VC funding rains down on The Cloud

Money secured from 3i and Accel Partners Europe will keep the Wi-Fi hot spots rolling out worldwide

Wi-Fi hot spot 'wholesale' provider The Cloud has received venture capital funding from 3i and Accel Partners Europe. Although the exact sum is undisclosed, it is thought to be worth several million pounds or, in the company's words, enough "to fully finance the business".

The deal sees The Cloud emerge from under previous parent Inspired Broadcast Networks and is the first round of VC funding.

Alongside the injection are two major appointments: Gerard Small, previously of Colt, as CFO, and Peter Elliott, previously international IT chief at Orange, as chief network officer.

George Polk, The Cloud's founder and chief executive, said the company continues to expand apace, building around 100 hot spot sites per week. The company's model relies on selling on connectivity to providers such as BT, cable companies and wireless ISPs.

Polk admitted it is unlikely any of these businesses are making a profit from Wi-Fi now, though he said the next six months should see some turn that corner.

As well as further expansion internationally, The Cloud has also launched Cloud Carrier Services, which make it easier for service providers to add their brands to broadband wireless services.

Rather than see it as competition, Polk told that numerous 3G cellular launches later this year will help its business.

"Six months from now we'll see customer-friendly service providers, with better roaming and integration between existing wireless data offerings," he said.

This position is backed up by Evelien Wiggers, senior research analyst at IDC, who said: "Most of the mobile operators are thinking about integrating wireless LAN with 3G. There is a business in doing that. For end users, having the best connection is the most important thing."

Polk denied the failure of US-based Cometa earlier this year -- a company in which he was also an investor -- has put a dampener on Wi-Fi in Europe.