Carved from Motorola, Cambium hopes to emerge soon

Two Canadian companies that sell wireless products from Motorola Solutions Inc. hope the investment company that bought its Canopy and Orthogon product lines will inject new life into the fixed broadband lineups.

“I think it’ll be good because the broadband division was a small part of Motorola’s overall business,” Claudio Ricci, country manager for distributor Wav Wireless Outfitters of Guelph, Ont., said of last month’s purchase of the divisions by Vector Capital of San Francisco. “This is going to allow them to get more business.”

The deal, details of which are still being finalized, will create a new business called Cambium Networks headed by the same management team that ran the two wireless units.

In Swift Current, Sask,, Garry Fernquist, owner of integrator Com Centre Inc., is cautious about Cambium, saying “it depends how it rolls out.” In particular, he hopes he’ll still be able to buy products direct from the new manufacturer.

He sells Canopy systems to farmers needing Internet connectivity and energy companies who need to send wireless data from remote wells and pipelines.

Fernquist said it is important that Cambium have new products because fixed wireless “is a highly competitive business.”

According to Rob Hansen, principal at Vector Capital, they won’t have long to find out the future. He hopes new products will be announced at the annual WISPAPALOOZA trade show for wireless internet service providers in Las Vegas Oct. 10-12.

Meanwhile, he’d like the deal itself – which had been expected to be finished by the end of this month – to close by the end of October. Until then Vector can only promise generally that it will invest “aggressively” in new products and more sales staff.

Motorola is a brand that has long been linked to a wide range of wireless products, but in the face of increasing competition for its handsets split the company at the beginning of this year into Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility – which has since been sold to Google. Motorola Solutions, meanwhile, is trying to stick to core products such as Wi-Fi-based WLAN and wireless mesh products, hence the sale to Vector Capital

Orthogon is a point-to-point Ethernet wireless system that uses unlicenced spectrum for campus or wireless backhaul. Canopy is a point-to-multi-point wireless system often favoured by wireless Internet provider.

However, Canopy uses a proprietary wireless standard that some wireless service providers have been abandoning for the standards-based WiMax technology because it didn’t seem to have a future. Motorola responded by bringing out the PMP 320 Canopy series, which is WiMax compatible.

In an interview Friday, Vector Capital’s Hanson said the venture capital company believes both product lines have strong futures.

Canopy is still a “growing business a very loyal customer base and a robust product roadmap for additional products,” he said. “We certainly do not see it as a produt that sophisticated customers are abanonding.” As for Orthogon, it will continue to be a leader in the unlicenced wireless radio market, he predicted.

While the Motorola name associated with the products will disappear, the Canopy and Orthogon names will be retained, he said.

“They truly have differentiated products and technology,” he said, “and a world-class product development team.”

“The message is this is a growth business and we are going to re-invest into it,” he said.

Cambium is a name suggested by the new management that derives from a part of plants that carry water, he said. The name is supposed to evoke the growth the new company will strive for.

Vector Capital is an 11-year old firm that manages US$2 billion in capital, Hanson said, that specializes in buying business units from tech companies such as Intel Corp. and Symantec Corp. and spinning them off into new companies.


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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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