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.”

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