Cisco Raises Ethernet Backhaul Stakes

Cisco announces a new and improved cell site router for IP/Ethernet backhaul

Michelle Donegan

September 15, 2008

3 Min Read
Cisco Raises Ethernet Backhaul Stakes

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) escalated the competition for IP/Ethernet backhaul gear today with the introduction of a new and improved cell site router. (See Cisco Touts Carrier Ethernet.)

The IP networking company introduced a new version of its Mobile Wireless Router (MWR) device, which aggregates TDM traffic at the cell site and transports it over Ethernet connections to the mobile core network.

The move will boost Cisco's position in the market for IP/Ethernet cell site aggregation devices against well entrenched competitors such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Celtro Inc. , Nokia Networks , RAD Data Communications Ltd. , and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), as well as vendors that are relatively new to this market space such as Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) (See BT Uses Tellabs for Ethernet Backhaul, AlcaLu Pushes Backhaul Features, RAD, Ceragon Demo Backhaul, and Ethernet Backhaul: DIY on the Rise.)

Cisco already has a strong presence in mobile core networks, and these cell site devices could extend the reach of its routers out to the edge of mobile operator networks.

The new MWR 2941 can handle 16 T1/E1s and comes with six Gigabit Ethernet ports in a one rack unit-sized box. By comparison, the router's predecessor, the MWR 1941, had capacity for six T1/E1's.

The new router, together with Cisco's 7600 Series router, comprises the vendor's mobile-transport-over-pseudowire offering (MToP).

“As the leader in IP networking, Cisco should be setting itself ambitious targets for growing its share of wireless network spending as operators transition their backhaul from TDM to IP/Ethernet,” says Patrick Donegan, senior analyst at Heavy Reading.

In addition to the increased capacity, Cisco has also added support for several different synchronization features in the new MWR 2941. Synchronization is a key concern and largely unresolved issue for operators as they transition to IP/Ethernet backhaul because cellular networks currently depend on a T1 or E1 connection to synchronize the network. If that connection is replaced by an IP/Ethernet backhaul link, then a new synchronization source is required.

The MWR 2941 supports Synchronous Ethernet, IEEE 1588, and Adaptive Clock Recovery or "whatever flavor of clock synchronization you want to utilize," explains Ian Hood, senior manager of service provider marketing at Cisco.

"Vendors have no choice but to support multiple different synchronization options," says Donegan. "This is because there is no agreement among carriers or vendors as to what the optimal solution for synchronization in an Ethernet backhaul network is.”

But even with Cisco moving in on the cell site scene, operators will not necessarily hasten their decisions to leave behind their traditional TDM-based backhaul in favor of Ethernet. Recent research from Heavy Reading indicates that operators are still wary of Ethernet for backhaul. It forecasts that more than three quarters of all the world's cell sites will still be served by pure TDM backhaul by the end of 2012. (See Carriers Don't Trust Ethernet Backhaul?.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Backhaul Strategies for Mobile Operators, which will provide a unique perspective on the progress that North America's carrier and vendor community is making in relieving the so-called "backhaul bottleneck" in mobile networks. To be staged in New York, September 23, admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, or to register, click here.

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry for the last 20 years on both sides of the Pond. Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and, most recently, Light Reading.  

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