LightPointe Expands Huawei Deal
The companies teamed up last year to serve just the Chinese market (see LightPointe Teams With Huawei). The expanded agreement will carry LightPointe into Huawei's accounts in the Middle East and East Africa, including Iraq, Kenya, and Yemen.
LightPointe first pinPointed the regions for expansion, then called up Huawei as the best partner for the task, says Larry Prior, LightPointe CEO.
"We look at who's there and who has a customer base," Prior says. "We had Corning and Siemens in different agreements, but when it came to Kenya and when it came to Yemen, Huawei's going to own that."
LightPointe also has an agreement with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), but it tends to cover specific Cisco partners and doesn't cross Huawei's territory, Prior says. "With Huawei it's more focused on large PTTs and service providers, so we've been able to avoid conflict."
Even its strongest proponents admit FSO will never take over the world. But the technology seems to be on an upswing. Granted, big spender Terabeam Corp. was acquired for pocket change by YDI Wireless Inc., but other companies claim to be going strong. FSona Communications Corp. recently upgraded its equipment to the 2.5-Gbit/s mark, and LightPointe itself picked up a $17 million funding round. (See Terabeam Merges for Peanuts, fSONA Announces 2.5-Gig FSO , and LightPointe Attracts $17M.)
Much of the activity comes from regions like China, where massive infrastructure build-outs include some spot opportunities for FSO.
The technology is also finding uses in wireless backhaul, which analysts have pegged as the technology's only hope for growing beyond a small niche (see New Life for FSO?). Prior claims LightPointe's Supercomm booth last month saw quite a few visits from companies dabbling in 60GHz transmissions or the new WiMax standard (see WiMax: How Far? How Fast? and New Life for FSO?).
In addition to backhaul, there's a last-mile play for FSO. For customers requesting bandwidth beyond what current broadband wireless standards can deliver, the service provider can try a hybrid model: FSO for data, and radio frequency (RF) for voice, Prior says.
None of these angles will turn FSO into a huge business, says analyst Dave Dunphy of Current Analysis. "You'll see some applications in secondary market areas where there's not as much infrastructure build-out, but the biggest opportunity will probably continue to be with enterprises, shooting across parking lots," he says.
Like most outside observers, Dunphy doesn't see much chance for FSO to catch on with service providers in a big way. "It's a complex operations model and high cost. You've got link-to-link engineering that has to be done," Dunphy says. FSO does become useful in some cases, but overall it's still "the kind of thing that's nice to have once in a while."
Nonetheless, Prior hopes to gain ground with a new wave of small CLECs, having seen a flurry of them visit the Supercomm booth. "We counted 20 by Day 2," he says.
While more than 20 companies were pursuing FSO, including fellow startups fSona and LaserBit Communications Corp., LightPointe's primary competition comes from MRV Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: MRVC) and, to some extent, Canon Inc. "That's pretty much a niche competition. I don't see [Canon] except in Japan or the Northeastern United States," says Prior.
LightPointe claims to be in 50 trials, including several in China. The company employs about 75.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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