Cisco is debuting a "small-cell" solution that will allow mobile operators to facilitate connectivity across heterogeneous networks.
Cisco Systems used the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, to debut
its Small Cell Gateway, which will allow operators to seamlessly manage user
activity across heterogeneous access networks. The device, which is based on
Ciscos ASR 5000 Series Mobile Multimedia Core Router, integrates 2G/3G/4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE)
and femtocell networks with WiFi networks.
In a Feb. 28 statement, Cisco CEO John Chambers suggested
that small cells would play a critical role in delivering the next-generation
mobile Internet. Cisco is apparently working with AT&T, Shaw Communications
and other companies on the initiative. In theory, a broad network of access
points upgraded to these next-generation hotspots will facilitate connectivity
in mobile-heavy areas such as retailers and stadiums.
According to at least one analyst, the move could allow
Cisco to compensate for some softness in its current strategy.
In many camps, Cisco has been undervalued as a mobile
infrastructure provider, Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst at Ovum, wrote in a
Feb. 28 research note. Much of this blame falls in two areas. First, Cisco
does not sell a macro base station, the traditional cornerstone of the wireless
infrastructure market. Secondly, Cisco has done a poor job marketing itself as
a mobile infrastructure provider.
Ciscos announcement, he added, is part of a more concerted
effort to change its market perception and recalibrate itself in the mobile
infrastructure space. As a result, the company now has a much richer story to
tell with greater mobile operator focus on small cells and carrier WiFi
solutions¦ and other assets such as backhaul and mobile packet core.
In a June 2011 report, Cisco predicted that global Internet
traffic will reach 966 exabytes per year by 2015 (an Exabyte equals 1
quintillion bytes), with almost 15 billion network-connected devices such as
smartphones, notebooks, tablets, appliances and smart machines. That will
increase the pressure on any and all networks, and clearly lead to an increase
in demand for infrastructure capable of handling multiple devices on both WiFi
and some combination of 2G/3G/4G LTE. Hence Ciscos newest foray into small
That need to provide infrastructure will also inevitably
bring Cisco and other companies into increased competition. So far in 2012,
Cisco made news when it decided to appeal the European Commissions approval of
Microsofts Skype acquisition, potentially kicking off a messy legal battle
between tech behemoths. The company claimed it wanted interoperability between
its products and those of the combined Microsoft-Skype entity, particularly
with regard to the enterprise as well as small and midsized businesses (SMBs).
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