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Wireless/satellite

Lights Out at LightPointe

Free space optics pioneer LightPointe Communications Inc. closed its doors on Tuesday, Unstrung has learned.

There's no official word on the closure from the company yet. But no one was manning the phones when Unstrung called on Wednesday afternoon.

LightPointe hasn't turned up at "The Wireless Event", a trade show in London being staged yesterday and today, even though it's listed as an exhibitor. "We had a phone call from Lightpointe saying it had been shut down," says a spokeswoman for Rock Media, the exhibition organiser.

People in the industry have heard about the company shutting up shop. Analyst Craig Mathias confirmed the gloomy Tuesday tipoff on Wednesday evening. Mathias says that he doesn't yet know the reason but expects that it is down to "too many bills and not enough revenue."

Free space optics (FSO) was one of the technologies that drove interest in wireless broadband back in the telecom boom of the late Nineties and early 21st century. (See Wireless Wonders). The long-range technology, however, didn't see the take-up that many were expecting -- partly because of problems with the wireless connection in bad weather. It didn't work well in fog or rain.

LightPointe had been been trying to deal with these problems by combining the FSO signal with a WLAN-like radio that could operate better in the fog. (See Interop Unwired.) Evidently it was too little, too late. FSO was already being overshadowed by newer wireless technologies such as WiMax and meshed WiFi.

The company was originally founded in 1998 in Boulder, Colorado. The company received $71 million in venture capital and debt financing.

There's still plenty of other players in the FSO market -- see Page 9 of "Who Makes What: Access Equipment".

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

airfiber 12/5/2012 | 3:53:43 AM
re: Lights Out at LightPointe Mr. FSO's breathless baloney is something to behold. His discerning analysis of Lightpointe's demise should give Gordon Brown pause: Mr. FSO should be PM!

Free Space Optics, to date, has burned through
$1 Billion in venture financing. This technology is a bust leaving us with a tiny niche market for some enterprise applications and no more. Mr. FSO appears to have continued hope by pumping MRV, PAV, and FSONA, while not mentioning the one FSO company that actually has succeeded - Canon's Canobeam free space system. It would seem his bias extends directly to his wallet.

FSO was not a total loss. It did confirm a market for high capacity Gigabit and above speed wireless systems. E-Band systems in the 71-76 and 81-86 Ghz millimetre range will succeed because they go through fog, snow, sandstorms, duststorms and the rain fade can be predicted with great accuracy. All the things FSO could not do.

Mr FSO 12/5/2012 | 3:53:43 AM
re: Lights Out at LightPointe

Firstly this is bad news for the Wireless industry as a whole as Lightpointe had some great people in there EMEA Sales team and I for one wish them all the best for the future.

However on a facts straight perspective this had nothing to do with competing wireless technologies, what happened here is a classic case of scattergun business stratergy coupled by upper management arrogance,which are the usual classic concoction that puts any type of company into a nosedive every time.
Lightpointe had some early focus issue, it was carrier focus only, so they started to attack Fsona Canada's Military stronghold and lost wholesale, tail between legs then Enterprise only, then a mix of the two, then they decided to take on the British and Eastern European vendors by snatching there distibution models, they dropped the price of there equipment(which was very nice product) to a level where they made a pittance and were then burdened with a growing distribution channel that was yielding minimum profit per box, or the required large project focus to sustain.
To put the top hat on matters a big spending CEO that only likes to play with big time money who crashed investor faith with an all or nothing (50 million dollar) take over the world of FSO ultimatumn.

Most of the other FSO players learnt the lessons of the 2001 meltdown, they outsourced production, vastly scalled down upper management and focused on core strength, PAV still top of the game on Cellular and 3G, Laserbit on across the street cheap Fast Ethernet applications, Fsona on Gigabit Transmission in the Military and Government space in the US and EMEA, and MRV Free Space Division is going from strengh to strengh.

The FSO Market has grown stronger year on year, and we still see the European,Canadian and Israeli Manufacturers (Some of them now 10 years old) doing consistently well, several of the FSO vendors turning over between 10 and 14 million USD, while one of the golden boys within the WIMAX space who are painting the town with success stories over the the last 12 months turns over just under 8 Million ??
Surpise as it may seem there are now a large amount of fusion networks utilizing respectable quantities of Laser transmission equipment as well as Wimax vendor offerings, where congestion is causing the usual issues to RF transmission that will always be there.



airfiber 12/5/2012 | 3:53:42 AM
re: Lights Out at LightPointe Mr. FSO's breathless baloney is something to behold. His discerning analysis of Lightpointe's demise should give Gordon Brown pause: Mr. FSO should be PM!

Free Space Optics, to date, has burned through
$1 Billion in venture financing. This technology is a bust leaving us with a tiny niche market for some enterprise applications and no more. Mr. FSO appears to have continued hope by pumping MRV, PAV, and FSONA, while not mentioning the one FSO company that actually has succeeded - Canon's Canobeam free space system. It would seem his bias extends directly to his wallet.

FSO was not a total loss. It did confirm a market for high capacity Gigabit and above speed wireless systems. E-Band systems in the 71-76 and 81-86 Ghz millimetre range will succeed because they go through fog, snow, sandstorms, duststorms and the rain fade can be predicted with great accuracy. All the things FSO could not do.

Mr FSO 12/5/2012 | 3:53:41 AM
re: Lights Out at LightPointe

Free Space Optics is right on track with respect to growth and earnings.

That $1 Billion in Venture financing had most of the existing EMEA FSO fraternaty rolling around in Laughter as did the 1999 report stating that FSO equipment sales would be several hundred million a year from 2004 that caused the VC frenzy.

Isnt it funny that pretty much all of the North American space cadets who got that $1 billion have all gone pop? , and isnt it equally perculiar that the ones remaining and still successful are the ones that didnt buy into the hype.
Mr.Airfiber I stand corrected, Canonbeam, Cablefree, CBL are still there too and lets also remember that Cablefree were the first guys with Gigabit and 2.5 Gigabit no huge VC injection there, CBL have a fantastic domestic and East european market all great companies.

As for the statement on the E band technology, it is without doubt a great technolgy and I am an advocate of it in a very big way, unfortunately unless your in certain parts of Europe that deem it licence free or soft licence your a little bit stuffed for the time being as half of the planet is still standing on the release of the spectrum, which is a bind because there are several mass deployments of FSO that need several mile Gigabit bridging.
The numbers speak for themselves such as Manama Bahrain,60 + laser links since January , versus 4 E Band links which are running legally or illegally depending on what mood the regulator wakes up in, the simple fact is that FSO always has and always will be a perfect close range point to point technology for the metro that does not need a licence, where it is impossible or impractical to lay fibre cables.

It never was never meant to be competition to Microwave, and most of the companies remaining have never batted it that way.

Put the wrong spec antenna on an E band in the wrong environment and it goes horribly wrong, install an FSO link out of Spec and the same thing happens. Check audited accounts, the industry combined salesfor 2005 is a 50 - 60 Million dollar sector, back in 2000 it was 20 Million and change.
Take a walk around most of the capital cities in Europe and an FSO deployment in never more than a few blocks away, take a look in the the Capital cities in Middle east or africa it is everywhere you look up.
Tenders issued recently for approximately 800 FSO links by carriers that have been using them for years, not bab for something burned through :-)



lmcbain 12/5/2012 | 3:53:36 AM
re: Lights Out at LightPointe The fact that $1 Billion was burned through is not actually a legitimate damnation of the technology, rather a damnation of those behind the implementation of it. The understanding of the technology and the education in it's use needs to be paramount for it to move to the next level.

Far more money than $1 Billion has been "burned through" on numerous other technologies before they hit maturity and FSO is no different.

A great example of money burned, before a market was really ready, is the Wireless Service Provider. Multiple billions of $$ were spent and most of it has just evaporated, but it did pave the way for the ideology behind the multi-service WiMax and 3G/4G networks being considered today. This is an excellent example for the purposes of this discussion, because it is one where FSO still has a highly probable role going forward.

A level of maturity in the FSO industry is really only now being reached; that doesn't mean it IS mature, it means that the understanding of what the technology does well, combined with what it still needs to do address, is improving. The deployment strategies, the technology partnerships and more market driven R&D programs are just starting to take shape. It is not rocket science, but it does have it's nuances that must be acknowledged and understood (and are by some).

There are pieces of the FSO feature set that make it a very attractive technology and that ahsn't changed and there are limitations as well; that doesn't mean it has hit a brick wall. FSO is a complimentary technology, but not a disruptive one (a phrase used regularly by one of the first and biggest names FSO has ever seen - Terabeam). Based on the current generation of technology, anyone purporting FSO to be a euphoric disruptive technology will fail.

A properly designed network, no matter how large or small, simple or complex, requires a myriad of technologies, each used where they have their strength; if that network is to be complete and successful.

Sincerely,

Leigh McBain
FSO industry veteran
LP_FSO 12/5/2012 | 3:53:34 AM
re: Lights Out at LightPointe Very irresponsible board of directors especially the CEO who cared only himself and nothing for the people. Everyone else in the company was caught off guard and left to die. Just like a ship captain who deserted before all the crews. Just like the Enron. Why can't he sell the company to Hwawei or whatever? The managment just leave all the channels, partners and customers who supported the company to pay for the CEO's mistakes.

The CEO closed the germany factory last year and thought by recruiting anyone from the street in USA can re-build the product overnight. That was the reasons why there were so much back log for months. That was the reason why the quality of the product really become consumer type.

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