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Marconi Hovers on WiMax

Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) has quietly dipped its toe in the nascent 802.16 wireless MAN market, announcing today that it has become the latest heavy hitter to join the WiMax Forum (see Marconi Joins WiMax Forum).

The recently restructured British vendor claims to be adopting a "wait and see" approach to the technology, having already built up an established customer base in the fixed wireless market following its acquisition of Bosch Telecom GmbH in late 1999.

"We suspect that WiMax will turn up in a couple of Marconi products," says product marketing VP Alex Marshall. "It rather depends on what our major clients want to roll out. It depends on their opinion as to what exactly we do."

Marshall says the company is likely to partner on the production of 802.16 kit, at least in the short term. The company already outsources the manufacture of its fixed wireless products to Germany's Elcoteq Network Corp. (see Marconi Outsources Microwaves).

"We will probably go into partnership mode to begin with and see how it is working out. That's part of our wait-and-see thing. Remember that 40 percent of Marconi's business is services-based, so it would be entirely consistent for us to provide a service wrapped around someone else's product and then take a view as to where we are going."

In June the latest version of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE)'s 802.16d fixed wireless standard was ratified, amid hopes that the mobile version of the specification – 802.16e – will be completed sometime next year (see WiMax Spec Ratified).

"We are most interested in 802.16e," adds Marshall. "There's still a long way to go before we have to jump on it, but we are watching it with interest."

Marconi joins the likes of Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) in expressing some form of commitment to the market (see WiMax Gets Serious, Cisco Joins WiMax Forum, Lucent Joins WiMax Forum, Moto Joins WiMax Forum, Nokia Rejoins WiMax Forum, and Nortel's WiMax Coming Out).

The move marks the British vendor's latest attempt to distance itself from a troubled history. In spring 2003, Marconi completed a major financial restructuring following the revelation that it had amassed a £3.9 billion ($6.9 billion) debt mountain (see Heads Roll at Marconi, Is Marconi Cooked? , and What's Next for Marconi?).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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