NewNet sees WiMax opportunities in Canada

A U.S.-based wireless equipment company that has expanded into WiMax solutions says there are opportunities north of the border to sell the systems, despite falling North American demand for the technology.

Officials at NewNet Communications Technologies, which this week took over the WiMax division of Nokia Siemens Networks, said they see Canada as an important market for the products.

“We will be seeking opportunities to expand the wireless Internet service provider model and introduce our SmartGrid solution [for utilities] into the Canadian market place,” Scott Morrison, head of NewNet’s telecom infrastructure business division, said in an email. Morrison had run the WiMax unit at NSN.

“The spectrum allocations set by Industry Canada in the 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5 [GHz] bands clearly make Canada an attractive market for NewNet’s WiMAX product.”

Industry Canada has asked NewNet to supply equipment for certification, he added.

He also noted that NewNet has been selling wireless Internet equipment in this country for more than 20 years.

The portfolio includes customer premise equipment that can handle voice, data and Wi-Fi, and access gateways.

NewNet will soon bring out new software capabilities to the WiMax line that will “significantly increase” the range and network capacity of currently deployed WiMax networks, he wrote.

NewNet says the WiMax business came with 40 customers in 27 countries. Based in Shelton, Conn., NewNet is owned by Skyview Capital.

NSN, which has been shedding what it considers non-core units for several months to get rid of debt, bought the WiMax business from Motorola in 2010.

Some Canadian fixed wireless providers still use WiMax, including Xplornet Communications and Manitoba’s NetSet Ltd.

The first 4G fixed wireless standard, WiMax (the more common name for the IEEE’s 802.16x standard) has been eclipsed by LTE as the next-generation technology by cellular carriers. In the U.S., Sprint Nextel started to deploy a WiMax network supplied by Clearwire, but has said it will shift to LTE.

As a result, WiMax’s popularity among operators in North America has dropped and manufacturers are getting rid of the divisions. Not only did Motorola and NSN see little future in the technology, so did Aviat Networks, which sold its WiMax line to Ottawa’s Eion Networks.WiMax is still in demand in other parts of the world, including Eastern Europe and Africa.

NewNet said WiMax still has life in public safety networks and utility communications.

Companies deploying WiMax for those specialized types of applications, and for fixed wireless in some communities without wired broadband, can get around the limitations of the technology, Ovum analyst Daryl Schoolar said. Key among those is the dimmer outlook for new WiMax client devices for WiMax.

Still, WiMax vendors face growing competition from companies selling TD-LTE, the time-division variant of LTE, Schoolar said. Like WiMax, TD-LTE uses the same frequencies for upstream and downstream traffic instead of using separate, paired frequencies. Clearwire and other WiMax service providers are now turning to TD-LTE, though in Clearwire’s case, it has enough spectrum to also keep WiMax for some time.

(With files from Stephen Lawson, IDG News)