Sierra Wireless to sell AirCard unit to Netgear for $138 million

The company is getting out of personal wireless modules to expand its M2M business

Sierra Wireless will unload its AirCard mobile add-on business to Netgear for about US$138 million in cash and become a pure-play M2M vendor.

A big part of Sierra's business traditionally has been its AirCard family of add-on cellular modules, which users plugged into laptops via PC Card slots and, later, USB ports. The cards added 3G and later 3G/4G capability over a variety of mobile operators' networks. The company eventually added personal hotspots that could link with nearby devices via Wi-Fi instead of a hardware port. Sierra still sells some of all three types. The devices are sold under its own name and carriers' brands.

Now Sierra is backing out of that business so it can focus on machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, which links non-consumer devices such as electric meters and industrial equipment to wireless networks. Its offerings in that fast-growing field include embedded hardware modules as well as gateways, routers and cloud-based software.

The company plans to use the net proceeds from the sale, approximately $100 million, for more M2M acquisitions to expand the business and speed up its revenue and earnings growth.

Netgear, a maker of home and small-business networking gear, will acquire all the assets and operations of the AirCard business, including its intellectual property and business relationships and about 160 employees in Carlsbad, California, and Richmond, British Columbia. Netgear is based in San Jose, California. Customers can expect continued AirCard innovation under Netgear, Sierra said in a press release.

The deal is subject to typical closing conditions and is expected to close in March.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Tags business issuesSierra WirelessNetworkingnetgearmobileMergers and acquisitions

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