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AirTies Buys a Piece of Technicolor

Jeff Baumgartner
1/30/2019
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In a deal that aims to broaden its technical knowhow and expand its reach to a greater number of broadband devices and service providers, AirTies has struck a deal to acquire Technicolor's in-home WiFi management software business.

They aren't disclosing the financial terms of the deal, but the sale includes Technicolor's Wireless Doctor product (formerly known as Wi-Fi Doctor and Conductor) and associated intellectual property, which also takes aim at the broader IoT market. About 30 Technicolor employees, primarily based in Belgium, are joining AirTies . Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH), which sells a range of modems and gateways, will also collaborate with AirTies to sell whole-home WiFi products to cable operators and other broadband service providers. (See AirTies Picks Up Technicolor's Wireless Doctor Business .)

Philippe Alcaras, CEO of AirTies, said the acquisition will complement his company's focus on client software for gateways and extenders that work in tandem with a cloud-based remote management system for a broader mesh-based smart WiFi platform. Technicolor's Wireless Doctor platform, he said, will help fill some gaps, as it handles data management and diagnostics for in-home WiFi systems that rely on a single gateway, as well as those that work in tandem with a network of WiFi extenders and access points.

The deal follows an acknowledgement by Technicolor late last year that it was reviewing and evaluating strategic alternatives to the company that could span acquisitions, combinations or divestments. At the time, it was speculated that Technicolor might look to sell off its consumer premises equipment business, which expanded in 2015 via the acquisition of Cisco's CPE unit. (See Technicolor Eyes Options, Including Sale of Set-Top Biz – Report.)

"It's a good fit with our current product portfolio," Alcares said of the AirTies buy. "For us, it's necessary to... port on all of the gateways you [as a service provider] have in the field, because you need to provide this service to 100% of your customers."

Buying a 'frienemy'
With respect to in-home and cloud-powered WiFi smarts systems, Technicolor was viewed as a "frienemy" of AirTies, Alcaras said. He noted that its Wireless Doctor product was somewhat competitive with AirTies's remote manager system, but that Technicolor had, on occasion, also ported AirTies's client software to some of its gateway products.

But the deal will help AirTies in other ways, as Technicolor has been porting its software to chipsets from the likes of Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and Quantenna Communications Inc. It will also expose AirTies to a larger group of service providers and a larger base of broadband devices.

"We're talking millions of customers," Alcaras said of the additional scale that the acquisition will bring in the door that are using Technicolor's technology or might be in the market for a mesh-style upgrade.


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Some of AirTies's legacy partners include Sky (now part of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Atlantic Broadband , Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR), Orange (NYSE: FTE), Midcontinent Communications (Midco) and Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM). AirTies estimates that about 100 million WiFi devices are using its current platform. (See AirTies Hikes Hardware-Agnostic Path as Whole-Home WiFi Takes Off .)

AirTies didn't outline all of the service providers that the deal will give it access to. However, Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) in Australia is one of the major service providers that has announced a deployment of Technicolor's Wireless Doctor product. In 2017, Technicolor said that deal set it up to manage 1.5 million gateways and monitor more than 11 million WiFi devices on the Telstra network.

Alcaras also touted the engineering experience that AirTies will gain. "It's... an effort for us to find real experts in this domain," he said.

The deal comes into play as cable operators and other ISPs continue to view managed, whole-home WiFi as table stakes, as WiFi becomes an important conduit for streaming video in the home, and as a path to a new premium-level revenue stream. (See Why ISPs Are High on Whole-Home WiFi.)

It's also happening as AirTies looks to shore itself up against competitors that are also targeting this market, including Comcast-backed Plume Design Inc. , Assia Inc. , Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX), and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), which acquired Unium, a Seattle-based WiFi mesh startup, in 2018. (See Will Plume's Open Source Plan Pay Off? )

"The market is maturing and will require more investment and focus in the coming year," Alcaras said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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