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** FILE ** Charlie Giancarlo poses at Cisco headquarters in San Jose, Calif., in this Jan. 11, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)

Not so very long ago, Charles Giancarlo was considered the heir apparent at Cisco Systems (CSCO).

On Tuesday, Giancarlo will take his new startup out of the stealth-mode garage, and at least one high-profile backer thinks it could dramatically shake up mobile communications.

"It has huge implications for the computer industry," said Marc Andreessen, whose venture capital firm led a $15.5 million investment round that Giancarlo's ItsOn is expected to announce Tuesday morning.

The Redwood City startup makes cloud-based software to offer smartphone and tablet users more flexibility in how they manage and pay for services.

Andreessen noted that with an increasing number of people bringing their own mobile devices to the workplace, ItsOn's technology can make it easier for employers to differentiate between work-related and personal device use.

But he also envisioned low-income consumers being able to pay for applications a week at a time, or parents being able to reward kids with access to popular apps. "This is basically a platform that enables much more sophisticated pricing and billing across a wide variety of mobile devices," he said.


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Andreessen said Giancarlo's extensive relationship with telecom vendors will be key in broader adoption of ItsOn's technology.

Since leaving Cisco's No. 2 position in a surprise move at the end of 2007, Giancarlo has been a tech investor at high-profile Menlo Park firm Silver Lake. He'll continue to work full time at Silver Lake while leaving ItsOn's reins in the hands of co-founder Greg Raleigh.

Raleigh co-invented multiple-antenna wireless technology known as MIMO, which helped enable the development of high-speed LTE mobile networks. He's also credited with developing the latest generation of Wi-Fi. "The teaming of these two guys was a big factor in our deciding to invest," Andreessen said.

Ira Brodsky, a telecom analyst in St. Louis, said ItsOn's approach could pave the way for new kinds of mobile advertising. Instead of simply watching an ad, for instance, customers might join carrier loyalty programs that would let them accumulate and trade points for specialized content.

"The carriers are well aware that their business have changed dramatically," he said. "They realize the growth is all in the data side, and this kind of approach gives them a lot more flexibility."

Brodsky added, though, that carriers may be cautious about adopting menu-based pricing. "They're not gonna want to move too quickly away from the two-year contracts and bundled services," he said.

Others in the funding round include Ron Conway's SV Angel and an investor group led by Silver Lake partner Jim Davidson.

Contact Peter Delevett at 408-271-3638. Follow him at Twitter.com/mercwiretap.