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Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014

Sarah Thomas
7/22/2013
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Cisco Systems Inc. may be a relatively new player in the small cell space, but it's already plotting commercial multimode small cell launches for early next year.

The networking giant plans to trial multimode small cells -- tiny base stations that pack in 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi -- with more than one service provider at the end of this year, and they will go live in early 2014, Partho Mishra, VP and GM of Cisco's small cell technology group, confirmed to Light Reading in a telepresence briefing at Cisco's Rosemont, Ill., office.

Cisco's big push into small cells didn't come until this year when it acquired self-optimizing network (SON) provider Intucell in January and LTE small cell vendor Ubiquisys in April. Mishra said that with these two companies under its belt, multimode small cells will be relatively easy to build. (See Cisco to Buy AT&T's Favorite SON Startup and Cisco Buying Ubiquisys for $310M.) "The 3G and Wi-Fi pieces are mature," Mishra said. "The work we are doing is on LTE on the access side and core network infrastructure side. It's all available today with our packet core, so we can reuse that."

As the company moves to multimode, it's still focusing on areas where network congestion is most acute, such as indoor venues. Mishra said that Cisco will use Intucell's SON technology to tackle the non-trivial issue of dynamically selecting which network to use and avoiding interference when a mobile device latches on to a multimode small cell. (See Multimode Small Cells Get Stalled in Labs.)



The company hasn't said which service providers it is working with, but AT&T Inc. is a good bet as it's supplied AT&T with 3G femtocells since 2009. Plus, AT&T has said it will have multimode small cells on the market in 2014. Verizon Wireless has also been rumored to be a potential customer for Cisco. (See 3G, 4G & Wi-Fi: AT&T Plans Small Cell Threesome and Cisco: A Verizon 4G Small Cell Provider?)

Cisco plans to continue to grow its small cell strategy organically, but it's not opposed to making more acquisitions in the name of progress. Mishra said the company does a good job of integrating acquired technology into existing product lines, and it plans to continue to do this with small cells to address gaps in key "transport and service" areas. "In the areas of small cells, we've done five acquisitions in the past year and spent close to $2 billion," he said. "We're not shy about making an investment to make the market happen."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Cableco44
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Cableco44,
User Rank: Light Bulb
7/23/2013 | 11:08:53 PM
re: Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014
I wonder about this today when AT&T relies heavily on WayPort for it's Wi-Fi product of HotSpots. Last I configured WayPort was 1998-2000. I do not really recall the brand of Wi-Fi modem it was using and wonder if the Intucell covers the EMS/NMS functions for WayPort.
briley85
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briley85,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/23/2013 | 2:20:07 PM
re: Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014
Agreed. The Ubi acquisition advanced both their LTE and multi-standard access point position significantly forward.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
7/23/2013 | 1:49:17 PM
re: Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014
Thanks for the clarification. That was Cisco's response to "do you have an LTE small cell?" but it's skirting around it. The Ubiquisys acquisition should position it well to build an LTE small cell though.
briley85
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briley85,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/23/2013 | 1:00:13 PM
re: Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014
Sarah, the ASR5k is the hardware platform that hosts the Small Cell Gateway software. To my knowledge, Cisco has not released an LTE small cell... yet. Also, the ASR5k is the same hardware platform that AT&T has deployed for it's EPC.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
7/22/2013 | 7:55:18 PM
re: Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014
Cisco does offer an LTE compatible small cell, the Cisco ASR 5000 Series Small Cell Gateway. It is based on the Cisco ASR 5000 hardware and it is in Korea Telecom today. More details here: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/sol...
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
7/22/2013 | 7:34:29 PM
re: Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014
AT&T certainly makes sense for Cisco's first deployment given their partnership on AT&T's 3G microcell and Intucell's inroads with the carrier. Verizon says it's not thinking about multimode small cells yet at all.
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