Moto's Cable Guy Now a Wireless Guy Too


Dan Moloney has probably done a bit of reading up on WiMax and CDMA lately. Not to mention HSDPA/HSUPA infrastructure equipment  — um, whatever that is. (All I know is that it’s referred to in shorthand as HSxPA. Clever engineers.)

Moloney, who’s spent nearly 25 years in the cable trenches at Motorola and General Instrument, has received a promotion of sorts. As part of a restructuring announced Tuesday, he’s now also in charge of Motorola’s cellular networks and broadband wireless business, which has been combined with the old Connected Home Solutions group.

No doubt the fact that Motorola’s cable group continues to be a peppy performer — in stark contrast to the self-imploding mobile devices unit — helped the top brass have the confidence to give Moloney the reins for both service-provider businesses. (The change, or at least the groundwork for the change, actually happened back in May when Motorola renamed Connected Home Solutions as the Home and Networks Mobility group.)

The Connected Home business “delivered another exceptional quarter” for the three months ended June 30, Motorola president and COO Greg Brown said on the earnings call. Moloney’s unit put up sales of $1.1 billion, up 40% from the same quarter last year and up 8% over the first quarter of 2007. Operating margin for the unit was in the "double digits," Brown noted; under the restructuring Motorola no longer breaks out operating earnings for the cable business.

Does it make sense to lump together DVRs with wireless-transmission systems? One Wall Street analyst, a bit tongue-in-cheek, groused that "the only thing [the restructuring] does is provide a challenge to analysts for comparing year-to-year results."

One reason companies restructure operating divisions is to even out the numbers. But in Motorola’s case, shuffling the deck as it did won’t change the numbers for the handsets division, which is the real drag on the company with a $565 million operating loss for the first half of the year.

In terms of product development, the cable and wireless teams can’t have that much to talk about, unless they’re they’re discussing, say, PacketCable — the CableLabs spec to provide "service mobility" across wireless and wired networks. (Note that the wireless networks group will continue to be based in Arlington Heights, Ill.

But as customers, cable operators and wireless carriers share some common characteristics: long lead times, need for reliable and durable products, and so on.

And one of the future brass rings Motorola has its eyes on is that cable companies aspire to be significant wireless operators themselves someday (see: SpectrumCo). The Pivot baby steps today may turn into a sprint (no pun intended) toward full-blown high-speed wireless networks.

Then the cable guys, like Moloney, will have to know WiMax and a whole backpack of new acronyms. OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex) anyone?