager & Tower Engineer for]

    “Last Mile” fiber connectivity provided by fiber & tower facilities of Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative ( The 190′ monopole tower, the first of its’ type for MBC’s network, was constructed as a “teleport” for Last Mile connections to fiber optic network.

    Digital Bridge’s deployment is a key example of partnering with MBC by using the coop’s network & utilizing wireless solutions to gain direct access to fiber optic connections for MBC members. This is a far more scalable facility for expansion than FTTH or FTTP concepts.

    Details on Digital Bridge’s BridgeMAXX deployment in Appomattox at:

    Some construction videos of the North site’s 190′ monopole are located at:

  3. Mobile WiMAX (802.16e) based on 2.5Ghz spectrum is a Non Starter for any Rural markets where foliage is a factor. Works great in Nevada/Arizona/Dubai and Texas, I question how it will do in Rural Michigan, S. Carolina and Pa.
    Clearwire and Towerstream are not using the Mobile WiMAX in their existing deployments they are using the viable Fixed (PTP and PTMP) WiMAX products, which work very nicely with a good Line of Site. Non Line of Site deployments will work in Urban markets where OFDM and MIMO address MultiPath access.

    Where WiMAX will shine is when the 700Mhz spectrum is deployed with it and it can be universally applied in Urban and Rural markets. We can expect this to begin happening in some of the Local Service Provider markets where Local SP win the Lower Band B Block of spectrum and begin deploying some of the new radios from the likes of Airsapn,Telsima and SOMA. Timeline here is late 2009 early 2010. Test of the systems may begin in mid 2009.
    WiMAX forum will also be forced into addressing the new WHite Space Spectrum (400+- Mhz) market as well when it is freed up in 2008.