Intel Capital Funds FreedomPop for Wi-Fi-First Smartphone

FredomPop, a provider of free and low-cost mobile phone and data Relevant Products/Services services, is among 10 tech firms receiving more than $22 million in new funding from Intel Relevant Products/ServicesCapital, the global investment and merger and acquisition arm of Intel Corp. The investments were announced today during the second day of the Intel Capital Global Summit in San Diego.

Next year, FreedomPop is aiming to offer the first phone designed specifically to work with its service. A smartphone optimized for Wi-Fi, the device will use Intel’s SoFIA platform, allowing users to easily take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots for mobile voice, text and data services. Intel’s SoFIA tech will enable the phone to”seamlessly” switch between Wi-Fi and cellular networks — at which point the service will apparently be free, according to reports.

“Mobile consumers continue to look for more ways to save on mobile bills, and a Wi-Fi first smartphone allows them to use a more cost-effective network,” said Sam Spangler, vice president of the Platform Engineering Group and general manager of Phones at Intel, in a statement. “We look forward to working jointly with FreedomPop in improving the customer Relevant Products/Services’s Wi-Fi first experience via this new smartphone utilizing FreedomPop’s Wi-Fi network.”

Founded in 2011 and launched publicly the following year, FreedomPop is a Sprint-based mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that offers free services to low-demand users of voice, text and data services. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Now in its 16th year, the Intel Capital Global Summit brings together technology startups, tech industry executives and venture capitalists for panel discussions, networking and investment-oriented “elevator pitches.” Including the new investments announced today, Intel Capital has so far put more than $500 million into a wide range of tech startups so far this year.

Aiming for 20 Markets by 2017

“Together with another robust group of exits, we’re poised for one of the organization’s strongest years ever,” said Wendell Brooks, Intel corporate vice president and incoming president of Intel Capital, in a statement.

With a reported subscriber base of 1 million across the U.S. and a slogan that states, “The Internet is a right … not a privilege,” FreedomPop expanded its service to customers in the U.K. in September. The company’s basic, free service provides 200 minutes of calling, 200 texts and 200 MB of data.

In June, FreedomPop closed a $30 million round of Series B financing led by Partech Ventures, with funding also coming from previous investors DCM Capital and Mangrove Capital. The company aims to expand its services to seven more countries in the coming year, with a goal of serving 20 markets by 2017.

Entrepreneur of Year Award to Virtustream

Other companies receiving new funding from Intel Capital this week include LISNR, which supports the sending of data over high-frequency, inaudible digital sound files; Sckipio, an Israeli firm shipping chipsets for 2 GBPS broadband; and what3words, a U.K. startup addressing platform that lets users exchange location data without GPS or postcodes.

Intel Capital is also investing in Body Labs, which digitizes human body data; an Internet-of-Things service called Microprogram Information; a Chinese imaging and video company called Perfant Technology; Chargifi’s wireless charging network; laser company KMLabs; Prieto Battery; and an early-stage predictive analytics company called Parallel Machines.

Outgoing Intel Capital president Arvind Sodhani, who is also executive vice president of Intel, also presented the first-ever Intel Capital Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Virtustream co-founders Kevin Reid and Rodney Rogers. A cloud Relevant Products/Services-based provider of software and services for enterprise users, Virtustream has gone from startup to a $1.2 billion exit in less than six years.

EMC Relevant Products/Services completed its acquisition of Virtustream in an all-cash transaction in July. The two companies, along with VMware, launched a new hybrid cloud services business late last month.


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