Alvarion, DirecTV Unplug WiMax Rumors

By Ed Sutherland

September 06, 2005

Alvarion is betting the farm on WiMax, but it appears that DirecTV customers won't be the recipients... at least for now.

Networking gear maker Alvarion and satellite broadcaster DirecTV are distancing themselves from reports that the two companies are in negotiations over the possibility of providing WiMax to subscribers.

“We are exploring WiMax opportunities, but we are not in negotiations,” Bob Marsocci, DirecTV’s Vice President of Communications, tells Wi-Fi Planet.

Recently, Reuters reported that Alvarion “is in talks with DirecTV Group Inc. about supplying the satellite television service with wireless equipment that would boost its network.”

Alvarion denies having had any talks specific to supplying DirecTV.

“Alvarion is engaged in talks with every service carrier that has a potential interest in WiMax,” says Carlton O’Neal, the company’s Vice President of Marketing. “We cannot divulge the status of those talks prematurely."

At the Reuters Telecommunications, Cable and Satellite summit, Alvarion CEO Zvi Slonimsky said WiMax would allow DirecTV to wirelessly upload and download data. Satellite-provided broadband services require subscribers to upload data via telephone.

DirecTV ‘Actively Engaged’

Earlier this month, DirecTV CEO Chase Carey told The Financial Times the satellite operator is “actively engaged in talking to an array of parties” involved in wireless broadband. Carey further said DirecTV was interested in forming partnerships or other business relationships.

New subscribers are down 45 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the CEO.

In 2004, DirecTV axed its DSL service. The satellite service’s lone broadband option is via DirecWay, which is satellite-based.

While the two firms hesitate to talk of any negotiations, DirecTV obviously needs to bolster its broadband services to keep pace with cable television.

A pact supplying the largest U.S. satellite service with WiMax gear would also pump revenue into Alvarion. Slonimsky told last week’s conference that Alvarion is staking its future on WiMax. Slonimsky says that by 2007, the majority of the company's income will rest with WiMax, up from 20 percent today.

Earlier this month, Alvarion announced that its second quarter revenue fell 18 percent from the first quarter of 2005. Delayed orders, lower sales and the shift from DSL products to WiMax were blamed for the lowered forecast.

It will be October before the first WiMax equipment is tested, resulting in official WiMax gear appearing in 2006, according to reports. Alvarion, a major presence within the WiMax Forum, earlier this month announced it would not submit equipment for the initial round of testing. “We don’t see customer demand for certified kit until early next year, maybe even late as second quarter next year,” O’Neal was quoted as saying by Unstrung.

O’Neal admits to Wi-Fi Planet, however, that companies that have already submitted WiMax gear for testing are reaping a PR coup.

“My guess is that whoever’s in the lab now is off privately at meetings telling customers or investors, ‘We’re there and we’re first,’” he says

Countries Adopt Pre-WiMax Gear

In the past two weeks, Alvarion announced that several countries were deploying its “WiMax-ready” BreezeMax equipment. Installations in Ghana and South America have also been reported previously.

The connection between satellite service and WiMax isn’t new. In July, at the WiMax Forum Plenary in Vancouver, satellite firm PanAmSat showed how WiMax via satellite could broadcast live video to mobile devices.

“Satellite-delivered WiMax technology is the future for handheld devices such as smartphones and laptops," said Bruce Haymes, PanAmSat's Senior Vice President of Business Development.



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