Intel invests millions in Spokane’s Vivato

Intel Corp.’s investment fund has provided more than $5 million in funding to Spokane wireless startup company Vivato.

Tom Sowa
Staff writer

Vivato, with headquarters in San Francisco and an engineering group in Spokane, has created a wireless switching system that extends the range of high-speed data to several kilometers.

The exact amount invested by the Intel Communications Fund wasn’t announced. A press release said both Vivato and Intel plan to participate in joint marketing activities.

Last fall, the Intel Communications Fund announced it would invest $150 million in companies whose technologies will accelerate the worldwide adoption of Wi-Fi wireless networks.

It has also invested significant amounts in other non-wireless technology companies. One particular area is for companies developing mobile computing products.

Wi-Fi is the term for delivering voice or data across the free bandwidth of the public radio frequency range. Places offering Wi-Fi are referred to as "hot spots."

Wi-Fi networks and hot spots have popped up nationwide, in hotels, airports, coffee shops and other businesses. Some businesses provide free Internet connections in their public spaces.

Others, like Starbucks, require a subscription for people using wireless connections.

Vivato has just finished shipping its first commercial Wi-Fi switches to initial customers. The units are about 2-feet by 4-feet wide and about 4 inches deep.

The unit uses more than than 100 tiny radio transmitters that send and receive data across a 100-degree path from the source.

Existing wireless networks generally rely on devices that can transmit over a range of about 300 feet. The Vivato switch covers anyone with a wireless handheld or laptop more than a mile away.

In mid 2002, Vivato announced it had obtained about $20 million in funding from Leapfrog Ventures, U.S. Venture Partners, Walden International, Silicon Valley Bank and GATX of California.

Without saying how much Intel provided or what share of the company it holds, Vivato officials said the new round of funding brings all funding to about $29 million.

That new money will help Vivato speed up product development and expand sales and marketing activities.

"Intel is committed to proliferating Wi-Fi capabilities worldwide," said Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Communications Group. "Vivato’s technology has the potential to significantly increase Wi-Fi coverage and allow wireless connection in places previously unreachable by broadband."

Business writer Tom Sowa can be reached at (509) 459-5492 or at [email protected]

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