Cisco to Buy Ubiquisys to Grow Wireless Network Portfolio

The deal will give the networking giant greater capabilities in small cells, which helps mobile carriers improve service to smartphones and tablets.

Cisco Systems is continuing to build its offerings for mobile carriers, the latest move being the upcoming acquisition of small-cell manufacturer Ubiquisys.

Cisco officials announced the deal April 3, saying they will pay $310 million in cash and employee-retention incentives for the British-based company. The purchases of Ubiquisys will complement other recent acquisitions the networking giant has made in its efforts to boost what it can offer mobile carriers.

The deal comes on the heels of Cisco's acquisitions of BroadHop in 2012 and Intucell earlier this year.

"These technologies will tie together the mobility architecture that leverages the intelligence of the network from the wireless edge of the network into the wired core," Hilton Romanski, vice president and head of corporate business development at Cisco, said in an April 3 post on the company's blog. "As carriers around the world increase cellular data capacity to serve the rapidly growing population of smartphone and tablet users, adding small cells is one of the most cost-effective ways to multiply data capacity and make better use of scarce spectrum assets."

The booming popularity of such mobile devices as smartphones and tablets—combined with other such trends as increased consumer and business mobility, bring your own device (BYOD) and video—are putting greater pressure on mobile carriers and their wireless broadband networks. WiFi networks and small cells—essentially small cellular base stations—can be used to offload some of the traffic running over broadband networks and ease some of that pressure.

Ubiquisys makes WiFi, 3G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) small cells, and offers related software and services. Cisco officials said the combination of their mobility offerings and WiFi expertise and Ubiquisys' small-cell products and services will give mobile carriers a more complete wireless solution that will mean a better experience for end users.

"Cisco is 'doubling down' on its small-cell business to accelerate strong momentum and growth in the mobility market," Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's Mobility Business Group, said in a statement. "By acquiring Ubiquisys, we are expanding on our current mobility leadership and our end-to-end product portfolio, which includes integrated, licensed and unlicensed small-cell solutions that are tightly coupled with SON [self-optimizing networks], backhaul and the mobile packet core. For service providers, Ubiquisys supports cost-effective coverage and capacity that delivers a differentiated customer experience."

Ubiquisys' offerings and employees will be folded into Cisco's Small Cell Technology Group, which is headed by Partho Mishra.

The acquisition of BroadHop, announced in December 2012, brought policy control and service management capabilities to Cisco. BroadHop offered a number of products under its Quantum Network Suite, ranging from policy management to provisioning to analytics.

That deal was followed by the $475 million acquisition of Intucell and its SON software, which helps carriers plan, configure, manage and optimize their cellular networks.

The fruits of the BroadHop deal started appearing in February at the Mobile World Congress 2013 show, when Cisco introduced new intelligent software—under the umbrella name Quantum—that enables wireless service providers to better analyze and monetize the growing amount of data running across their WiFi, 3G and 4G networks.

At the same time, Cisco unveiled its 3G Small Cell Module that can be attached to its Aironet WiFi access points, creating an integrated 3G and WiFi wireless environment.