WiMAX for the Minimum


K

Knowing About

IT TAKES A healthy dose of blind faith to invest the hundreds of
millions - and in some cases billions - of dollars required to get
groundbreaking technologies off the ground. As far as these leaps of
faith go, Sprint Nextel (S), Intel (INTC) and Motorola (MOT) seem to be
jumping off of a springboard when it comes to the wireless broadband
service known as WiMAX.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not pooh-poohing WiMAX's prospects. It
holds the promise of revolutionizing the way people access the Internet
and could provide these tech players with a healthy return in the
process. The true money maker here is expected to be mobile WiMAX (as
opposed to "fixed" WiMAX, which I'll explain later) that will
offer high data rates at a range of several miles. As long as you're
in your service provider's coverage area, it'll allow you to have
high-speed wireless Internet service that travels with you and is
ubiquitous across all of your devices, including your computer at home,
your laptop in the airport and your cellphone.

Sprint recently said it's investing up to $3 billion over the next
two years to create a mobile WiMAX network. The nation's
third-largest wireless service provider is betting that the "4G
services" that WiMAX would allow it to offer customers could prove to
be formidable competition to the slower data rates offered by the 3G,
or third generation, networks of Verizon Wireless and Cingular. Intel,
which unveiled its Rosedale WiMAX chipsets last year, is investing
millions in all sorts of WiMAX ventures. Most notably, it coughed up an
added $600 million for Clearwire, the independent wireless broadband
venture founded by wireless guru Craig McCaw. (McCaw is best known for
founding McCaw Cellular, which later became AT&T Wireless and is now
part of Cingular.) Motorola put $300 million into Clearwire. While
Sprint will offer WiMAX nationwide, Clearwire will provide WiMAX
service in smaller markets such as Klamath Falls, Ore., and Amarillo,
Texas.

No doubt these are large endorsements from prominent industry leaders.
But with any technology that has yet to be tested in the marketplace,
there are some risks involved and some big money to be lost if it
doesn't pan out the way everyone hopes. However, I have a hard time
believing that Sprint and Intel will let WiMAX fail. "The price of
getting a network started is a drop in the bucket compared to the
amount of money they can make," explains Donna Carlson, principal
analyst at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based wireless research house Sky Light
Research. Don't expect Sprint, which says it will commercially launch
its WiMAX network in 2008, to see that big payoff until 2010 though,
says Carlson.

For those investors who have as much faith as Sprint and Intel but not
as much patience, I think the best way to invest in WiMAX right now is
to follow the money trail. What Sprint and Intel are putting those
billions of dollars into are the base stations, devices and other
equipment that'll make these networks work. Wireless device makers
Motorola and Samsung have gotten on board with Sprint and are poised to
profit down the road. But there is one smaller infrastructure company
that's also worth keeping an eye on.

Alvarion (ALVR) is an Israeli company that makes wireless broadband
network equipment. According to Sky Light Research, Alvarion currently
owns a formidable 81% of the WiMAX equipment market. Right now that
market revolves around gear for "fixed" WiMAX networks that connect
individual WiFi hotspots or provide Internet access in lesser-developed
locales where the infrastructure for DSL or broadband connections is
nonexistent or spotty.

In its latest second quarter, Alvarion reported $50.5 million in
revenue and, on a pro-forma basis, broke even. Sales of WiMAX equipment
accounted for $17 million of the top line, a 26% increase from the
previous quarter (other revenue comes from the sale of cellular mobile
network equipment). The company is also showing improvements in
controlling costs - a problem area in the past - with gross margins
climbing to 49.0% from 46.1% in the first quarter, noted Merriman
Curhan Ford analyst Kevin Dede in an Aug. 2 research report.

Dede, whose firm makes a market in Alvarion's shares, has a Buy
rating on the stock. The analyst expects the company to report a loss
of five cents a share on revenue of $208.5 million this year and
projects that sales will grow close to 23% in 2007 to $256 million with
a profit of 10 cents a share. "We believe Alvarion's sales should
show steady sequential improvement through the balance of this year and
next as WiMAX deployments spread around the world," the analyst says.
More wimax news and information can be provided on
http://www.knowingabout.com/wimax/, you can also find about wifi and
IEEE 802.11, Wimax phones , sprint wimax and connection of Wimax with
VoIP market can also play important role in development of WiMax.

While Alvarion continues to build its fixed WiMAX presence, it's
already developing its next generation of WiMAX equipment to help build
out the emerging mobile WiMAX networks like the one Sprint wants. The
company, which was one of the first to market with a WiMAX product,
should continue to have a technologically leading edge over equipment
vendors that are just entering the market.

Even so, investors should know that it's not necessarily going to be
a smooth ride. Competition is going to get much stiffer as the testing
and certification of mobile WiMAX equipment begins next month. "You
can expect to see some of the major equipment vendors like Nokia (NOK)
and Motorola jumping into the market once the mobile WiMAX standard has
been settled," says Peter Bell, a senior analyst at telecom research
firm TeleGeography Research in Washington, D.C., who tracks WiMAX
deployments across the globe. Sky Light's Carlson believes the first
mobile WiMAX product certification will come early next year.

Being in the middle of such an emerging hotspot is why I wouldn't be
surprised if Alvarion entertains a takeover offer or two from one of
the large equipment vendors like Nokia or Nortel Networks (NT) that
want to get in on WiMAX quickly. Over the course of the last 12 months,
Alvarion's shares have traded in a rather wide range of $4.92 to
$10.96. The stock changes hands at around $7 now. Alvarion could prove
to be a worthwhile leap of faith for investors or an acquisitive
equipment maker.

For Further Information and news : http://www.knowingabout.com/wimax/
 
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Richard G. Harper

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