Sanyo, Soma working on wireless broadband gear

Sanyo has partnered with Soma Networks to develop electronics gear with wireless broadband capabilities.

Japan's Sanyo Electric is working with Soma Networks, a provider of last-mile wireless broadband wireless access systems, to develop consumer electronics and infrastructure equipment incorporating Soma technology, the companies said Tuesday.

Although the joint development work was discussed for the first time Tuesday, it has been underway for about two years and some products are already undergoing customer testing, said Soma.

The first products include base stations and wireless broadband gateway devices, said Ryan Watson, a spokesman for Sanyo in Tokyo. Consumer electronics and mobile devices based on Soma's technology are among future plans, he said.

The first jointly-developed products will go on sale in the second half of the year, Watson said.

Soma provides an IP (Internet Protocol) infrastructure platform called SoftAir that can deliver wireless last-mile voice and broadband services based on WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology. It's mostly intended as a replacement for wired connections to homes and businesses in areas where laying cables would be difficult.

Commercial systems based on the technology are already in use. For example, 3 Rivers Communication in Great Falls, Montana, began offering a Internet and voice telephony package to businesses users in December. In Asia, the technology is being tested by Pacific Internet and MobileOne in Singapore. Jaring, the ISP service of Malaysia's Mimos, plans to roll-out a Soma-based system in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley areas.

News of the work with Sanyo came a day after Soma said it had attracted US$50 million in financing in the last 6 months. The company recently closed a US$35 million [m] financing round led by Temasek Holdings, which is the Singapore government's investment arm, and Morgan Stanley Venture Partners. In late 2004 it closed a US$15 million round. It said it would use the money to fund global expansion of its business.

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Martyn Williams

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