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Fujitsu Teams Up to Tackle Mobile WiMax

Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY) made its first foray into the WiMax macro base station market today by unveiling a family of products that have been co-developed with partner Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN). (See Fujitsu Intros WiMax Base Station.)

The two vendors have signed a four-year deal to cooperate on the building and marketing of the new line of WiMax base stations. Fujitsu is branding the products as BroadOne WX, while Airpsan is calling them MacroMAXe.

The new products are the result of specific mobile WiMax technical requirements from Japanese operator KDDI Corp. , which was awarded a national WiMax license, in the 2.5 GHz band, at the end of last year.

The operator, through its majority-owned joint venture, Wireless Broadband Planning K.K., has committed to spending 145 billion Japanese yen (US$1.3 billion) through March 2014 on building a mobile WiMax network.

"This product was developed to meet KDDI's needs," says Paul Senior, CTO of Airspan. "We are attempting to win their business."

Unstrung has reported that Fujitsu and Samsung Corp. are the front-runners in KDDI's mobile WiMax RFP. And today's product announcement could well explain why Fujitsu is considered to be in a good position. (See Japan's Dark Horse, KDDI Nears WiMax Vendor Picks, and KDDI Forms Mobile WiMax JV.)

Fujitsu's case is also strengthened by the fact that the amplifier used in the new base stations was jointly developed by Fujitsu and KDDI.

The basic specs of the BroadOne WX300, one of the three base stations being developed, can be seen at this Website. It is designed for wide-area coverage over a range of a several kilometers and will be available in the second quarter of this year.

The other two base stations -- a more compact, shorter-range model and an indoor picocell model -- will be available at a later date.

International appeal
Airspan's Senior notes that the products have not been designed just for the Japanese market. They are applicable for any market with 2.3 GHz or 2.5 GHz WiMax spectrum, such as the U.S., Europe, and other markets in the Asia/Pacific, including Australia.

Senior says trials with other carriers will start in three months time, and he expects commercial rollouts to begin in the second half of this year.

"Our base station is tiny compared to others," says Senior. "It has twice the capacity and is physically smaller than any other product in the marketplace."

The small size is important because it can help keep a service provider's operating expenses down. With a smaller base station site, operators would pay less in monthly or annual floor space rent where the base station is located, explains Senior.

Pooling resources
For Airspan and Fujitsu, the tie-up makes sense, says Senior.

"Airspan is a relatively small company, and Fujitsu is late to the WiMax business," says Senior. "By sharing the development, we can put all our R&D resources into this partnership and have something stronger than other companies."

So, does that mean Fujitsu will eventually acquire Airspan? "There have been no discussions along those lines," says Senior.

Today's new products are not the first time Fujitsu and Airspan have gotten together. Fujitsu has been reselling Airspan's fixed WiMax equipment since May 2005. The two companies also inked a reseller agreement for the North American market in 2006. (See Fujitsu Resells Airspan WiMax and Fujitsu Resells WiMax.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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