Motorola Mobility To Pitch BelAir's Wi-Fi To Cable Ops

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Motorola Mobility secured the exclusive rights to market and sell BelAir Networks' Wi-Fi access solutions to cable operators worldwide -- although BelAir will retain its direct relationships with its three biggest MSO customers: Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems.

Under the agreement, Motorola Mobility will gain access to BelAir's portfolio of Wi-Fi access points, picocellular technology and Wi-Fi network provisioning and management solutions. The picocellular products are designed to let MSOs provide supplemental coverage to 3G and 4G wireless operators for high-density locations, connected back through their existing hybrid fiber coax networks.

"We view this as a global opportunity for cable. We've been on this bent for well over a year, trying to identify the right partners," said Joe Cozzolino, Motorola Mobility senior vice president and general manager, network infrastructure.

The opportunity is ripe for cable operators to deploy Wi-Fi access solutions given the explosion in tablets and smartphone devices, which are "immensely hungry for data," Cozzolino said. "The pull we have seen is outstanding from pretty much all over... in cable operators wanting to consider deploying this -- to reduce churn, improve competitive positioning and create additional revenue opportunities."

Cablevision has been the leader in rolling out Wi-Fi network across the New York metropolitan area that gives its Optimum Online broadband subscribers outside-the-home Internet access for no additional charge. Time Warner Cable and Comcast have followed with similar Wi-Fi deployments, and all three MSOs have reciprocal agreements allowing each other's customers to access any of the Wi-Fi access points in the New York region.

With the Motorola Mobility deal, "we're trying to leverage the success we've had to date with Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks," BelAir president and CEO Bernard Herscovich said. "Motorola is bringing to the partnership their existing product line, together with the relationships in the international cable space. The net results will be revenue acceleration."

Privately held BelAir's other major Wi-Fi customer is AT&T. Founded in 2001, BelAir is backed by Comcast Interactive Capital, T-Mobile Venture Fund and venture-capital firms including Trilogy Equity Partners.

Previously, Motorola had offered a Wi-Fi access line, Canopy, which was focused on municipalities that wanted to offer wireless access. With the company's split, effective Jan. 4, 2011, into two entities, that product line is now with the Motorola Solutions group. Cozzolino noted that Motorola Solutions, under the terms of the split, retains exclusive rights to market wireless solutions to cable operators "so there is no competitive threat" from its erstwhile corporate cousin.

The new Motorola Cable Wi-Fi portfolio can be deployed in strand-mount, pedestal and underground locations. Initially Motorola will focus on selling BelAir's CW100SNE for cable network applications, the CW20E for indoor applications, the CW20EO solution designed for outdoor wireless mesh applications and the CWView provisioning and management tool. The access points support 802.11n and 3x3 MIMO standards based beam-forming.

Last month, Arris Group announced a deal with Ruckus Wireless to market the Ruckus portfolio of Wi-Fi access systems to cable operators.

BelAir and Motorola Mobility timed the announcement for the kickoff of the Anga Cable 2011 conference Tuesday in Cologne, Germany.

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