RealTime IT News

Lucent Lends Helping Hand To Sierra

New wireless technology from Sierra Wireless is getting additional funding from Lucent Technologies , a move that helps both companies as they prepare to deploy a truly broadband code-division multiple access (CDMA)-based Internet solution.

The new Sierrra/Lucent line of mobile Internet, using the CDMA2000 1x-Evolution-Data Only (EV-DO) standard signed off by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), are expected to bolster support for the 3G wireless wave as people look for a mobile means to connect their computer to the Internet, without having to deal with a tiny mobile phone or personal digital assistant (PDA) screen.

Because of the price these modems will likely run, which wasn't released, the CDMA-based modems will be marketed to large businesses and corporations. With a theoretical top speed of 2.4 Mbps, it's even remotely possible on-the-move office workers could hold videoconferences or send and receive emails with large attachments while in the car.

Sierra, notable for its Palm-sized wireless modems that made the Ricochet wireless deployment work before Metricom, Inc., pulled the plug in August, has been beset by financial problems which necessitated the Lucent backing.

Lost revenues from its Ricochet deal were key to the companies dip in the third quarter from $15 to $12.9 million, even though Sierra predicts overall sales will improve as they ship out more modems. That, coupled with the high cost to the modems (which start at $400 and rise quickly), has prompted the Lucent aid.

According to the announcement, Lucent will fund Sierra's continued research and development, as well as technical and marketing support.

At press time, Lucent officials were not available to comment on the extent of their financial largesse.

Mike Iandolo, Lucent Mobility Solutions Group vice president of product management and marketing, defended the company's move to support Sierra.

"Lucent is committed to being first-to-market with 3G high-speed wireless data solutions that mobile professionals are looking for, which is wireless access to the business applications they regularly use in their office,'' Iandolo said. "This agreement with Sierra Wireless is an important step in meeting this commitment."

As executives have learned by watching the land-based broadband Internet movement of digital subscriber line (DSL) and cable Internet, first-to-market usually wins the game. The Lucent funding was necessary for Sierra to stay ahead of the competition, which is quickly ramping up its own product lines.

Sierra is currently is the middle of a war on words with Novatel Wireless, a competitor that claimed it was the first to gain Federal Communications Commission approval for the wireless modems based on the CDMA2000 1X standard. This, despite the fact Sierra had gained approval a month prior.

Lucent and Sierra have a long-standing business relationship. Earlier this year, both demonstrated their first CDMA product, tied ith the AirCard 550 wireless network interface card (NIC), a wireless modem that connected mobile users to a CDMA station at 153 Kbps speeds, a speed slightly faster than a land-based integrated services digital network (ISDN) solution.

At the CDMA Americas Congress 2001, a tradeshow currently taking place in San Diego, Verizon Wireless tested the system out, verifying the fast data rates, and likely becoming a customer because of it.

"This successful demonstration confirms our commitment to delivering high-speed data capabilities to our customers,'' Bill Stone, Verizon Wireless executive director of advanced technology strategy, said. "We are pleased to continue to work with Lucent to test CDMA2000 1xEV-DO technology."