Ericsson to buy Ottawa-based BelAir Networks

LM Ericsson has entered into an agreement to buy privately held BelAir Networks, an Ottawa maker of carrier Wi-Fi network equipment, as operators get increasingly interested in using Wi-Fi to offload their networks.

The acquisition will give Ericsson a carrier grade Wi-Fiportfolio,technological expertise, intellectual property rights, and establishedcustomer contracts and relationships, it said Tuesday. The terms of thetransaction were not disclosed.

Established in 2002, BelAir has approximately 120 employees. It makesoutdoor and indoor fixed and mobile equipment. Recently it announced asmall cell solution for carriers.
“The big benefit [to BelAir] is access to a huge salesforce with apristine reputation in hundreds of Tier 1 carrier customers around theworld,” CEO Bernard Herscovich told Network World Canada. Combined with Ericsson’s technology it makes for a “winningcombination,” he said.
He also said it’s too early to say if joining a global wirelessequipment giant will mean increased research and development funds forBelAir or an increase in staff.
Mark Henderson, who heads Ericsson Canada, said his company wantedBelAir because “they’re a leader in this field.”
“Integrating the carrier-class product that BelAir has provided intothe family of technologies that Ericsson supplies is just a fantasticopportunity.”
Ericsson Canada is in the middle of building a new facility for the1,000 staff it has in the Ottawa area, and BelAir is expected to moveinto that building.

The demand for Wi-Fi technology in mobilenetworks will continue togrow over the coming years, and the deal will help accelerate theintegration of Wi-Fi and cellular technologies, according to Ericsson.

Ericsson’s acquisition of BelAir doesn’t come as a surprise, as it hasbeen rumored, and is a good move for the Swedish vendor, according toRichard Webb, directing analyst at Infonetics.

All the radio base station vendors need a Wi-Fi offering, becauseoperators are asking for it, he said.

Wi-Fi is already used by many operators, but a new specification calledHotspot 2.0 — which is being developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance — aimsto take the use of technology to the next level. Users will be able toauthenticate using the SIM card on their smartphones and move betweenmobile networks and Wi-Fi hotspots without interruptions.

Last week, Alcatel-Lucent announced it isintegrating Wi-Fi and mobilenetworks using its new lightRadio architecture.

The acquisition is expected to close during the first half of 2012,according to Ericsson

(With files from HowardSolomon, Network World Canada)

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