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Airspan Scores Ericsson OEM

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LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
6/30/2005

As expected, broadband wireless vendor Airspan Networks Inc. has confirmed Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) as its new high-profile OEM partner in the WiMax market (see Ericsson Resells Airspan).

The Swedish incumbent is to resell Airspan’s fixed wireless kit -- unfortunately dubbed AS.MAX -- that is based on the 802.16-2004 standard from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE). (See Airspan Unveils WiMax Portfolio.) The deal was heralded by Unstrung earlier this month (see Airspan Preps OEM Deal).

The move marks Ericsson’s first major push in the WiMax market. The company announced its membership in the WiMAX Forum in December last year but until now had not outlined a market strategy for development of 802.16 equipment (see Ericsson Hovers on WiMax).

“We have seen interest from operators to trial WiMax for fixed-wireless broadband as a complement to DSL,” says Ericsson spokeswoman Eva Sparr. "To be able to do that quickly we decided to include Airspan in our offering... We haven’t decided if we will develop kit ourselves.”

Sparr says Ericsson is also undecided on its strategy for the 802.16e mobile WiMax standard, due for ratification later this year.

A company statement notes that Ericsson believes WiMax and cellular 3G technologies are addressing different market segments. "Cellular standards, such as EDGE, WCDMA, and CDMA2000 offer users full mobility, voice capabilities, and terminal selection to effectively provide mobile telephony services. WiMax will provide Ethernet-based broadband wireless access, primarily addressing residential or nomadic users."

Meanwhile, today’s announcement takes Airspan’s tally of OEM partners to three, following previous reseller agreements with Fujitsu and Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI). (See Fujitsu Resells Airspan WiMax and Marconi Teams With Airspan.)

Airspan’s main rival, Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR), has already notched up deals with Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), and is rumoured to be in talks with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). (See Alvarion & Alcatel Get Fixed Up, Lucent to Resell Alvarion, Siemens Chooses Alvarion, and Wireless Scuttlebutt.) “We hope to match them,” said Airspan’s VP of product management and marketing, Paul Senior, in a recent interview.

— Justin "ASS.MAX" Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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