Ericsson is acquiring BelAir Networks in order to expand its mobile broadband offerings for wireless carriers interested in WiFi.
Ericsson is acquiring
Canadian WiFi provider BelAir Networks in an effort to expand the companys
mobile broadband portfolio and improve its offerings for customers.
The acquisition, which the
company announced Feb. 21, will give Ericsson a carrier-grade WiFi portfolio,
technology expertise, intellectual-property rights and established customer
relationships. While neither company disclosed the financial details, Ericsson
does expect to close the deal by the first half of 2012, and all 120 BelAir
employees are expected to join Ericsson.
Eriscsson believes the
demand for WiFi technology in mobile networks will continue to grow, as mobile
broadband becomes more widespread and users start relying on cloud-based
services and other high data-consuming applications such as video. The deal
will help accelerate the integration of WiFi and cellular technologies to
bolster its 3G and 4G offerings.
Integrating BelAir Networks'
portfolio will allow Ericsson to "lead the way in the growing converged WiFi
and cellular market where improved end-user experience is the driving
force," Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg said in a statement.
The rapid adoption of mobile
devices has driven up demand for wireless connectivity. Rumors
about the deal
have swirled for weeks, as carriers look at WiFi hotspots as
a way to offload wireless data traffic. Even though wireless carriers are still
committed to rolling out 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure and
improving their existing 3G services, they are also looking at WiFi as a way to
add capacity to networks in a cost-effective manner.
BelAir Networks provides
indoor and outdoor WiFi systems that allow service providers to build
high-performance WiFi networks. BelAir access points can be deployed to create
a mesh network in which users can switch from one point to another without
having to sign back on and without interruptions. This gives carriers some
visibility into where their users are going and control the traffic.
such as AT&T, time Warner Cable and Comcast are BelAir customers.
BelAir products will
complement Ericsson's Network Integrated WiFi platform, which launched in
September to create a "truly integrated network," that would
accelerate the integration of Wi-Fi and cellular technologies, according to
BelAir is not the only
company exploring ways to integrate mobile networks and WiFi so that customers
can switch back and forth seamlessly and without any additional software. The
Hotspot 2.0 specification being developed by the WiFi Alliance is also expected
to drive carrier adoption.
Alcatel-Lucent announced its
new lightRadio WiFi architecture on Feb. 14, which will allow users to move
between mobile networks and WiFi and authenticate themselves using a SIM card.
Ruckus Wireless is planning to unveil Smart Cell, a multi-radio access point
that will be able to bundle 3G, LTE and WiFi, at the Mobile World Congress in
"Subscribers really don't
care whether they are on 3G, 4G or WiFi. They just want a good, no-worries
mobile broadband experience," Ronny Haraldsvik, chief marketing officer
and senior vice president of marketing for Bel Air Networks said Feb. 20 in a
report discussing user attitudes toward mobile service providers.
Consumers also want WiFi to
be an integral part of their mobile user experience. About 83 percent of
respondents said in a recent Devicescape study that wireless carriers should
provide WiFi access as part of a bundled package.