Comcast Invests In Mobile WiMax Startup

Comcast, as part of its broader wireless strategy, has made a seed-round investment in a Boston-area startup developing WiMax equipment to provide mobile broadband data, video and voice services.

Cartiza Networks raised $12.6 million in venture-capital funding in 2007, the Boston Business Journal has reported. Investors include Comcast Interactive Capital, Prism VentureWorks and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), according to Prism’s Web site.

Founded in late 2006, Cartiza is based in Littleton, Mass., with a Canadian office in the Toronto suburb of Markham, Ontario.

Comcast has not disclosed the size of its investment in the startup, and the company declined to comment on its involvement with Cartiza.

Whatever the amount, though, it’s tiny compared with the $1.05 billion the MSO is plowing into a WiMax services venture.

Announced in May, the new joint venture among Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Sprint Nextel, Clearwire, Intel and Google is supposed to create a nationwide WiMax high-speed network.

The operator has high expectations for WiMax. Comcast hopes to get a “two- to three-year head start” on telco rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless in high-speed mobile services, chief operating officer Steve Burke said at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo last month.

“It would be great to imagine a world where we have wireless broadband, at speeds our competition couldn’t match,” Burke said during a panel discussion at the conference. “I think there’s a real case for us to get moving quickly.”

So what exactly is Cartiza developing?

According to the Cartiza Web site, the company is developing an Internet Protocol-based “mobile content delivery system” designed to provide “mobile broadband networking, scalable bandwidth and highly sophisticated content management capabilities for voice, data and video.”

The Cartiza solution, the company’s site also said, will offer “wireless connectivity, IP routing, mobility management, rich content delivery and subscriber management for 4G [fourth generation] wireless access service networks based on a modular and scalable platform.”

Cartiza executives did not return phone calls or e-mail messages. The company is in “stealth mode,” according to Lisa Marafioti Black, who handles press relations on behalf of Prism. That means it’s not publicly discussing its technology or strategy.

While Cartiza’s descriptions don’t mention WiMax, the startup is a member of the WiMax Forum industry consortium. Two other industry sources confirmed that it is focused specifically on WiMax technology.

Cartiza chief executive Bijan Khosravi previously was founder and CEO of Movaz Networks, a vendor of wavelength division multiplexing equipment acquired by ADVA Optical Networking in 2006.

Prior to Movaz, Khosravi worked in Nortel Networks’ optical group and for Siara Systems, an optical-networking company now part of Redback Networks.

Other Cartiza employees have worked at BigBand Networks, Cedar Point Communications, Qualcomm, Nortel, BelAir, Ciena and Sonus Networks, according to a search of the LinkedIn professional database.

Prism general partner Bill Seifert is listed as serving on Cartiza’s board, according to his bio on the venture-capital firm’s site. Comcast Interactive Capital managing director Louis Toth is either a “director, board observer or advisor” for Cartiza and six other companies, according to his profile on the CIC Web site.

Comcast Interactive Capital is also an investor in BelAir Networks, which sells WiFi-based equipment for municipal wireless deployments.