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Optical/IP

Cisco Creates Safety Net

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is looking to carve itself a heapin' helpin' of the wireless public safety network market with a new 802.11-based system said to cover areas of up to 25 miles.

The firm today unveiled its mobile metropolian solution, a system intended to offer broadband wireless access to private IP networks across a city for all kinds of government agencies. Cisco says that the system supports cellular connectivity as well as WiFi.

Cisco put together the system from existing wireless products in its ol' kit bag. The company is using its Aironet 1400 series outdoor wireless bridge to provide "long-range connectivity" using 802.11a (54 Mbit/s over 5GHz) technology.

The recently announced Aironet 1300 series outdoor access point (AP) and wireless bridge provides IEEE 802.11b (11 Mbit/s at 2.4GHz) and g (54 Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) at "medium ranges."

Cisco is using its 3200 series router, which is designed to be installed in trains, planes, and automobiles, to maintain IP connectivity over its wireless links. The firm says it has tested the transportation applications with a network of the 1300 APs and can maintain data rates of up to 24 Mbit/s at speeds up to 100 kilometers per hour.

The 3200 also uses mobile IP to maintain connectivity between separate wireless networks. Hugo Vliegen, senior manager of product marketing for premises, communication, and business units says that handoff between networks is around 100 miliseconds.

Cisco says that the 1300 series AP can also transmit data at speeds of up 24 Mbit/s over distances of up to 25 miles.

The company has not said much about how it has increased the range of its 802.11 products, which would typically cover around 300 feet in standard configurations.

Craig Mathias, principal at analyst and consulting firm Farpoint Group, notes that there are many ways to increase the range of wireless LAN systems, such as increasing antenna gain or receiver sensitivity.

But the analyst wonders if such tweaks can make that much difference in a city environment. "There are usually so many tall buildings to get in the way of the signal," Mathias cautions.

Ann Sun, Cisco's senior manager of wireless and mobility marketing, says the firm is looking at different architectures for different environments. The company is talking up Layer 3 wireless LAN mesh systems to create city coverage areas.

Cisco will be taking on Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and a slew of startups, such as BelAir Networks, Firetide Inc., Tropos Networks, and others in the growing wireless "hotzone" market.

"It's a natural progression for Cisco," suggests Mathias, who reckons that agencies may find it easy to buy wireless kit from the firm that may well already supply its private IP network.

"It's moved out of the very, very early-adopter stage to the point where we see more cities and counties taking an interest," says Sun.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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