Don't Count Out Ericsson
Ericsson made our list when we conducted this exercise in March, but we left them off the refreshed group of candidates that we posted last week. Don't count Ericsson out of the mix now, multiple industry sources tell me. (See Who's Angling for Motorola's Cable Unit? )
Some of the reasons for keeping Ericsson in mind haven't changed all that much. Back then, we noted that such an acquisition would help Ericsson deepen its relationship with the North American cable industry, something it's been trying to do since its acquisitions of Tandberg Television in 2007, and, more recently, Bel Air Networks Inc., which puts Ericsson in a prime spot as cable operators expand their Wi-Fi footprints. (See Cable Goes Big With Wi-Fi Roaming .)
There isn't a lot of product overlap between Moto and Ericsson, as the Swedish giant doesn't make set-tops, cable modems or cable modem termination systems, and no longer seems to emphasize its edge QAM.
But Ericsson still has some Docsis history. It made a run at the cable modem market in the mid-to-late '90s, becoming the first vendor to sell Docsis devices for less than $100 per unit in a bid to buy market share. Ericsson ended up selling its cable modem assets to Canada's Aastra Technologies Ltd. in 2001, holding that it was no longer a vital business. Shrinking product margins didn't help, either.
What it lacks in these areas now could easily be bridged through the people and technologies it would obtain via an acquisition of Motorola Home. Ericsson's plenty big enough to pull off such a deal, and the cable guys could certainly do worse than seeing Moto's cable assets fall into Ericsson's hands.
There's another interesting reason to put Ericsson's name in the ring again. According to a two industry sources, Sarepta Advisors has done some consulting work with Ericsson in recent months on strategies to make it more competitive in North American cable. Marwan Fawaz, the new executive VP of Motorola Home, and Matt Bell, the unit's new senior VP of strategy and technology, were both part of Sarepta's founding team. (They're no longer involved in Sarepta's operations, a Motorola spokeswoman says.) (See Cable Vets Form Media Advisory Firm.)
So, I would not be surprised to learn that the idea of acquiring Motorola's cable business entered Ericsson's thinking once or twice since Google made its original $12.5 billion bid for Motorola Mobility.
If you still want to weigh in on who might land Motorola Home, be sure to cast your vote in our reader poll. At last check, 17 percent of voters believe an investment group led by former Motorola chief Ed Breen could take a stab at it, while 22 percent think Google will keep the unit. Thirteen percent believe a company not identified on that list (Ericsson?) could come away with it.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable