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Optical/IP

Airspan Maxes on Voice

Airspan Networks is set to close its $8.7 million acquisition of VOIP softswitch vendor ArelNet Ltd. by the end of May, a deal the broadband wireless equipment supplier hopes will enable it to support 802.16 voice services.

Airspan today announced it has signed “a definitive purchase agreement” for the Israeli company, following a letter of intent inked last December (see Airspan to Buy AreINet).

The deal comprises $4 million in cash and $4.7 million in Airspan’s common stock. Founded in 1996, ArelNet has a headcount of 38 and touts the likes of France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE) and Telecom Italia SpA (NYSE: TI) as customers of its VOIP gateways and softswitches.

“It remains subject to the approval of ArelNet shareholders and the District Court of Tel Aviv,” Airspan’s senior VP and CFO, Peter Aronstam, tells Unstrung. “We expect it to close at the end of May.”

Earlier this month Airspan talked up its WiMax product plans, dubbed, ludicrously enough, "AS.MAX" (see Airspan Unveils WiMax Portfolio and Airspan Scores on WiMax). The company expects the purchase of ArelNet will provide the capability to add voice services to its 802.16 offering [ed. note: which will be then renamed "BIG.AS.MAX"?].

“We are firm believers in the future of voice over IP,” says Aronstam. “To do voice over IP the voice call has to run over a softswitch. We were finding that our customers would typically go out and buy their own softswitches, and we would then have to integrate our products to make sure it is signaled properly though their softswitch architecture. That is technically complicated, so we decided to find a product we could buy and integrate into our wireless platform. We can now offer a turnkey voice-over-IP WiMax system by integrating the two products.”

Aronstam says that carriers should not have to wait long for the voice offering once the acquisition is complete. “We signed the letter of intent last December, so we have already had three or four months to work on the product integration. Physically it isn’t very complex.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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