New Proxim Wireless CEO Looks To The Future Of Wireless

Pankaj Manglik has his work cut out for him.

This week, Manglik took over as CEO of Proxim Wireless, a wireless networking vendor that saw its revenue spike from $1 million in 1998 to $75 million in 2006. That meteoric revenue jump, under the helm of former CEO and president Robert Fitzgerald, will weigh heavily on Manglik as he takes the lead and tries to build on past successes.

Manglik, who was Proxim's president and COO since May 2006 and a director since July 2006, is no stranger to the WLAN. Before joining Proxim, he co-founded Aruba Networks, a wireless infrastructure company traded on the NASDAQ, and was director of product management for Alteon Websystems, which was acquired by Nortel Networks. Before that, Manglik held positions with Cisco Systems and Intel.

"Our plan going forward is pretty straight forward, especially as channels are concerned," Manglik said.

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According to Manglik, Proxim has historically been a technology savvy company. As the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor gears up for 2008, he wants to spend a lot of time focusing on sales and marketing while also rounding out Proxim's professional services, which implement wireless networks.

Proxim makes core-to-client solutions for metro-scale broadband wireless networks, enabling wireless applications such as security and surveillance systems, mobile workforce automation and machine-to-machine connections. To date, Proxim has shipped more than 1.5 million wireless devices to more than 200,000 customers globally.

For solution providers, Manglik said he wants to make it easier for them to sell and implement wireless networks, either outdoor or indoor. That plan includes designing services solution providers can sell that include installation.

John Hollbrook, director of Systems Integrated, an Orange, Calif.-based systems integrator and solution provider, said he's confident Proxim's internal changes will only help partners develop and offer systems and solutions to their customers.

"Proxim is probably our key partner in terms of products we integrate," Hollbrook said. "Proxim has helped us move into an arena where we can provide a high-performance network for these systems. They've got the right product mix of point-to-point and point-to-multi-point solutions."

Systems Integrated serves commercial industries, government agencies and public utilities. Hollbrook said the company relies on partners to help develop its solutions and understand that projects can often take six months and a year to develop. He said Manglik taking over as CEO will likely have positive results.

"They're taking a more strategic look at their partners," he said. "They're making the moves internally to strengthen partnerships. Proxim understands it's not going to get there one radio at a time, but by offering systems. They have to have that internal commitment and Proxim is strengthening that internal group to help our business."

Along with using its core set of products, Manglik said he also sees the new WLAN standard, 802.11n, shaking up the wireless networking industry and the solution providers that serve it.

"Those products are extremely channel friendly," he said. "They offer high margins and VARs will sell them in high volumes."

Next: A Look At The Future Of Wireless

Taking queues from Apple and its innovative and successful launches of wireless gear and devices such as the iPhone, Manglik said he sees Proxim and other wireless vendors continuing to grow as the world's appetite for anywhere connectivity grows more insatiable.

"One of the things that I've noticed is Apple has been a really good innovator as far as wireless is concerned," he said, adding that two core components of Apple's successful wireless offerings, touch screen technology and integrated WLAN connectivity, will create huge opportunities going forward.

"When that happens, that opens up a huge opportunity," he said. "People get more comfortable with doing data and voice over wireless both indoors and outdoors. People will say 'I should be able to access my voice and data over wireless.'"

Proxim, he said, will continue to make gear that facilitates that shift.

"Wireless LANs, specifically Wi-Fi, will be the main way to access voice and data in two to three years," Manglik said, predicting that within the next 10 years wireless networks will replace the majority of wired networks, mostly because of the introduction of 802.11n and the realization that wireless is often cheaper and easier to install and maintain than its wired counterpart.

"The target market pales today compared to 10 years from now," he said.

And the midmarket will also see a massive uptake of wireless technologies, Manglik said, noting that midmarket deployments of wireless LANs will soon be comparable to the rate of deployment in the enterprise two to three years ago.

Wireless VoIP is also key to the future of Wi-Fi, Manglik added.

"The case for VoIP itself is already sold," he said. "Now we can give you VoIP over wireless LAN, that is the real ROI for that specific application."

And with an estimated 300 million WLAN-enabled devices in use worldwide, a number that is expected to grow to 1 billion by 2011, Manglik said the carrier landscape will also experience a massive shift as the license-free WLAN spectrum gets more use than the multi-million dollars worth of carrier spectrum.

"The WLAN is license-free," he said. "And more and more traffic -- data and voice -- will go over the WLAN. That will create a structural change for the carrier industry."

Ultimately, Manglik said, he hopes to help Proxim move into the next generation of wireless and capitalize on what it can offer. Doing so, he said, will require a strong channel and continued innovation, a challenge he's ready to take on.

"As the world moves at a fast pace toward wireless use in many aspects of our day-to-day lives, it creates tremendous opportunities for Proxim and I look forward to leading the company into a new phase of growth," he said. "Proxim has a history of technical excellence and award winning products backed by a talented team. We also have a global network of distribution and channel partners with a greater focus on sales and marketing execution. I believe Proxim will be able to successfully leverage the opportunities presented to us."