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Wi-LAN and Radionet Announce Alliance

Canadian wireless equipment maker Wi-LAN and European hotzone technology supplier Radionet this week announced the formation of an alliance to promote integrated end-to-end wireless solutions which combine the companies' products. The combination of Wi-LAN's pre-WiMax offering with Radionet's Wi-Fi hotzone solutions offers the benefits of a fixed wireless backhaul along with broad hotzone coverage.

The first deployment of this type has already been established in Vantaa, Finland, using 40 Wi-LAN Libra 3000 CPEs both to reach business customers and to provide service to hotzones powered by Radionet. The operator is the local energy company, Vantaan Energy Oy, and the service provider is Wivanet. By the end of the year, the network is expected to cover 80 percent of the households in Vantaa.

For Radionet, the partnership between the two companies represents a way to deploy the company's hotzone products in locations where wired backhaul isn't an option — and it represents a significant market expansion for the company as well.

"The alliance with Wi-LAN further strengthens Radionet's market presence, and opens up whole new markets in North and South America as well as Asia and the Pacific region," says Robert Serin, CEO of Radionet.

Dr. Sayed-Amr El-Hamamsy, Wi-LAN's CEO, says the aim of the agreement is meant to offer customers a blend of reliability and mobility. "This combination of Wi-Fi and pre-WiMax equipment gives you the possibility of rolling out viable, profitable networks competing with DSL in a very wired first world country like Finland," he says. "You can provide the same price points and so on as DSL, but you also have the additional value add that the service is mobile."

That additional value-add also includes the ability to use excess or surplus bandwidth to support a hotzone.

"It does double duty," El-Hamamsy says. "You're able to provide support for a high end customer, and also have excess capacity so that you can support a hotzone backhaul. It's a nice, solid, hybrid network solution."

To encourage deployment of its pre-WiMax products, Wi-LAN announced its Continuity Program in January that guarantees future interoperability. "Next year, when WiMax equipment comes out, the customer can add a card into their base station with the WiMax implementation on it — and we've architected the system so that the same sector, same RF, same everything, will operate with a mixture of Wi-LAN equipment and WiMax equipment," El-Hamamsy says.

El-Hamamsy says he's optimistic about the promise of deployments like the one that's already been demonstrated in Finland. "It really shows another way of resolving this issue which people have been struggling with about how to deploy networks to compete with DSL," he says. "I believe we're answering that in a pretty elegant and successfully-demonstrated way."

As a side note, Wi-LAN's lawsuit against Cisco Systems continues -- though El-Hamamsy says it's been slow going. "They have not yet filed their statement of defense," he says. "They've just been buying some time." The company is suing Cisco in the Canadian courts for patent infringement over use of wide-band Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (W-OFDM) in products, a suit that the company hopes will eventually lead to regular payment of royalties on patents it owns that are used in a wide area of wireless standards today.