Carrier WiFi

Arris Stimulates Some Broadband Action

Cable broadband specialist Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) is involved in a number of broadband stimulus bids, but considering the sheer volume of applications turned in for the first round, its odds of scoring some of that dough is looking pretty thin at this point.

Arris extended its hand in May, announcing a "complete offering" to help MSOs prepare their applications for $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds that are tied to the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (ARRA) and will be awarded over three rounds. That offer of help includes eligibility assessment, the development of business plans and market analysis, technical and network planning, and project management. (See Arris Offers Stimulus Help. )

That offer of help didn't cause MSOs to storm Arris's Suwanee, Ga., headquarters in a big way, but it did produce a few raps at the door.

"We are actively working more than a handful [of bids]," Arris VP of marketing and business development Jeff Brooks told Cable Digital News earlier this week. "How many of those will get funding, I would not even begin to guess."

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) revealed Thursday that it received about 2,200 bids valued at "nearly" $28 billion in the first round alone. Only $4 billion has been set aside for the über-oversubscribed first round. (See Recovery Act: Round One Brings 'Nearly $28B' in Bids.)

Of the bids Arris has in play, only one has been made public. It's on board as the system integrator for a $2.7 million WiFi project submitted by the City of Monrovia, Calif., and Champion WiFi, a subsidiary of Champion Broadband. That project, which proposes the use of dual-band 2.4 GHz and 4.9 GHz stand-mounted gear from BelAir Networks Inc. , aims to offer free wireless Internet access to "community anchor institutions" and to the city's fire department. The city says its present broadband penetration rate is 35 percent, well below the state's average of 56 percent. (See Monrovia Seeks Broadband Stimulus.)

Like the Monrovia project, most of Arris's stimulus action has involved data services, including some other WiFi overlay projects and some that want to bring Docsis 3.0 to small, rural areas that are difficult to cost-justify under normal circumstances, according to Brooks. Some operators are also looking to Arris to help with "middle-mile" facilities and transport projects.

But Brooks says many other operators are submitting bids without Arris's direct help, though several have asked the vendor for product information.

At this point, Arris is coaching MSOs that are still interested in participating in the broadband stimulus effort to start getting ready for Round 2 right about... now.

Tier 1 MSOs like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) have already said they'll take a pass on the broadband stimulus effort. Some Tier 2 and 3 MSOs are on the fence, too, though 22 percent of operators in the crowd at the recent Independent Show in Texas indicated in an unscientific poll that they intended to file applications for the first round. (See Accessing Obama's Broadband Billions.)

The American Cable Association (ACA) , which represents about 1,100 small and mid-sized cable operators, has yet to release any details about member bid activity.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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