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Serge LegrisGetting your WiMAX ROI today

Serge Legris, Vice-President of Marketing, SR Telecom

Serge Legris joined SR Telecom as Vice-President of Marketing in 2006. He brings to SR Telecom more than 18 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, specializing in strategic marketing and product development.

Prior to joining SR Telecom, Mr. Legris spent six years in management positions at inCode Telecom Group Inc., a multinational technical/strategy consulting firm based in California. There he headed up the Solutions Development Group, responsible for developing innovative solutions and service offerings for wireless carriers and enterprise customers. In addition to creating training and marketing materials, training the sales team and making customer presentations, Mr. Legris also developed and launched several service offerings, including WiMAX engineering and deployment and IMS interoperability testing and integration. He also managed a wide array of consulting projects such as carrier operational performance assessment, wireless technology assessment, and wireless roadmap definition.

Following a few years of developing wireless network design and optimization in North America, Mr. Legris spent six years abroad starting up and deploying wireless local loop and mobile networks in Europe, Asia and South America.

Mr. Legris graduated from the École Polytechnique de Montréal, with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, specializing in telecommunications. Mr. Legris sits on the administrative board of iBWave, a software development firm specializing in indoor system engineering tools. He is a member of l'Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to getting a good ROI on WiMAX?
A: First we need to make a distinction between emerging and developed markets when we address this issue. In emerging markets, the basic issue is cost: cost of infrastructure; and the cost of CPEs. In developed markets, on the other hand, the issue is competition that comes directly from 3G and wired networks. When you don't have DSL deployment in a given geographic region and your take rate is low, then WiMAX is always a better choice. In situations where this is not the case, I believe a mix of solutions provides the answer. Better ROI is obtained when WiMAX is used as an overlay. This serves to generate incremental revenue. In this setting, customers benefit from the best of both worlds: the overlay provides additional services wired network providers cannot offer, such as nomadicity.

Q: Conversely, what are the tools you use to maximize ROI?
A: Our experience deploying wireless networks around the world for the past 25 years-the last 10 developing and deploying OFDM technologies-has allowed us to acquire a deep understanding of BWA business models. This understanding clearly has driven our development to ensure SR Telecom's solutions meet market demands with, among other things, advanced RF and quality of service features. Additionally, it has afforded us the opportunity to develop financial, planning and dimensioning tools. In a nutshell, you need four key financial and technical components working together to maximize ROI: low cost infrastructure and customer terminals, incremental revenue generation ability, and proper network planning.

Q: To what extent will WiMAX's success depend upon innovative applications and their articulation?
A: WiMAX technology has the potential to enable a level of quality of experience and a freedom of movement that currently is not pervasive. Innovative applications combined with a high-level of experience-in other words, a top grade, broadband wireline level of experience-become the tangible benefits for a consumer, which include realistic voice and high-quality video streaming. I would also say that the applications would have to provide the same kind of dependability as wireline broadband.

Q: To what extent have industry and operators force-fit technology on customers in the past? Why will this no longer work and what has changed among end users to enable this?
A: I think it is a matter of missing your mark more than a matter of force-fitting technology. When you don't provide choices, you are forcing an issue, a technology and an application. Today's customer, indeed, today's consumers (and we are all consumers) are very knowledgeable and aware of their choices. And the ubiquity of choice in telecommunications, even in many emerging markets, is what has changed the character of telecom's R&D as well as how we take products to market. We can no longer, as we did a decade or two ago, create consumer needs and expect them to blindly accept that they need product x or y. The failure of wireless data to capture the imaginations is a case in point. Voice quality hasn't improved much in the last 20 years, nor have consumers embraced the idea that tiny screens are optimal for viewing videos or films. Quality of experience is key in any WiMAX solution or application. Any breakthrough technology must add to the end-user's experience in a transparent way.

Q: While many talk about a move from a technology-centric discussion to one that is customer-centric, it often remains just that. How do you translate an aspiration into a solution?
A: A technology-centric discussion is necessary when a market is not mature and the only differentiator is the technology. However, when markets begin to mature it is the services supported that provide differentiation. Today, I think the WiMAX market is beginning to move into - in fact it needs to enter into - a customer-centric discussion.

At SR Telecom, solutions have always been designed with end users in mind. Even 25 years ago before we entered this market, we worked with customers to design, develop and deliver the solutions they needed. That's not to say we don't position our solutions in the best possible light; of course we do; we all do. But we don't try to sell to a customer a solution they do not need or want, or one with which they can't generate revenue. That doesn't make for a sustainable business.

Q: How are you planning to adapt to the demands of Mobile WiMAX?
A: I am not certain anyone can accurately articulate the demands of mobile WiMAX. We may know what we want it to achieve, but I am not certain we could all agree on what it will do. We simply don't know the answer to that yet. That said, let me venture to say that, at a minimum, mobile WiMAX demands interoperability, compliance to a standard and a diverse array of form factors, both for base stations and CPEs. And at SR Telecom, we are definitely moving in that direction.

Q: What are biggest issues facing the Broadband wireless sector at the moment?
A: If we accept that the desire for a standard is what pushed WiMAX into existence, then we can also comfortably say that the issues that prompted the desire are the same ones facing the industry today: cost and interoperability. While WiMAX promises interoperability and the WiMAX standard certainly allows for a more even playing field, the WiMAX players are still tugging at their individual offering's proprietary strings. Everyone is trying to stand out in a market where the offer appears to be alarmingly homogenous. So interoperability, while still a strong desire, is not a reality just yet. I would have to say that achieving economies of scale is still the biggest issue and will likely remain unresolved until the market consolidates and WiMAX solutions mature. And by WiMAX solutions, I mean both "d" and "e" and for fixed and nomadic solutions… I think the jury is still out on fully mobile "e".

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