updated 06:10 pm EST, Wed January 25, 2012
Equiment provider can offer Wi-Fi + cell in 1 box
Cellular infrastructure equipment provider Ericsson is reportedly adding Wi-Fi capabilities to its catalog. GigaOM reports that the company is buying BelAir Networks, a provider of high-performance outdoor hotspot technology. Up until now, BelAir has been providing equipment mainly to the cable industry.
Cellular service providers have mostly ignored Wi-Fi technology, preferring instead to have their customers run data over their 3G and 4G networks. By doingsto, the wireless carriers can keep control over the network connection and generate incremental revenues from data services. Their customers, in the meantime, have been looking for ways to access the higher speeds that Wi-Fi offers and at the same time avoid the usage caps that many of the carriers are imposing. Ericsson's acquisition of BelAir could foreshadow a change in the wireless carriers' attitude.
While not yet successful in selling to the wireless providers, BelAir has been able to penetrate the cable market. Its access points are used in the outdoor hot zone networks of AT&T, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable. The company has now developed dual-mode access points which combine Wi-Fi with cellular capabilities. Ericsson most likely sees an opportunity to integrate its own cellular radios into the Belair product. In this way, Ericsson could offer its wireless customers an easy means to deploy Wi-Fi and cellular in a single upgrade.