Top 25 Update: Hardware Heroes

The time has come to make some adjustments to our ranking of privately-held wireless companies (see Unstrung's Top 25 Startups), and we're starting with the hardware firms. That's good news for two companies that have made an impact recently -- IPWireless Inc. and WaterCove Networks Inc.

Our ranking of the leading 25 startups is derived from a quintet of Top 5 lists covering each segment of the wireless world -- hardware, services, components, software I (applications and development), and software II (OSS, billing, CRM – you know, the sexy stuff).

We're updating the hardware department today; the others will follow in due course. Here's how the new list looks:

Table 1: Unstrung's Top 5 Private Wireless Hardware Firms
Position Name Previous position
1 Flarion Technologies 1
2 IPWireless Inc. NEW!
3 ArrayComm Inc. 4
4 MeshNetworks Inc. 2
5 WaterCove Networks Inc. NEW!
Recycling Bin
Airvana 3
Cambridge Positioning Systems 5

Storming in at number two is IPWireless Inc., which is putting itself about in North America with some small but telling deployments (see IPWireless Flies the TDD Flag). IPWireless is one of a small band of alternative high-speed wireless data vendors that are providing some enticing alternatives to carriers looking to satisfy customer demands without breaking the bank or needing a new license.

It's also caught Cisco's eye: Unstrung understands that the global IP hardware giant is kicking the tires of an IPWireless base station in the U.K., a situation that has got up the nose of at least one mobile carrier that's not too keen on having "alternative kit" being used to try out its data applications. Or so we hear.

Another member of the alternative equipment gang, Flarion Technologies, just came in with an important new trial -- that keeps it in the top spot, for now (see Flarion Cookin' Up Seoul Food). It'll need to keep adding to its current trials and move quickly towards converting them into purchase orders, if it's to hang on as numero uno.

Our other new entrant is GGSN (gateway GPRS service node) startup WaterCove Networks Inc., which recently bagged a commercial deal with Orange UK (London: OGE) (see WaterCove Picks Low Fruit).

Now, the more cynical among you (yes, you -- that's the Unstrung readership I'm talking about!) don't believe it counts for much when a vendor wins a deal with an operator that has family ties to one of its investors (see some of our message board comments for details). Others, however, hold that "carrier VC investments do not equal commercial contracts." Fellow GGSN startup Megisto Systems would be a case in point (see Megisto Denies Italian Job).

In the end we decided that, despite the relationship between vendor and customer, the deal was significant enough to warrant an entry into the lower reaches of the Top 5. That's a big Orange network, after all!

ArrayComm Inc. and MeshNetworks Inc. remain in the ranking, though a bout of inertia sees MeshNetworks slip two places to fourth, while ArrayComm creeps up one place to number three, almost by default -- though its recently announced relationships with Kyocera Corp. (NYSE: KYO) and LG Electronics Inc. could be important for the Asia/Pacific market. In addition, its Australian venture is set to begin pre-commercial trials in November (see Aussies Prep Mobile Broadband).

As for the two former Top 5 incumbents now consigned to the Recycling Bin, Airvana and Cambridge Positioning Systems, their demise can be regarded as a combination of slight inertia and tough luck -- after all, somebody had to go. They're definitely bubbling under and could well reenter the list in our next shakeup.

Others making a case for consideration are up-and-coming handset vendors Sendo Ltd. and Danger Inc. Handsets deploying Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) Smartphone 2002 operating system are gonna be hot, we reckon, and Sendo is set to be one of the first to market in this space. Meanwhile, T-Mobile U.S. has started to ship the Danger device (see T-Mobile's Danger Money and Biff! Bang! Pow! It's Danger!).

So that's hardware sorted, but what of the other categories? Find out what's happening elsewhere in the next few days, and stay tuned to see how these changes affect the entire Top 25 list.

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
wirelessfan 12/4/2012 | 9:34:05 PM
re: Top 25 Update: Hardware Heroes It seems that the three companies are more or less targeting the same market segment. Anyone has
insight about their technology and their claims?

On their websites, both Flarion and ArrayComm are claiming their proprietary solution provides more capacity than 3G does. IPwireless is emphasizing the importance of a standard technology. very interesting..
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