Alvarion lassos $100M WiMAX deal with Open Range

Open Range Communications' plan to cover more than 6 million rural Americans with wireless broadband moved a little closer to reality with the company's new $100 million equipment supply deal with WiMAX vendor Alvarion. Under the five-year agreement, Alvarion will provide radio access equipment, customer devices and systems integration for a mobile WiMAX network Open Range hopes will eventually cover 546 rural communities in 17 states.

The news came as a welcome surprise to Alvarion shareholders, who sent the company's stock up more than 15 percent after the news to around $4.11 per share. The agreement also sheds further light on privately held--and relatively reticent--Open Range, which was one of this year's Fierce 15.

"Open Range's unique business model focuses on delivering wireless high-speed Internet and voice services to un-served and underserved communities," Open Range Founder and CEO Bill Beans said in a statement. "These communities require an innovative partner with experience in delivering a wide array of simple, high quality, cost effective, robust solutions that are scalable and sustainable. Alvarion's passion and heritage in deploying wireless broadband globally with its expanded advanced capabilities make them an ideal partner for Open Range."

In the announcement, Open Range also shed a little more light on its plans for the network. The company said it will offer "Simply Easier"-branded wireless communications, thereby providing a "hyper-connected Internet lifestyle" to rural Americans who may not currently have access to the Internet at all. Open Range promised its offering would provide "always on" wireless broadband with "simple and instant" service activation, voice and data capabilities and WiFi connectivity (presumably through a mobile WiMAX router).

Open Range's endeavors are funded through a $267 million loan from the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $100 million equity investment from One Equity Partners, the private equity investment unit of JPMorgan Chase. The company's ambitions take on added emphasis when balanced against the government's $7 billion in broadband stimulus spending.

Though a major announcement for both Alvarion and Open Range, the deal's value--$100 million--pales in comparison to Clearwire's mobile WiMAX push. Clearwire last year secured a whopping $3.2 billion investment from the likes of Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner and others to build a mobile WiMAX network in dozens of major markets in the United States.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Reuters article

Related articles:
Open Range Communications - Top Wireless Company 2009: FierceWireless, Fierce 15
Alvarion's position in mobile WiMAX grows stronger
Nortel teams with Alvarion on WiMAX; focus moves to LTE
New Sprint-Clearwire deal a shot in the arm for mobile WiMAX