Harris Stratex eyes Obama’s $7.2bn broadband fund

Harris Stratex, a backhaul specialist and WiMAX RAN supplier, believes it will be a main beneficiary of President Obama’s $7.2bn broadband stimulus package. Aimed at extending high-speed connectivity to rural communities in the US, the $7.2bn fund has a ‘Buy America’ provision attached to it, as has President Obama’s entire fiscal stimulus package across different industry sectors, which is worth around $800bn in total.

US-headquartered Harris Statex therefore believes it has an edge over the likes of NEC, Ericsson, NSN, Alvarion, Huawei and ZTE to be the broadband supplier of choice for rural America. “We’re very well placed,” says Harald Braun, president and CEO of Harris Stratex. “I’m not saying it’s a 100 per cent addressable market for us, but rural broadband is almost a perfect fit for what we offer: microwave in the backhaul over long distances, and WiMAX in the last mile.”

Braun told that the company’s backhaul solution has already been certified for approval by the Rural Utility Services (RUS) telecommunications programme. This is a necessary pre-condition for any kit deployed by operators using financial grants from the $7.2bn broadband fund. “We’re in the process of having our WiMAX equipment certified by the RUS,” adds Braun. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us.”

Money has yet to trickle down from the $7.2bn fund through to the smaller and independent telephone companies, which would enable them to deploy broadband infrastructure services in rural and economically challenged US communities. Harris Stratex is, however, helping operators compile their applications for financial aid before the deadline for submission, which is September 2009.

Harris Stratex first moved into WiMAX through an OEM agreement with Telsima, which was announced in September 2008. Telsima’s WiMAX portfolio includes 802.16e and 802.16d base stations, ASN gateways, as well as fixed and mobile subscriber units. Telsima’s customers include Indian heavyweights BSNL, Tata Communications and Reliance, as well as Neotel, a SNO (second network operator) licence holder in South Africa. In March 2009, Harris Stratex paid $12m in cash to acquire Telsima-with payments spread over 12 months-in what was seen by many industry observers at the time as a bargain deal.

“We haven’t yet announced any new customers by virtue of now offering and an end-to-end solution, but these will come shortly,” says Braun. “We also knew it would take about a year to establish customer relationships before we started to get revenue [following the Telsima acquisition].”

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