CES: Cisco's 'Human Network' Has Bones

LAS VEGAS -- CES -- If you've been lucky enough to see a Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) keynote at a major tradeshow over the last year or so you've probably heard all about the concept of the "human network." Part of the idea is a network delivery system that can push applications and content over "any network" to "any device" -- wired or wireless.

Now, Cisco says that it is getting ready to translate the content delivery system from tradeshow slideware into service provider reality. The system, which is intended to deliver content across cable/DSL, 2G and 3G cellular, and WiMax networks, is coming together, according to Suraj Shetty, senior director of worldwide service provider marketing at Cisco.

"We have all the elements in place," Shetty tells Unstrung. In fact, he says, there's one North American and one international "Tier 1" operator that are now testing the system.

Naturally, Cisco isn't saying when the system might make its public debut on the market. "It'll depend on the service provider," offers Shetty.

In fact, none of the Cisco people that Unstrung spoke to at the show really wanted to go into to much detail on technology or release dates. Shetty, for instance, was far more concerned with offering a "big-picture," IP-everywhere type of viewpoint.

"We're looking at the transition of a service provider to become an 'experience provider,' " he said. [Ed. note: I'm one "forward-looking" away from Bingo.]

Nonetheless, Shetty did provide one or two techical points of interest about the content delivery system itself. He said that Scientific Atlanta , which Cisco acquired last year, had been helpful with the "coding" behind the content delivery system.

Cisco spent $330 million on WiMax basestation vendor Navini last year in order to gain a foothold in the "personal broadband" market in emerging markets like China and India. (See Cisco Buys Navini for $330M.)

It is all down to the practicallity of using wireless, compared to copper, in these markets, according to Shetty. "WiMax is the best alternative they have," Shetty says of China. In India, meanwhile, 80 percent of the players in the market don't have access to copper, he notes.

LTE and 4G
Cisco also has a different view on the competition between WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology for 4G dominance than some in the industry. "We see them as totally complementary systems," says Shetty. "They can be coming out of the same tower -- and they will, in some of the emerging markets."

Cisco expects that LTE will be used for "mobile broadband connections" and WiMax will be used at home because -- as it stands -- 802.16e offers faster uploads. As others at the conference have pointed out, faster upload speeds get more important with upload-heavy applications like Facebook and MySpace.

Shetty says that Cisco is keeping an eye on the femtocell home base-station market but didn't make solid announcements one way or another. "It'll be kind of interesting to see how that plays out," he comments. "Is that a long-term strategy for service providers or not?"

Cisco has been linked to U.K. femtocell vendor Ubiquisys Ltd. in the past. (See Cisco Eyes Home Base.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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