BelAirs Fox: Backhaul Key Issue in Metro Networks

Q&A: The former chairman of the GSM Association, newly arrived as a director with BelAir Networks, says backhaul and the need to scale metro-area networks loom as key issues for carriers and municipalities.

Scott Fox, former chairman of the board of the GSM Association, recently joined the board of directors of BelAir Networks, an aggressive young startup launched in 2003 producing scalable wide-area wireless mesh solutions in the hot, but often contentious, metro market.

Fox is currently the chairman and CEO of Global View Partners Inc., a privately held investment, M&A and strategic consulting company for the wireless industry. He previously held executive positions with Wireless Facilities Inc., a global company specializing in telecommunications outsourcing; Bell South, where he was chief technology officer and vice president of strategy; and MCI, where he was vice president of wireless engineering.

Recently he did an interview with Carol Ellison, eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless editor, regarding his role at BelAir, the challenges ahead for metro-scale deployments and the recent controversy over the deployment of municipal Wi-Fi projects.

What challenges and priorities do you have in your new role at BelAir?

BelAirs proprieties really are scaling the business. They have some world-class products. Theyre scaling the team substantially. A wide adaptation of their wireless multiservice architecture, which was announced just a month ago at CTIA, really extends the product beyond the metro Wi-Fi area into multiservices, providing Wi-Fi, WiMax and eventually GSM, CDMA and third-generation types of wireless access from a common platform. We see wireless rapidly becoming key technologies for both carriers and enterprises.

As you know from my background, my focus has been predominantly on the carrier space. We see that the mesh architecture needs to support high-capacity voice and data. Its really a great architecture for urban systems where high-rise buildings present big obstacles for traditional systems, both wired and wireless.

How does your experience enable you to address this market?

I spent 20 years on the wireless carrier side of the business and quite a few more years on the investor side and the consulting side, founding and starting new companies. At Bell South my role was chief strategy and chief technology officer. I spent substantial time, especially in the early part of that experience bringing wireless to North America and rolling out new technologies with particular focus on building and operating carrier-grade networks.

We see that municipalities and the carrier customers we have require the products and the attendant services associated with the design, deployment and support to really be carrier-grade. So I bring quite a bit of that expertise and, at the board, can provide a pretty good overview to make sure BelAirs able to deliver on that mandate.

BelAir has deployed mesh networks in Ottawa and Springfield, Mo. Are municipal deployments emerging as a key market for BelAir or are they focusing more on wide-area enterprise, campus and commercial settings?

Were really focused across the board. We see municipal Wi-Fi and municipal access as a very promising marketing. Municipal Wi-Fi really is a hot issue being debated between the politicians and the public and press and the voters in the cities. You havent seen BelAir speak out publicly, taking one position or another, because we think there will be many situations where the municipalities will potentially own the wireless network and we have some great solutions for that.

We see many other scenarios unfolding, and this is where I have a bit more expertise. This is where the wireless carriers and other wireline carriers step up and work in conjunction with municipalities to build out and own the networks. Some of these metro-scale wireless infrastructures can support many different applications. Public Internet access is only one of those. Theres residential broadband, private city applications such as video at intersections, meter reading, office productivity, and this is one of the things that really drew me personally to BelAir. It has the ability, from a product perspective, to meet the broad needs of both.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here for more about the political battle around municipal wireless.

BelAirs focus and products have really been across the board, in the hospitality space, the enterprise space, the metro space and the carrier space, depending on whose initiative it is to drive it and what the particular applications are.

Next Page: Technologies in the pipeline.