Wi-Fi vendors becoming hot acquisition targets

editor's corner

I'm beginning to think that Wi-Fi firms that have made their mark in the enterprise space are ripe for the picking thanks to the carrier-grade Wi-Fi trend that will see Wi-Fi become an extension of mobile networks.

Alvarion announced this week plans to buy Wi-Fi vendor Wavion for about $30 million in cash as the WiMAX radio access network (RAN) player finds itself with a limited market. It's looking to transform itself into a player that can add multiple complementary technologies that can be optimized for various types of networks and applications. In other words, it wants to be the jack of all trades when it comes to the creative ways operators might approach offloading data traffic. Last week, Alvarion introduced its BreezeCELL indoor capacity solution, based on TrueActive DAS technology, which was acquired via the purchase of Clariton Networks' IP-related assets earlier this year.

Not only can the vendor go after mobile operators but it can attack the enterprise and other vertical markets. But carrier Wi-Fi is hot right now. According to Maravedis, the market should grow at least 40 percent annually to about $500 million during the next several years. I suspect that many of the players that have spent years bolstering capacity and capability on Wi-Fi will be acquisition candidates.

For vendors looking to get a larger foothold in operators or even a presence at all, carrier-grade Wi-Fi may be a good way to do that. They may have lost out on big radio access network contracts, but they get a back door via Wi-Fi and other capacity enhancements. Of course the value of such contracts isn't as big.

It will be interesting to see how big vendors and smaller ones like Alvarion that once saw big opportunities in WiMAX evolve their businesses to accommodate data traffic. It seems that operators are now open to a plethora of creative solutions.--Lynnette