Alvarion Waits on WiMax Testing
The firm's absence is especially surprising because Alvarion is a major vendor in today's broadband wireless equipment market and well represented at the WiMAX Forum itself.
Last month the Forum began conformance testing of fixed-wireless 802.16-2004 kit at Cetecom SA’s laboratory in Malaga, Spain (see WiMax Lab Opens Its Doors and WiMax Forum Unveils Plans). Products that pass both conformance and interoperability testing will be tagged “WiMax certified” and ready for commercial availability.
To date, Aperto Networks and Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN) have publicly announced details of their involvement, while Redline Communications Inc., Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) have confirmed to Unstrung that they too are shipping equipment to the labs (see Airspan Submits WiMax Kit and Aperto Preps WiMax Certification). Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX) is also thought to be among the early movers.
Alvarion, however, appears in no immediate hurry to join its rivals, a move that may surprise some industry observers in light of the vendor’s bullish stance on 802.16 technology, its string of high-profile OEM deals, and the launch last year of its BreezeMAX kit (see Alvarion Breezes Into WiMax, Siemens Chooses Alvarion, Alvarion & Alcatel Get Fixed Up, and Lucent to Resell Alvarion).
Indeed, the company was keen to talk up its market efforts during yesterday’s dismal set of second-quarter financials (see Alvarion Q2 Revenue Falls). "We continued to expand the number of WiMAX trials and evaluations and believe we are engaged in more WiMAX activity than any other vendor,” noted CEO Zvi Slonimsky in a statement. “In April, Alvarion was the first vendor to demonstrate a working outdoor CPE based on the Intel chip. Later in the quarter, we also demonstrated our indoor self-install CPE, also based on the Intel chip, at several industry events. We also announced the expansion of the BreezeMAX platform to include 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz bands for North America.” (See Alvarion Demos BreezeMAX Si, Alvarion Maxes in North America, and Alvarion Demos Rosedale.)
Carlton O'Neal, VP of marketing at Alvarion, plays down the company’s omission from the early rounds of testing: “The first few months of the lab being open is really a time of organization. We have chosen to skip that because we are so busy deploying for actual customers... We don’t see customer demand for certified kit until early next year, maybe even as late as second quarter next year. We are not in a rush to go the lab, because we don’t have anything to prove.”
O’Neal says the vendor will definitely ship equipment to the labs “this year” but is unable to provide specific details. “It’s probably safe to say that the labs are at 20 miles per hour right now, and testing doesn’t happen until you are at 50 or 60. When we are at 50 or 60 we will be there and it will be later this year... We will see everybody at full sprint by the September/October timeframe and then certified products popping up in the first quarter, maybe second quarter sometime.”
Naturally, Alvarion’s rivals disagree. “The people that are there first get a chance to set the direction,” says Airspan’s VP of marketing and product management, Paul Senior. “There is definitely a first-mover advantage in this.”
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung