Orion invests $6.5m in 4RF

Yet another electricity network operator is further staking its claim in the telecommunications and data race with an investment in Wellington wireless radio link start-up 4RF Communications.

Yet another electricity network operator is further staking its claim in the telecommunications and data race with an investment in Wellington wireless radio link start-up 4RF Communications.

Christchurch-based Orion New Zealand has invested $6.5 million for an undisclosed shareholding in 4RF, which is chaired by the man who steered Telecom through its privatisation, Peter Troughton, and run by former MAS Technology managers.

4RF develops digital radio links, with its first product released in September last year. It claims its point-to-point digital radio solution, which operates within 330-1500 MHz frequencies and is capable of data transfer speeds of 2Mbit/s, can squeeze more data, and different types of data, into limited spectrum space for carriers and corporates.

"A telco or a company can carry more bandwidth and make efficient use of space in the [limited] spectrum they have," managing director John Yaldwyn, formerly a MAS systems manager, says of his products.

While 4RF as yet has no live customers, it is testing a 1400MHz digital microwave radio system in the South Island; but it says that is not with Orion.

Yaldwyn calls the move a pure "venture capital" investment. He says there may be some “possible synergies” between 4RF and Orion down the track but that the two companies have not discussed joint plans.

Orion has a portfolio of investments in energy-related service and tech companies and has shown interest in wireless communications through a wireless job despatch system, first built in 1997, and with its part in a joint venture company with Exelon Capital Partners that promotes two-way, wireless gadgets for home users to check their energy consumption.

Orion New Zealand managing director Chris Laurie has joined 4RF’s board and says Orion’s expertise in network operations, telemetry and its international alliances will be valuable to 4RF.

4RF is soon to set up a distribution channel in other countries and to pitch for system contracts in Africa, South America and the Middle East, where Yaldwyn says the company has identified opportunities. The company, which has a staff of 18, is recruiting radio frequency and software engineers, and expects to end up with more than 50 staff this year.

Yaldwyn says the company will stay an equipment developer, allowing customers to manage their own networks, and will not buy spectrum itself.

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