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WiMAX Woes Weaken Alvarion

While many investors like to chase the hot stocks that are leaping higher for who-knows-what reason, sharp Fools also look for quality companies that may have stumbled recently. Getting a great company for a cheaper price is often better than simply piling into momentum plays.

Wireless broadband equipment maker Alvarion (Nasdaq: ALVR  ) has taken its share of lumps lately; stock in the Israeli company has lost 28% in the last three months. But is the pessimism warranted, or are investors staring opportunity in the face?

The company is seen as a pure play in the broadband wireless market based on WiMAX technology, and investors have been selling Alvarion as two giant harbingers of WiMAX -- Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) and Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) -- have been struggling. Even a golden third-quarter earnings announcement from Alvarion couldn't overcome the gloom surrounding the problems unraveling at Sprint Nextel.

The two giants had agreed to collaborate on a nationwide buildout of a WiMAX network, but rumors of a major shake-up at Sprint Nextel in early October raised fears that progress might not move ahead at full speed. Eventually, Sprint CEO Gary Forsee was shown the door and the partnership outlined between the company and Clearwire was abandoned.

Even though Alvarion has more than 200 different WiMAX deployments around the world, analysts and investors see the major breakup as a bad omen for the entire sector.

But I have to side with a strong contingent of Motley Fool CAPS investors who see WiMAX as a good place to be for the future. WiMAX advocate Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) will continue to push the technology, and the heavy commitment of other tier-one vendors -- including Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) -- is a strong endorsement. For this reason, I see the propagation of WiMAX as a question of "when," not "if."

But Alvarion has struggled to get a consistent profit trend going. Analysts expect revenue to grow in the ballpark of 25% next year, but margins are improving at a slower pace than I'd prefer. Taken altogether, Alvarion is a very risky investment that will likely see much more near-term volatility. But for long-term investors willing to wait it out, the company has a good shot at beating the market in the future.

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