Those comments from BelAir's chief executive, Bernard Herscovich, came amid news Tuesday morning that 100 per cent of the Ottawa firm's shares will be acquired in a deal with Ericsson. That is expected to close in the first half of 2012.
"We're operating in a market which is really growing very fast right now," he said in an interview with OBJ.
"It started exploding with major customers in the United States, but now we have prospects and opportunities coming from many countries."
BelAir and Ericsson are looking to tap into a growing market of networks that include both Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities.
Wi-Fi is seen as a panacea by some network providers to the growing problem of congestion on mobile. To deal with the surge of demand in data, providers such as AT&T and Comcast are putting money into networks that can seamlessly switch users between both technologies.
The acquisition of BelAir will port its Wi-Fi technology over to Ericsson to complement its mobile network, a situation that has been approved by some of the Swedish company's customers, said Ericsson Canada CEO Mark Henderson. For its part, Ericsson is working on a network integrated Wi-Fi solution that it first announced in September 2011.
"When we look at it, everyone knows what's happening with data and the network and the tremendous growth in smartphones," he said.
The firms did not release financial or other details, but did say all of the approximately 120 employees from BelAir would move over to Ericsson. BelAir is expected to remain in Ottawa and grow, Mr. Herscovich said.
The Swedish company has around 1,000 employees in Ottawa and will move over to new digs at the Kanata Research Park in stages through 2012, Ericsson's Mr. Henderson said. Most of those employees work in long-term evolution and base station technology.
BelAir, a networking equipment maker, has been pushing into international markets lately as countries have adopted networks that are more focused on data.
The company has been working with Hong Kong firms to do trials in that country, which will also give it access to the Chinese market. It is also working on ways to mesh Wi-Fi and mobile technologies through dual-access points.
One of BelAir's marketing points is the ability of its equipment to withstand harsh conditions, with field experience in remote areas of Asia and Australia.
Customers inclue Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and a joint venture in Nairobi that includes Google and Wananchi Group.
"We like the timing of the deal as we view the carrier Wi-Fi offload market to be in early innings, with limited competition near-term," wrote Alkesh Shah, of Evercore Partners, in a note to clients.
"Ericsson's marketing reach should enable BelAir's GigXone system to achieve a reasonable footprint before enterprise Wi-Fi vendors enter the market over the next couple years."
Other mobile providers are picking up on the integration trend as well. Just last week, Alcatel-Lucent said it is planning to combine Wi-Fi with mobile in its lightRadio architecture. Users will be able to authenticate on both technologies using a SIM card.
BelAir, a privately held company, has raised $77 million since being founded in 2002. Some of those rounds included:
- US$15 million in Series-B financing in 2003. Led by JPMorgan Partners with participation from VenGrowth Capital Partners Inc., BDC Venture Capital, and then-Tundra Semiconductor chair Adam Chowaniec, who now chairs BelAir's board.
- US$2 million from the T-Mobile Venture Fund, the venture capital arm of Deutsche Telekom AG, in 2004.
- An undisclosed amount of Series-C financing in 2005 led by Comcast Interactive Capital and McLean Watson Capital.
- $21.4 million in Series-D funding in 2006. Led by Ventures West Management Inc. with participation from Trilogy Equity Partners.
- $17.5 million in Series-E financing in 2007, including $5.5 million in venture debt financing from Wellington Financial LP and the remainder coming from investors led by Export Development Canada. The list included Comcast Interactive Capital, T-Mobile Venture Fund, Trilogy Equity Partners, Panorama Capital (formerly JPMorgan Partners), VenGrowth Capital Partners Inc., BDC Venture Capital, Ventures West Management, McLean Watson and MMV Financial.