ECI Teams for Danish WiMax

ECI Telecom Ltd. has joined forces with WiMax vendor Alvarion Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) and backhaul supplier Ceragon Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: CRNT) to deliver a national WiMax network in Denmark. (See ECI Does Danish WiMax.)

Danish utility company ELRO plans to roll out WiMax across the bacon-rearing country where there are twice as many pigs as people. ELRO launched the network in the area around the city of Randers about eight months ago and already has between 5,000 and 10,000 customers. The company plans to complete the national network by 2010.

For the network suppliers, this is an important announcement because it is the first time ECI has revealed that it is working with Alvarion for WiMax, according to an ECI spokeswoman. The partnership with Ceragon for microwave backhaul solutions was announced last month. (See ECI & Ceragon Partner.)

"This is the emergence of ECI as a supplier of end-to-end WiMax solutions," says Yaki Sfadia, associate VP for new market opportunities at ECI Telecom.

This is not the first time that ECI and Alvarion have crossed paths. In 2003, Alvarion acquired ECI's fixed-wireless access business, InnoWave, in 2003 for $20 million. More recently, Alvarion partnered with Nortel Networks Ltd. to provide the radio access element of the Canadian vendor's WiMax offering. (See ECI Sheds InnoWave, ECI Telecom to Sell InnoWave, and Nortel Flunks WiMax.)

The three Israeli companies have partnered to supply a wireless broadband solution in Denmark that comprises transport, WiMax radio access, and microwave backhaul. ECI provided overall project management and contributed its XDM and BroadGate multiservice provisioning platforms, Alvarion supplied its BreezeMAX WiMax platform, while Ceragon supplied its FibeAir microwave technology.

“The combination of these three companies is potentially quite formidable," says Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan. "They’re all among the leaders in their respective fields. They each have a track record of either reselling their equipment via the bigger OEMs, or outmaneuvering the bigger OEMs in some accounts, and in some cases both. They’re all Israeli companies, so their HQs are all within a short distance of one another. If they can put together a really coherent end-to-end solution, they could be a very serious force in upcoming WiMax RFQs.”

ECI says it is pursuing other WiMax opportunities with Alvarion and Ceragon.

"Many people only think of the RAN when they think of WiMax, but in the deployment phase, backhaul and aggregation is as important," says Sfadia. "You can see that now in North America with Sprint -- backhaul and aggregation is becoming increasingly important."

In Denmark, where broadband penetration is 36.5 percent, ELRO plans to take on fixed-line broadband providers with its high-speed wireless offerings. Through its SkyLine branded broadband service, ELRO offers WiMax broadband connections with up to 5 Mbit/s on both the downlink and uplink for 385 Danish kroner (US$82) per month, which includes free VOIP calls to national fixed-line numbers. The slowest WiMax service the company offers is for 160 kbit/s downlink and 128 kbit/s on the uplink for 89 Danish kroner ($19) per month.

ELRO has to cover Denmark with WiMax by 2010 because that is part of its license condition. It acquired the WiMax license in July 2007 for 117 million Danish kroner ($25 million). So far, the company has covered 2,000 square kilometers, and it will have 15,000 square kilometers -- about 25 percent of the country -- covered in the next five months.

ELRO joins two other WiMax providers in the country: Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) affiliate Danske Telecom A/S and ButlerNetworks A/S . (See Alvarion Wins in Denmark and Clearwire in Euro Partner Talks.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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