Nortel forges ahead with WiMax, new alliances

In recent weeks Nortel has made a couple of splashy announcements that suggest the company is regaining some traction.

The first, that Bell Canada is deploying Metro Ethernet Manager (MEM), a network and service operations management solution, is a straight business deal. The second, that Nortel’s WiMAX partnering strategy is maturing, may have far ranging implications in the medium-term.

MEM is designed to support the delivery of high-bandwidth services to business customers. The solution will allow Bell to better manage its network while providing its business customers more reliable access to video and multimedia-based services.

All good, but the additional WiMAX news is perhaps more interesting.

Nortel is building out its WiMAX partner ecosystem to include players such as ZyXEL for devices, and Runcom and Sequans for chips.

This positions Nortel to be more of a player in end-to-end WiMAX in the next two years, when it’s expected the market will see a host of devices with WiMAX chips.

Bernard Aboussouan, vice-president of marketing and business development for Sequans Communications, is keen on the company’s initiatives with Nortel.

“We and other Nortel partners are providing ‘Multiple In/Multiple Out’ (MIMO) technology instead of ‘Single In/Single Out’ (SISO). We can have multiple paths from transmitters and receivers. If an antenna signal drops or lags, another can pick up. It increases capacity and coverage.”

Stefan Dubowski, telemanagement managing editor at Decima Canada, sees WiMAX as gaining modest traction in Canada, and Nortel as wise to focus on its partner ecosystem. “They are pulling back from the spotlight a little bit and want to extend their brand with their partners.”

Nortel is positioning itself to compete with other big manufacturers, and high-speed mobile in a MIMO environment is central to this.

“They are looking at devices because they want both ends to work together,” says Aboussouan.

“A company like Bell Canada can then buy under an Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) agreement from a Taiwanese manufacturer, which may then extend into different types of devices, at different price points, but based on the same technology.”

Dubowski sees this as a reasonable strategy: “Nortel knows it is no longer in their best interest to be the prime go-to for enterprise communications.”

And when WiMAX networks gain momentum Nortel may find itself well positioned in a hot market. Many think that WiMAX should be considered “4G” because it is IP centric, which will also provide cost advantages in deployment. At present most deployments are for fixed WiMAX, but mobile is on the horizon.

Dubowski points out that Nortel’s “Hyperconnectivity” message suits both the consumer space was well as B2B relationships with Microsoft and IBM.

Nortel is also building an ODM ecosystem for WiMAX. According to Aboussouan, in this way “an operator can go to multiple sources for a wide variety of devices, and Nortel can back-up a rich offering.”

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