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Cobham Marries Aeroflex Together with Axell Wireless

By J. Sharpe Smith —

Ian Langley


April 8, 2015 — Defense giant Cobham, which bought Axell Wireless in 2013 and Aeroflex in 2014, has brought the two companies together to form Cobham Wireless. The new company will be headed by Senior Vice President Ian Langley and will be integrated into Cobham’s Communications and Connectivity sector.  Axell Wireless founder and CEO Ian Brown left the company last fall. We posed some questions to Langley to get an update.

AGL Small Cell Link: How does a close relationship with a test and measurement company positively impact your business? What are the synergies?

Langley:  Cobham Wireless combines the expertise of Axell Wireless and the test and measurement division of Aeroflex to create new markets and opportunities for Axell’s DAS products. Both brands have complementary technologies and, by operating together, Cobham Wireless can provide a greater range of products to existing customers and increase the market potential of each product family.

AGL Small Cell Link: What will happen to the Axell Wireless name?

Langley:  For the time being Axell Wireless will continue to operate under its own brand name, but will become fully integrated as part of Cobham Wireless in July 2015. Products will be rebranded as Cobham Wireless over the coming year, in line with the general rebranding strategy for both Axell and Aeroflex.

AGL Small Cell Link: It has been a year and a half since Cobham purchased Axell Wireless. How has their ownership changed your company? What doors is it opening for your operation?

Langley:  The past 18 months have been focused on consolidating the strengths and portfolios of the companies which now make up Cobham Wireless. The integration has been positive and successful so far. Being part of the Cobham family provides both security and investment. Cobham’s proven ability to invest in customer support services, as well as in product R&D, will enhance customer confidence in Axell, allow Cobham Wireless to provide innovative new DAS products and increase market share.

AGL Small Cell Link:  Are you selling your DAS to Cobham’s military customers? Does it increase your exposure to the public safety market? Or are there other new markets you are entering?

Langley:  The acquisition of Axell Wireless and its DAS product portfolio adds a new dimension to Cobham’s offering, and opens the way to exciting new markets in both the commercial and public service sectors.

While there are no immediate plans to target the defense sector with DAS products, it is impossible to see into the future. At present, the key markets for Axell’s DAS product portfolio remain the same: commercial and public indoor spaces, including office and multipurpose complexes, stadia, airports, and public sector organizations that require cellular coverage and public safety provision.

Public safety coverage has always been one of the key use cases of DAS and Cobham Wireless will continue to focus on this sector to further enhance its already strong market position.

AGL Small Cell Link: It has been nine months since you introduced intelligent digital DAS. How has that been received? Can you tell me what are some of the deployments?

LangleyidDAS, the next generation, intelligent version of DAS, has been received well by customers thus far. The new technology enables the DAS product to react dynamically to network demands, saving operators time and money. idDAS also allows operators to channel coverage where it is needed most, improving overall customer satisfaction and driving sales.

Unfortunately, we are currently unable to discuss specific deployments.

AGL Small Cell Link: A lot of people see small cells competing with DAS for low-cost in-building systems. Are you thinking about developing a small cell system or is the answer making DAS less expensive? Or is there another evolutionary step for DAS?

Langley:  DAS provides a very efficient solution for operators looking for cost-effective in-building systems. One of the key advantages of DAS is that the solution can be multi-operator, reducing the overall cost of indoor coverage provision, compared to small cells which are a single operator solution.

Operators can also experience significant OPEX and CAPEX savings by deploying intelligent DAS systems in multi-use venues. By redistributing capacity to where it is needed, rather than having to ‘hardwire’ coverage into every sector, the amount of money wasted providing underused capacity is vastly reduced.

idDAS operates with all current wireless technologies and is completely future proof.


When it Comes to DAS, World Trade Center Sets its Sights High

By J. Sharpe Smith —

August 13, 2014 — The September 11th attacks became Exhibit One for the communications needs of public safety and the public. Consequently, in-building communications are a cornerstone of the new World Trade Center, with its spire 1,776 feet in the air, as it deploys public safety and commercial DAS systems across its sprawling campus.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

One World Trade Center (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Boingo Wireless won the commercial contract to design, install and operate a neutral host, cellular DAS network and Wi-Fi network covering 1.6 million square feet of the World Trade Center, according to an agreement signed last week with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. One of the nation’s largest public safety communications centers was deployed at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.

In May, the Port Authority, through its prime contractor, Five Star Electric, awarded Pinnacle Wireless, a public safety integrator, a $37 million wireless systems integration contract for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub using Axell Wireless equipment. Work was scheduled to be complete in June.

Comprehensive Coverage for Cell Phones

The cellular DAS system deployed by Boingo will provide comprehensive coverage to more than 1.6 million square feet of the World Trade Center, including the Port Authority Transportation Hub, the vehicle security center, retail spaces and other core facilities throughout the buildings.

Boingo will also install high-density Wi-Fi networks, providing complimentary Wi-Fi access to visitors throughout the public areas of the Transportation Hub, retail spaces and other core locations. Wireless services are scheduled to launch timed to the opening of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in 2015.

The Transportation Hub is projected to be the third largest in New York City, serving more than an estimated 100 million passengers and visitors annually, and it will provide pedestrian access to the WTC, the World Financial Center, PATH and the New York Subway system. The Vehicle Security Center will be a transportation center for building tenants, administration and visitor vehicles.

Boingo has a longstanding relationship with the Port Authority providing DAS and Wi-Fi services at the Port Authority’s John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark airports, as well as DAS services in the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.

Axell Wireless Covers the Public Safety Side

The Transportation Hub also serves as the communications hub, serving all the of the
World Trade Center buildings. The integrated public safety system includes Axell Wireless’ optical master unit fiber head end units, directional couplers, VHF filters and distribution amplifier packages covering 88 channels for UHF, VHF and 800-MHz frequency bands. The high-speed system involved laying more than 5 miles of high-capacity optical fiber.

This contract is Pinnacle’s sixth project at the World Trade Center site since 2005, each of which uses Axell Wireless equipment. In addition to the Transportation Hub, Pinnacle and Five Star have been awarded similar contracts for the National September 11th Museum & Memorial, World Trade Center Pavilion, World Trade Center Central Chiller Plant and World Trade Center Building 7.

In March, a public safety system was deployed at One World Trade Center using passive DAS equipment by Axell Wireless. The $11.8 million contract to integrate the system was awarded to a joint venture between TechMer and North American Mobile Systems. The contract includes engineering, design, furnishing, delivery, installation, testing and commissioning of the first responders communications system.

Axell Wireless’ in-building wireless system will be integrated into the site-wide system in the event of an emergency. Each of the 11 buildings in the World Trade Center complex bids out the DAS contracts separately. DAS at World Trade Center Four is currently being bid, and the in-building network at World Trade Center Seven has not yet been built.

The systems will support New York City Police, Transit Police, Fire Department of New York, Homeland Security, and other federal and state organizations.

Axell Wireless Acquired by Multinational Defense Company

DAS equipment maker Axell Wireless has been acquired by defense technology giant Cobham for  $128.42 million.

Cobham, which employs 10,000 people across five continents, provides technologies and services in the commercial, defense and security markets –– including land, mobile and airborne antenna systems, mast systems, audio and radio management systems, and radar and satellite communications.

“Working with Cobham … provides Axell with a great opportunity to extend our leadership in the DAS and coverage market,” said Ian Brown, CEO of Axell Wireless. “We expect as a result of joining Cobham to be able to present our customers with an enhanced set of solutions, complementary technologies, and a wider and more comprehensive global presence.”

Axell will continue to be led by the existing management team operating within Cobham’s Antenna Systems Strategic Business Unit, part of its Aerospace and Security Division. Cobham said the acquisition will enable it to accelerate its focus on the commercial marketplace and take advantage of the growing DAS market.

“We see many sales, R & D and operating synergies with our existing businesses,” said Fred Cahill, VP, Antenna Systems Strategic Business Unit for Cobham.

ABI Research Highlights Next Generation of DAS Market Drivers

ABI Research has recognized several vendors for their product and market offerings in recently published research on the driving forces within the DAS manufacturing community.

While Corning MobileAccess, TE Connectivity, and Andrew Commscope dominate the marketplace, ABI Research has identified Axell Wireless, Solid Technologies, Optiway, Alvarion, Zinwave and Powerwave as the foundation of the next phase of market development.

“Amongst these vendors, Axell Wireless is possibly the furthest along collectively in terms of operator acceptance and product innovation,” Aditya Kaul, ABI analyst, wrote. “Their new broadband DAS solution combined with their considerable presence in public safety gives them an edge over their competition and is closing in on the top three.”

Along with Axell Wireless, ABI called Solid Technologies a vendor to “watch out for” in the North America space. The research firm also noted that Powerwave is staying in the game with new LTE picocell and low-power DAS products. Highlighted for work in the wideband, multiservice DAS space was Zinwave, Optiway and Alvarion.

Ian Brown, CEO, Axell Wireless, told DAS Bulletin, that the recognition from ABI is a product of the company’s experience and its involvement in several high profile in-building installations, including the [English] Channel Tunnel,  Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, the Pentagon, the Royal Palaces in Oman and  the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Most recently, a network at the 2012 Olympics in London was deployed by Axell Wireless where there were more than 400 base stations feeding several DAS systems.

“We have a long history in DAS. We have been involved in fiber optic technology for some 25 years,” Brown said. “Initially we focused on the public safety market where we have a market-leading presence around the world. There is probably not one major national public safety network that we haven’t had some involvement in. We have been fortunate enough to win projects to deploy public safety coverage into many of the world’s leading iconic buildings.”

During the last five or six years, Axell Wireless has broadened its focus to include cellular in-building market, in addition to public safety.

“We recognized there is a huge job to be done there [in cellular],” Brown said. “You have heard the statistic that 80 percent of mobile traffic is initiated within buildings. Data applications don’t work too well with one bar of signal strength.”

The majority of Axell’s customers in North America deploy a public safety system separately from the cellular DAS, but Brown believes the tide is changing toward converged public safety/cellular DAS systems, because of new building codes and the economics of deploying wireless. Axell Wireless’ Heathrow Airport deployment is an integrated public safety/cellular system.

“I do think it is changing. It has already changed quite rapidly in parts of Europe,” he said. “One of the drivers is cost. One DAS system with one headend that can support multiple remotes over the same fiber, you save a lot of money.”

The in-building wireless market has a lot of potential with surveys showing no more than 25 percent of public buildings with wireless. Beyond smart phones, Brown sees plenty of machine-to-machine wireless opportunities in verticals, such as healthcare.

“Patients can be sent home the same day as their surgery, wearing wireless monitors so the nurses can keep an eye on them,” Brown said. “There a tons of applications for wireless.”