June 19, 2006 6:00 AM PDT
Wi-Fi gear could put Motorola up against partner
On Monday, Motorola announced the HotZone Duo mesh Wi-Fi product that will likely compete directly with equipment developed by Tropos Networks and resold by Motorola.
For more than a year, Motorola has teamed up with Tropos to win several contracts to build high-profile citywide Wi-Fi networks, including EarthLink's deployments in Anaheim, Calif., New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
In each of these deals, Motorola is the systems integrator, selling the technology, selecting what pieces to use and deploying it in the network. As part of these large city deployments, Motorola plans to use the Tropos Wi-Fi access points, which it resells under the Motorola HotZone brand, to provide wireless Internet access. It uses its own Canopy fixed-radio product to aggregate this traffic and send it wirelessly to a backbone Internet network.
But now that Motorola has introduced HotZone Duo, the company has its own Wi-Fi product. What is more, Motorola claims that the HotZone Duo actually improves throughput and coverage for cities over the existing Tropos gear. Unlike the Tropos equipment, which uses one radio to communicate with other access points and provide Internet access to customers, the HotZone Duo uses two radios, explained Rick Rotondo, director of marketing for mesh products at Motorola.
One radio uses the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standard 802.11b/g, which transmits in the 2.4GHz spectrum to provide users with dedicated airwaves for accessing the Internet. The other radio uses 802.11a in the 5.8GHz spectrum, which provides connectivity between devices. Rotondo said HotZone Duo can increase throughput on the network by 100 percent.
"Our customers told us they wanted a smaller, lighter and faster access point," Rotondo said. "So that's what we developed."
The new product is being tested in Apopka, Fla., and it will be available commercially later this summer, Rotondo said. Motorola isn't yet saying how the price of the new dual-radio product stacks up against the gear it already sells from Tropos. But Rotondo said the total cost of deployment would be comparable to the Tropos product.
While some cities, such as Philadelphia and Anaheim, have finalized the products they plan to use in their networks, most cities are still planning, testing or negotiating contracts. This means that Motorola and Tropos could be going head-to-head on many accounts. Still, Motorola said it will continue to sell the Tropos product.
"We supply a portfolio of HotZone products," said Craig Newman, market development manager for Motorola's Canopy products. "The Tropos product is mature and has been tested, so we'll continue to sell it. But we also offer customers a choice with our other products like the HotZone Duo. It's really the customer's choice."
Tropos, which is tiny compared with Motorola, said it doesn't think the new Motorola product will strain the partnership. It also plans to continue the relationship with Motorola.
"Ultimately, it's in the best interest of Motorola to do what's good for customers," said Bert Williams, senior director of marketing for Tropos. "We trust Motorola will sell the appropriate product for the appropriate situation. And because our product is proven to scale in large cities like Anaheim and Philadelphia, we're confident it will continue to sell well in deployments where scalability is important."
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