Ericsson to buy Ottawa’s BelAir Networks

LONDON — 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-Fi portfolio, technological expertise, intellectual property rights, and established customer contracts and relationships, it said Tuesday. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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

The demand for Wi-Fi technology in mobile networks will continue to grow over the coming years, and the deal will help accelerate the integration of Wi-Fi and cellular technologies, according to Ericsson.

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

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

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

Last week, Alcatel-Lucent announced it is integrating Wi-Fi and mobile networks using its new lightRadio architecture.

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

(With adds by Howard Solomon, Network World Canada)

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