FEATURE: On the Hot Seat: ActsPower's Jai Bhagat

ActsPower's Jai Bhagat

Like many long-time wireless industry pioneers, Jai Bhagat has maintained a steady presence in the industry. The former vice chairman and CEO of nationwide paging firm SkyTel, which was sold to MCI WorldCom in 1999 for $1.6 billion, now spends his days working behind the scenes as chairman of ActsPower Technologies, a San Diego firm that has developed a proprietary antenna technology. ActsPower has an interference cancellation technology that can be integrated into a module and added onto a repeater to improve cell site antenna coverage. FierceWireless editor-in-chief Sue Marek recently spoke with Bhagat about his new venture and about the current state of wireless.

FierceWireless: Tell me about ActsPower. Why did this company appeal to you?

Jai Bhagat: What I have learned as I have traveled from country to country is that I think our industry has done a poor job of solving quality of network issues.  In Seoul (South Korea), the government demands better coverage so wireless carriers there are deploying repeaters to fill coverage holes.

The technology that ActsPower has will help the U.S. market. There is a big opportunity in this market. Our product is applicable to WiMAX and WiBRO as well as the public safety market.

FierceWireless:  You are a long-time veteran of the wireless industry. What do you think of some of the current trends, such as the explosion of text messaging?

Bhagat: Skytel pioneered two-way messaging but we didn't call it SMS. We actually used SMS language before anyone else did. What you see today as SMS and to a large extent the concept of RIM's Blackberry device is the same concept and idea that we had at Skytel in the mid-90s. But when we sold Skytel to Worldcom they didn't focus on the company and the product. They could have been at the forefront of this.

FierceWireless:  You have been active in the wireless broadband arena. In 1999 you founded Air2LAN, which provided wireless broadband access to small and medium companies. What do you think of the latest wireless broadband technologies such as WiMAX?

Bhagat: Time will tell how WiMAX will do. I think the issue isn't going to be technology. How soon will WiMAX be deployed in today's environment? You can't just launch a section of the market and be successful. You have to have a national footprint.  How long will it take for WiMAX carriers to have a national footprint?

I was the first chairman of AMSC [American Mobile Satellite Corp.] and at one time it looked like it had real potential. But it took us a long time to get a license from the FCC and a long time to launch the satellite. By the time we launched the service, it was too late. We had planned to provide coverage in areas where there were gaps in terrestrial cellular networks but by the time we launched there were few gaps in the cellular network.

FierceWireless: What's the next step for ActsPower?

Bhagat: We have a contract with one manufacturer. Unfortunately I can't release that name right now. But this manufacturer is going to implement our design and use our intellectual property. We are going to work with other manufacturers to get it implemented as well.

FierceWireless: Do you still have contacts in the industry that can help ActsPower get traction in the market?

Bhagat: Since Skytel sold in 1999 I've stayed active in the industry with several companies. Besides Air2LAN, I've also been involved with firms such as AccessTel and JP Mobile in Dallas. So yes, I still keep in contact with many people.