Cisco CTO Whips WiMax

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CTO Charles Giancarlo took a few swings at WiMax, the wireless broadband networking technology also known as IEEE 802.16, yesterday during his brief keynote address at the Next Generation Networks conference in Boston.

"Other than providing the backbone infrastructure that may be behind any WiMax deployment, Cisco is not invested in WiMax," says Giancarlo. "DSL and cable are [already] there, and they are much more deterministic."

Giancarlo says third-generation wireless technology will already be deployed by the time WiMax hits the streets, and he doesn't see service providers spending on both: "Why would anyone build two parallel [wireless broadband] networks? Perhaps it will provide a better technology for hotspots like airports, but I still maintain that the case for WiMax is challenging at the moment."

Several attendees here agreed with Giancarlo's point that WiMax won't be driven by home networking. "I agree that home networking is not the compelling application for WiMax," says Weiyee In, global technology strategist for TerraNova Institutional, a Chicago-based brokerage. "Its compelling application is to be the wireless metro-area network. What Intel has done with notebooks and WiFi -- they are going to do the same with WiMax." (See WiMax: Last Mile Smiles and WiMax: How Far? How Fast?.)

While whipping on WiMax, Giancarlo reminded the audience that many wireless technologies have come and gone over the years without finding success. "This is what went wrong with MMDS [multichannel multipoint distribution system] and LMDS [local multipoint distribution system], too, if you all remember that. The economics became very bad very quickly."

Giancarlo says that Cisco sees ultrawideband as a more attractive wireless technology, noting that Cisco invests where it sees the most promise (see UWB: From the Lab to Your Pad). "We had an investment in an ultrawideband startup." While Giancarlo did not name the company he referred to, Cisco did invest in XtremeSpectrum Inc., which Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) purchased a year ago. That company spent several years working in concert with Cisco lobbying for the UWB standard.

"Ultrawideband may find application in the office, for something like a personal-area network, possibly there," Giancarlo says. "And possibly for the very short haul, like between components in a rack."

Later in his remarks, Giancarlo gave broadband-over-power-lines (BPL) a whack as well (see Powerline Ethernet Gets the Nod). "As far as these HomePlug and PowerLine products, Cisco has had them available for two years. And we've still got plenty of inventory."

He says power companies have a great deal of work to do before the power grid could be a viable means of residential broadband deployment. "We have to find a way to deal with getting it through the transformers and other power conditioning equipment...

"This has been a non-market. Consumers are not responding to it." — Gale Morrison, special to Light Reading

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Plugtek 12/5/2012 | 1:00:37 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax There is plenty of information on Broadband over Powerline Communications at:


Argyll 12/5/2012 | 1:02:32 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax People said wind turbines would never amount to anything, but now it's a thriving big industry, primarily due to recent advances in wind turbine technology. It has advanced almost as fast as the PC in the last decade or so.

It is now a viable technology with less than 1% of the market. If it gets more, the 10 or 20% it would like, it will be fine.

That is something that could happen with BPL.

Certainly localized BPL, over existing wiring in buildings, will be a viable technology. There are hundreds of buildings that already have this.
dwdm2 12/5/2012 | 1:06:43 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax "So, here I stood stunned: Con Ed, who invested $33mm in ABTG is telling us, "Yes, BPL, or PLC is working out!", while CSCO, who invested $0.00 in ABTG is telling us, "no, it's not working"."

Obviously both ABTG and ConEd have vested interest to see BPL is accepted. In this arena, however, its pretty common to have a new technology evaluated by a third party for its functionality, reliability, etc. Hence, comments by CISCO is important. If ABTG don't agree, they can always have it evaluated by another 3rd party.

I agree with one thing that ultimately it is the end user who'll determine the fate of ABTG's BPL. So there is a room for prediction here: Will BPL die on first few sets of roll out failure? The answer is NO. They'll struggle for a while before giving up and/or being acquired and shelved. Will it become a Microsoft or CISCO? The answer is NO. As for its competitive advantage with other form of carriers: Will it kill cable, dsl? Again NO. If it can ever become competitive with cable and dsl, it'll have some added effect to hinder emergence of widespread fiber deployment. BUT, until fiber is available, people will have to keep paying higher and higher bills and suffer confused quagmire in the mess of "technology choices."
cyberhare 12/5/2012 | 1:06:44 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax Con Ed invested $1.4mm for 35mm shares of ABTG.ob.
cyberhare 12/5/2012 | 1:06:46 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax When cisco speaks, the world is listening. So was I.

The death sentence on BPL by CSCO prompted me to spend this weekend going through all SEC filings of ABTG.ob, the only publicly traded pure play in PLC in USA.

Here's a brief summary of the romance between csco and abtg on BPL:
On Feb. 2, 2001, ABTG and CSCO signed an agreement that ABTG would invest $2mm to develope some router/coupler for BPL technology. The project would take 1 year. Following this timeline, I figured that the final products got to csco around Feb. 2002. Upon hindsight, clearly, those BPL products didn't work, so we are reading this "death sentence" on BPL from csco in this LR article.

What's of more interest is this: At the very same time when csco gave a "no" to abtg's technology in 2002, Con Edison, an electricity utility company stepped onto the plate, putting $35mm in ABTG(agreement signed on Feb. 7, 2002, $35mm injected on Sept. 30, 2002 for 2,684,000 shares). This capital injection wasn't an impulsive decision, but instead, came only after TWO year on-going experiment on PLC between Con Ed and ABTG.

Latest development shows this ED<==>ABTG partnership is bearing fruit as ABTG finished the 1st pilot project in NYC on Oct. 26th, 2004:

So, here I stood stunned: Con Ed, who invested $33mm in ABTG is telling us, "Yes, BPL, or PLC is working out!", while CSCO, who invested $0.00 in ABTG is telling us, "no, it's not working". Now, it's up to the readers to decide who has the final say. Or, better yet, in the months to come, as BPL rolls out, we'll know for sure who's right who's wrong on this PLC technology.
outtatelecom 12/5/2012 | 1:06:52 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax Here's what you won't hear from any of the
misguided investors in BPL technology...

Myth 1: BPL is cost effective for rural areas.

Despite what the power companies and equipment
providers are telling the FCC regarding the ability to light up vast stretches of the country that are currently underserved by broadband access, the economics of building out a BPL network in an area where you need many
repeaters just to stretch enough miles to pick
up a handful of users doesn't make sense.
Just do the math. The FCC is being
hoodwinked into thinking BPL will
come to the rescue for rural america's
bandwidth needs.

Myth 2: BPL doesn't cause interference.

Not only have the mathematical models shown
that BPL has the potential to cause
interference to existing users of the High Frequency (HF) spectrum, but actual
measurements from active field trial sites
have provided real world evidence that powerlines
do act like antennas, and radiate unwanted signals
up to hundreds of feet in some cases. The NTIA
has acknowledged this fact in their study of BPL which the FCC is using as an input to
their decision making process.

Myth 3: BPL interference can be mitigated.

Another specious claim by BPL equipment providers
is that if interference is occuring to
Federally licensed users of the HF spectrum that there are techniques to halt the interference.
So called notching methods have proven not to
work in the HF spectrum. A recent BPL trial
in North Carolina was terminated this past summer, and it is believed that the failed attempts at curtailing interference in the
Amateur Radio bands contributed to that decision.

Myth 4: The FCC has broad powers to allow BPL to exist no matter what.

Despite the everyone-be-damned approach to business that seems to prevail today, the
laws on the books forbid anyone from generating harmful interference to Amateur Radio operators. The FCC has acknowledged this and
the result will be provisions in the BPL regulations that will provide protections for Amateur operators. Unfortunately,
for the BPL community who chooses to use HF for
their frequency spectrum, there are no viable interference mitigation techniques, so those companies investing in HF equipment will eventually go out of business.

My advice to the power companies, BPL equipment
manufacturers, and VCs throwing money into
these losing ventures is to cut your losses and get out now. HF based BPL will not succeed. The technology doesn't work, the laws of physics cannot be overcome, the economics
don't add up, and the laws that protect licensed users of the HF spectrum are not likely to be changed.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 1:06:57 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax "The concept behind TriCity Broadband is to build a locally owned and operated utility to serve the future of our communities... with NO TAXPAYER DOLLARS AT RISK!"

A laudable effort; are there more examples?

The Tricity site has links to Palo Alto, CA and Lafayette, LA.


The Palo Alto project seems to be mired in a trial status for some reason.

Building the real life examples does seem like the next step before public opinion will come around. It also seems that the pioneering projects may need some sort of private financing initiatives to get them off the ground.
cyberhare 12/5/2012 | 1:06:59 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax BPL is an economical way for broadband,pay attention to this part:
Bargain Capex
What those ISPs are hearing is that the entire installation, despite
being exotic, costs only a fraction of traditional broadband deployments.

The total deployment cost to the ISP is running at only about $50 to $80
per door passed, McAlpine says, with the variation in cost dependent on the
number of units in a building.

Had Super Net used traditional wiring, he estimates, the cost would have
run between $120 and $220 per door passed. In some cases it would have been necessary to trench under highways and railways if traditional wiring had been used -- an expen
sive proposition, to say the least.

"You're looking at a drastic savings over any tradition method of
deployment," he says.
cyberhare 12/5/2012 | 1:07:00 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax http://www.belairnetworks.com/...
Wireless, Powerline Team for Showcase Deployment

Broadband Business Forecast
Broadband Business Forecast
Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Down around Baton Rouge, La., one of the most unusual broadband
deployments in the United States is underway - a hybrid mlange of a pre-WiMax wireless backbone, proprietary in-building broadband over powerline (BPL)technology where the user density is high enough and, as the frosting on the cake, a Wi-Fi mesh. The whole thing's so unorthodox that ISPs from thousands of miles away have begun checking in to find out how it all works and to take a look at the economics involved, particularly at the bottom-line capex that is
said to be only one third to one half of that of what it might have cost using copper and fiber.

Broadband Business Forecast got together with senior executives from
Super Net, the ISP behind the installation; Telkonet [TKO], whose BPL technology has been quietly gaining traction in the hotel and apartment market; and BelAir
Networks, a 36-month-old Canadian company that's starting to make waves in the sexy new Wi-Fi Mesh market. For those not ready to make the pilgrimage to Cajun country for themselves, we'll tell you what we've learned.

The whole thing's the brainchild of ISP Super Net, which was looking for
the least expensive way possible to bring its broadband services to thousands of Louisiana State University (LSU) students living off campus in a neighborhood of
apartment buildings and four-, six-, and eight-plexes, almost all built back in the 1960s when nobody even dreamed of today's broadband connectivity needs. The whole neighborhood is out of range of DSL service of any sort, although there is
cable broadband in the area.

The goal, Super Net President Kevin Dufresne and COO Mark McAlpine told
BBF, is to blanket the area with broadband services that reach all 2,200 housing units - which accommodate about 3,500 students - plus local businesses that serve those students.

Wireless Backbone
The first key to the deployment, says Dufrense, was that SuperNet already
had a Wave2Wave wireless backbone, which it had bought from MCI. The Wave2Wave system delivers a T1 full-duplex backbone roughly seven miles from a downtown Baton Rouge office building to the student-housing neighborhood. Because none of
the end users have to access the system, the fact that it's proprietary is irrelevant.

Phil Belanger, vice president of marketing for BelAir, expects to see
BelAir start to use WiMax soon.

"When WiMax is available, all of us will use it as a tool," he says.
BelAir might sell its first systems with WiMax backhaul as early as next year,he estimates. But it will be another three or four years until the technology might be used to then distribute bandwidth from the backbone closer to, or perhaps directly to, end users.

The Wave2Wave receivers are connected directly to Telkonet in-building
powerline broadband systems. Those systems are proprietary, although they do use the same powerline semiconductors from Intellon as in-building powerline systems
that follow the HomePlug standard.

The difference, explains Ben Tuorto, Telkonet's vice president of sales
for multi-dwelling unit/multi-tenant unit, is that HomePlug only supports a
single, unmanaged network. What Telkonet's been selling is a system that can be managed and that creates a virtual private network for each of multiple subscribers who share a total bandwidth of 6 Mb/s (a number that will increase when the new generation of powerline chips now in the labs are released commercially). That also means each subscriber can be metered and billed separately - an obvious necessity for an ISP using the system to sell services.

Like any in-building powerline system, the Telkonet system eliminates any
additional cost for wiring. According to Tuorto, so far, the company has
installed the system in more than 100 hotels and in about 20 apartment

Feeding an in-building powerline system over a wireless backbone is of
itself unusual, but there's more. "The Telkonet powerline solution lends itself very well to the larger properties, but not so much to the four-plexes and eight-plexes," explains Dufresne. The cost simply is too high for those units, both because there aren't enough potential end users and because each unit might
have its own electric transformer, meaning the powerline equipment would have to be duplicated for each unit.

To solve that problem, Super Net turned to BelAir Networks for its WiFi
Mesh gear, the BelAir200. The unit includes up to three backhaul radio modules that create 5 GHz point-to-point links to form the wireless backhaul mesh that interconnects all of the BelAir200 nodes.

It's even blanketing those buildings with powerline-with-WiFi as well
because "even in the areas that we had the Telkonet solution, we wanted to
provide WiFi to the common areas," McAlpine explains. "We wanted to provide the student with a big hot zone."

Added to the brew was V Link for a back-end, network-provisioning and
monitoring system called PASSYM than handles user billing and authentication
services for both the WiFi and powerline segments of the network. Like BelAir, V Link also is only three years old.

One Of A Kind
It all seemed simply like good business but, almost without trying, Super Net had created a one-of-a-kind broadband deployment architecture. "We not going by any means through a traditional telecommunications infrastructure," McAlpine

So far the company has wired 148 units in a seven building complex with
powerline equipment that went live in June. About two months ago, it finished
deploying four BelAir units, enough to cover roughly another 600 to 800 units,
and the rollout continues. The next radio to go in will cover the local
restaurant row.

As word of the unusual deployment has started filtering out, McAlpine
reports unexpected "exceptional interest" from the industry. "We've generated a great deal of interest from a number of ISP's, from folks as far away as Colorado and Massachusetts," he adds.

Bargain Capex
What those ISPs are hearing is that the entire installation, despite
being exotic, costs only a fraction of traditional broadband deployments.

The total deployment cost to the ISP is running at only about $50 to $80
per door passed, McAlpine says, with the variation in cost dependent on the
number of units in a building.

Had Super Net used traditional wiring, he estimates, the cost would have
run between $120 and $220 per door passed. In some cases it would have been necessary to trench under highways and railways if traditional wiring had been used -- an expensive proposition, to say the least.

"You're looking at a drastic savings over any tradition method of
deployment," he says.

>>Kevin Dufresne and Mark McAlpine, Super Net, 225/298-1230; Ben Tuorto,
Telkonet, 919/469-8529; Phil Belanger, BelAir Networks, 613/254-7070<<

BBF's Take On the Situation

The architecture Super Net has put together is unique and virtually a
technological tour-de-force of some of the hottest new broadband technologies of the day. The most striking feature is that, although we're talking about
leading-edge and, thus, still a bit pricey technologies, the total deployment capex was unusually low.

What Super Net has done is not appropriate for every broadband
deployment, but at least some pieces can fit well in many places. For instance,where there's already a fiber backbone in existence, the need for wireless backhaul is eliminated. In other places, where the unit density is far higher, a proper mix probably would consist of more powerline and less, if any, WiFi.

But Super Net has proved that broadband can be economically deployed
today using standard, commercially available equipment almost anywhere within range of at least one backbone POP. Not only that, the deployment can be done rapidly, because the wireless components eliminate the costly and time-consuming need to dig trenches, string cables or chew up concrete.

Super Net did admit that, with a deployment for which there is no
precedent, it had taken a little longer to work out some unexpected glitches in getting the whole thing up and running. The time involved was only a matter of weeks - but they were the weeks students were returning to school and, thus, the best time to sign them up for the service. Instead, for this year, the ISP has
lost at least some business to the cable broadband enemy.

However, it may win some of that business back when its next expansion
takes place, its WiFi reaches the local pizza parlors and coffee houses, and students discover that a single subscription can cover broadband both in their apartments and while they're out mingling. As Broadband Business Forecast has noted in the past, browsing in public seems to have become social phenomenon, with college-aged students showing up at coffee shops with their laptops more to
be seen than for any real need to use the WiFi connections. At the same time, we eventually expect to start seeing broadband access deals that include some sort of wireless roaming rights, just as many broadband providers these days offer
users a ration of dial-up connectivity for when they're traveling away from

One obvious limitation to the entire shebang is the final bandwidth
delivered. A single 6 Mb/s powerline gateway is designed to serve between 20 and 25 users. Obviously, if all were demanding bandwidth at the same instant, they would not be getting very "broad" broadband, although it would still be a decent speed, about equal to today's slower DSL. The fact is, though, that's it's exceedingly rare that all users of a system would be demanding bandwidth at exactly the same time, given today's applications. By the time more bandwidth is
needed, perhaps for IP Video delivery, powerline technology will be far faster.

Then, too, it is possible to put multiple powerline gateways in a building to get more bandwidth to each user. Super Net's executives say such speed upgrades will take place as demand increases, either by more users signing up for service or by existing users buying higher-speed service.

The same speed arguments might be made for the WiFi architecture but,
once again, faster wireless is certainly on the way, and the LSU network will serve as a valuable case study for deployments that use the new faster speeds.

BBF also notes that the entire deployment was done by a conglomeration of relatively young and small companies. Telkonet's been around for five years - that's old for this market - but it only has been shipping its powerline products for a bit more than a year. BelAir and V Link are only three years old.

As with all young companies, we warn that there are sharks in the water.

y03858 12/5/2012 | 1:07:07 AM
re: Cisco CTO Whips WiMax As in the search for the holy grail. Its shimmering, fantastic "business case" promise has drawn waves of startups that so far have always ended up dead at the end of a long and strange odyssey. Recent press alone (the recent Boston Globe article re lack of genuine interest from utilities, the LR Cisco CTO interview, the ZDNET UK article cited elsewhere in this thread, and the www.gobpl.com web site in general) are hardly likely to motivate additional financing in BPL startups.

Lets recap:
1. The 160 or so US electric utility companies are unapt to be interested in being in the ISP business, and/or have taken deep battle damage from past forays into datacomm networks.

2. All the FCC did recently was say they wouldn't make special rules for BPL. Thats hardly a green light -- existing rules are already tough.

3. When Cisco says BPL isn't a market, yes, that may merely mean it isn't a 9 $digit market. OTOH it also says Cisco will _not_ be buying a BPL startup or 2-3 anytime soon. [Its also ominous that Cisco thinks WiMax is going nowhere.]

Hmmm... Adverse utility customer conditions, end users who rightly want it to cost no more than dialup, hostile hams and aero RF users, Cisco bowing out... Who knew?

4. I was wrong about underground MV plant being BPL friendly in general. Turns out there is a lot of funky underground cable that is a black hole for RF -- only PVC dielectric types seem to have a chance.

5. About 20 years ago MV BPL was tried by Nortel et al. Blew up badly on RFI problems and noise problems.

So BPL seems to be one of those ideas that takes a whole tech startup/investment cycle to live and die, ie every 20 years or so. The current cycle seems apt to die off; we can look forward to hearing about BPL again in the 2020's or later.
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