Ericsson AB announced on Tuesday that it has agreed buy BelAir Networks Inc. for an undisclosed sum in a bid to add Wi-Fi access to its Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) infrastructure offering. Word that such a deal was imminent first surfaced last month. (See Ericsson Sizing Up BelAir Buy for Wi-Fi Push.)
BelAir, a privately held Canadian firm established in 2002, provides indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi systems and counts AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. among its customers. (See BelAir Racks Up Cable Wins.)
Ericsson said the deal marks a step toward creating a "truly integrated network" and will accelerate the integration of Wi-Fi and cellular technologies. As part of the Swedish vendor's HetNet strategy, the acquisition will also complement Ericsson's work on managing the co-existence of these different technologies in mobile operator networks.
The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2012, and BelAir's 120 employees are expected to transfer to Ericsson.
Why this matters
The fact that Ericsson, the largest mobile infrastructure vendor, has shelled out to acquire a Wi-Fi access business shows just how important Wi-Fi technology has become to mobile operators. Since Wi-Fi has become a critical way to offload mobile data traffic from congested radio access networks (RAN), operators are now looking at how to integrate that technology more tightly into their networks while also improving the management of those Wi-Fi services.
Ericsson launched a Network Integrated Wi-Fi product last September that puts Wi-Fi access control in operator networks, rather than on a smartphone client. Now, with BelAir's portfolio, Ericsson will have a Wi-Fi offering among its radio access products as well.
Ericsson's BelAir buys adds to the Wi-Fi buzz that will abound in Barcelona next week at Mobile World Congress.
â€” Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile