Former FCC Chief Kevin Martin Joins AirWalk Board

Former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has joined the board of directors of AirWalk Communications, a maker of small cellular base stations for homes, offices and other locations.

Martin was appointed to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission by President George W. Bush in 2001 and led the agency from 2005 until the Obama administration took over in 2009. After leaving the FCC, Martin joined the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan policy organization in Washington, D.C. He is also a partner at the Patton Boggs law firm in Washington. Before joining the FCC, Martin had been an attorney in private practice, a lawyer for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000 and an economic advisor to Bush.

It is not uncommon for former high-level regulators to join company boards after they leave office, but there is little evidence of Martin sitting on the boards of any other companies.

AirWalk develops networks of compact base stations, called microcells, picocells and femtocells, for CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks. The devices are used to extend mobile coverage into indoor spaces and other areas where carriers' conventional macrocells don't work well. The smaller cells can also be used to direct wireless data traffic onto other wired networks, reducing strain on the wired links from cell towers. The company was founded in 2002 and has backing from several venture capital funds.

The company hired Martin as part of an expansion phase, according to a press release, which didn't provide other details of the expansion.

"Kevin will add a unique perspective to our discussions regarding market dynamics and his insight will help us maximize the reach of our products," AirWalk President and CEO Serge Pequeux said in the release.

"I am very excited to work closely with AirWalk to help identify new opportunities," Martin said in the release. "AirWalk's unique approach to integrating IP-based radio access networks is important to the industry because it resolves many of the challenges operators face in supporting user needs."

During Martin's term as chairman, the FCC released more than 354MHz of radio spectrum for mobile broadband services, took action against cable operator Comcast for violating net neutrality principles and grappled with the digital TV transition and the release of unlicensed "white spaces" spectrum for wireless devices. In 2008, a committee of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives issued a report that accused Martin, a Republican, of running the FCC in a closed manner that included suppressing reports that didn't support his policy goals. The FCC disputed the report.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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