WiMAX Forum president says an Alvarion exit could be positive

Though Alvarion's recent admission that it is exploring options for its WiMAX unit appears to auger doom and gloom for the industry, Declan Byrne, president of the WiMAX Forum, says there could be a positive impact based upon what ultimately happens with the business.

"It depends on who buys it," Byrne told FierceBroadbandWireless. He cited as an example the February acquisition of Nokia Siemens Networks' WiMAX business by NewNet Communications Technologies, which he said "doubled down" with a focused commitment to WiMAX, bringing new energy to the technology's ecosystem.

Hezi Lapid, Alvarion's new president and CEO, said earlier this month that the company is exploring "a variety of options" for its WiMAX unit, which has suffered from plummeting revenues. Ed Gubbins, analyst with Current Analysis, wrote in a brief that Alvarion's move "may signal one of the final votes of no-confidence in the ecosystem."

As a very public champion for WiMAX, the company's admission that it is pondering an exit from the industry lends, at a minimum, an air of uncertainty to the technology's future prospects.

Mohammad Shakouri, Alvarion's corporate vice president of innovation and marketing, remains the WiMAX Forum's chairman, at least for now. "That could change tomorrow. I don't know," said Byrne.

Alvarion's fortunes slid as WiMAX's prospects shifted away from the likelihood of there being a WiMAX chip embedded in every mobile communications device. With LTE having become the wide-area OFDM technology of choice for inclusion in mobile phones, computers and consumer electronics devices, WiMAX's future prospects increasingly depend upon fixed wireless networks for developing markets and vertical niches such as aviation, oil and gas, transportation and utility smart grids.

"I think it's a matter of public record that [Alvarion has] struggled for a long time, achieving the right balance of cost vs. sales," said Byrne.

WiMAX still contributes 50 percent of Alvarion's revenue though the company has diversified into other businesses such as distributed antenna systems (DAS) and Wi-Fi, the latter stemming from its November 2011 purchase of Wi-Fi equipment vendor Wavion.

Alvarion "acquired a pretty hot commodity with the Wavion solution," said Byrne, adding deployment of Wi-Fi networks for enterprise and carrier offloading is "a really amazing space right now."

Alvarion is gaining traction with its Wi-Fi business. Earlier this month, the company announced it had begun deploying a multimillion-dollar Wi-Fi project for Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT).

Alvarion is initially providing carrier-grade Wi-Fi equipment for more than 3,000 hot zones around Manila's metropolitan area. The deployment will be expanded over time to other major areas around the Philippines, with the project slated for completion in two years. The Wi-Fi hot zones will be located in venues such as cafes, bars and clubs, car dealerships, salons, shopping malls, restaurants and cinemas and will be accessible for an extra monthly fee to subscribers of PLDT's my DSL service.

For more:
- see this Alvarion release

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