Despite Downturn, MobileAccess Indoor Mobile Gear Sells

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In the midst of seemingly endless dark news from technology companies, MobileAccess, developer of a platform that extends wireless signals indoors, is providing a rare bright spot.

Its success backs up predictions made by some analysts of a continued trend among enterprises to replace wired desk phones with mobile phones, even despite the faltering economy.

In 2008, revenue at MobileAccess increased 55 percent, the company said on Tuesday. Global sales and success in vertical markets drove that growth, it said.

MobileAccess builds equipment that can be used as a platform to bring wireless connectivity inside buildings. Users can extend cellular, Wi-Fi, WiMax and other wireless services into buildings, and they can use the equipment to simultaneously support more than one of those wireless technologies.

Even though many companies are cutting back on spending, many now see wireless as technology that affects the bottom line, said Cathy Zatloukal, president and CEO of MobileAccess. "It's increasing productivity, or reducing op ex," she said.

Analysts agree that companies will increasingly shift toward wireless phones. In a study released last week, Gartner predicted that by 2011, enterprises in North America will be supporting more mobile phones than desktop phones. While most users will still have desktop phones, mobile phones will be more prevalent and will replace desktop phones as primary devices, Gartner said.

The trend might indicate a preference among enterprises to simply use mobile phones to replace desk phones rather than employ converged technology. Fixed-mobile convergence allows a user to have a single device that operates on cellular and Wi-Fi networks. But it's complex technology, said Kitty Weldon, an analyst at Current Analysis. Rather than invest in a sophisticated fixed-mobile system, some enterprises might find it more cost-effective and simple to boost wireless coverage indoors, she said.

Much of MobileAccess' business comes from vertical markets. Thirty percent of sales in 2008 came from the health care industry, with the rest a mix of education, hospitality and a small portion from manufacturing, Zatloukal said.

The company sells the bulk of its equipment through integration partners, with about a quarter of sales going directly to mobile operators that want to have their own relationship with the end customer, she said. Cisco is a partner and has introduced MobileAccess products into its reseller channel.

MobileAccess also partners with GE Healthcare, which uses its own brand on the MobileAccess equipment and bundles it with other products.

Customers have installed MobileAccess' system at Detroit's Ford Field, the Dutch Parliament building, the Hearst Tower, Philadelphia's Comcast Center, Melbourne Airport and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

MobileAccess isn't alone in the market and is likely to face increasing competition. Many of the vendors that supply infrastructure for mobile operators are beginning to build femtocells, small base stations that provide indoor coverage. The products could be used in homes or offices. Other companies like RadioFrame have long sold simple, small base stations targeted at small and medium-size enterprises that want to boost their indoor cellular coverage.

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