Netro of Santa Clara, Calif., makes what it says telecommunications operators building networks in the new era of deregulation need-radio equipment that uses a wireless Asynchronous Transfer Mode protocol.

Introduced about five years ago and driven by networking giant Cisco Systems-a Netro partner-ATM allows high-speed mixed traffic, including voice, data, video and multimedia over the same network. Netro added a wireless component to ATM, so telecom carriers can avoid the hassle of laying or leasing lines from the phone company or government authority, both of which can be expensive.

Netro added that wireless ATM offers other advantages over wireline networks, including availability, increased capacity, improved transmission quality, more capabilities, faster time to market and better return on investment.

Mark Byington, Netro’s vice president of marketing for wireless products, said wireless ATM also surpasses capacity of Time Division Multiplex technology, used in most cellular networks. In fact, wireless ATM is 100 times as efficient as TDM and is therefore gaining increasing attention from cellular providers, particularly as the data market grows.

“There’s a revolution going on in the telecom industry, which traditionally has been 90 percent voice, 10 percent data. We think that’s rapidly changing,” said Byington.

ATM is a “bursty” protocol, so it only uses bandwidth when data is being transmitted. Netro achieves bandwidth efficiency through linear modulation, said Byington.

For its AirMAN wireless ATM solution, a point-to-point microwave or millimeter wave system for metropolitan area networks, Netro is targeting competitive local exchange carriers that plan to offer various voice, data and multimedia services in local loop, long-distance and wireless environments. Some CLECs are new ventures formed to challenge state-run telecom operators or Post, Telephone and Telegraph authorities, and others include existing telecom powerhouses entering other countries to compete in the telecom arena.

Netro is focusing current efforts in Europe, where pressure is on for members of the European Union and other countries to open telecom markets in the next year. In Germany, there is interest in challenging Deutsche Telekom, explained Peter Weber, Netro’s senior vice president sales and marketing. One German telecom group, Vebacom GmbH, is a strategic partner and investor in Netro.

Netro’s flagship products, AirMAN2000, and an expanded version, AirMAN3000, are intended to carry high-capacity traffic on dedicated channels. The AirMAN series support local and wide area networks, Integrated Services Digital Networks, video, multimedia, Frame Relay and ATM. Frame Relay was developed about a decade ago and provides many of the same functions as ATM, said Netro. Where Frame Relay is connection oriented, ATM is cell oriented.

Why hasn’t wireless ATM or Frame Relay been introduced before now? Byington said these protocols operate at a very low-almost error free-bit error rate. Netro said it is the only company whose wireless technology has proven to operate within that parameter. Netro has patents for its wireless ATM and Frame Relay technologies. Compared with conventional microwave technology, AirMAN offers increased performance with higher availability and an average 10 times less outage due to natural elements like rainfall, said Byington.

Other advantages AirMAN can offer telecom providers include the ability to reconfigure network capabilities using software, as well as compatibility with Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which is the standard in the networking industry, said Netro. Product shipments started in August.

The AirMAN series will make its formal debut at the CbiT show in March in Germany.

Netro was founded two years ago. Venture capital backers include Norwest Venture Capital, US Venture Partners, Brentwood Associates and Citibank Corp. Investment and technology partners are AT&T Ventures, Cisco and Vebacom, a joint venture of German conglomerate Veba AG, German power company RWE Telliance, and Cable & Wireless plc of the United Kingdom. RWE previously was involved with British Telecommunications plc and Viag AG-which placed the sole bid for a fourth German digital mobile phone license-but exited the alliance to pursue local loop and other services with Vebacom.

Netro is providing product to Vebacom, DB Kom, which specializes in data communications, Pan Dacom, a German systems integrator and distributor involved in enterprise networks, and other clients yet to be announced. The company plans to target North America and Asia in the near future.

Plans call for the company to issue a public offering this year, as well as introduce a second product line based on wireless multipoint micro-wave technology for use in low capacity networks.

President Gideon Ben Efraim and Chief Technical Officer Eli Pasternak come from P-Com. Byington, a radio engineer by trade, worked 10 years at Digital Microwave Corp.


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