Wi-Fi offload at core of reported Ericsson BelAir buy

Network equipment vendor giant Ericsson Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) reportedly is set to acquire metro Wi-Fi specialist BelAir Networks, a move that would directly reflect the increasingly popular role Wi-Fi off-load schemes are playing in mobile broadband networks.

The news was reported by GigaOM, and attributed to unnamed sources. Both Ericsson and BelAir declined to comment, according to the report.

After being seen as an outcast for many years, Wi-Fi is getting attention from the traditional mobile industry as carriers may look to relieve network congestion and mobile users may look to avoid data usage caps. BelAir has been a major advocate of using Wi-Fi-particularly outdoor systems that can be strand-mounted-as an offload solution to answer these needs. A number other vendors and virtual Wi-Fi network firms like Devicescape and WeFi also been innovating on the Wi-Fi off-load concept, but to date, the big vendor partners of the traditional mobile carriers have shown relatively little public interest.

If Ericsson makes good on the GigaOM report, presumably its interest would be based on seeing a real demand from one or more of its carrier customers in pursuing a network architecture plan that includes Wi-Fi off-load. It would not even be out of the ordinary if a big carrier would turn out to be the driving force behind such an acquisition, essentially urging Ericsson to buy a particular set of technology and expertise.

BelAir also has worked closely with the cable TV industry, which might be moving more quickly than mobile carriers are telcos to create so-called Wi-Fi hotzones in metro areas. That would present a rapidly broadening customer opportunity to Ericsson.

If the deal happens, the next question will be, "Who's next?" Ruckus Wireless and other firms are mining the metro Wi-Fi sector, and there is a pretty good chance that if Ericsson moves on this deal, Ericsson's traditional competitors will have to take a good, long look at some of the other smaller companies addressing this developing opportunity.

For more:
- read this GigaOM post

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