Cisco Late to WiMax Party

Networking titan Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is late to the WiMax party, but analysts expect that it will have to turn up eventually, and when it does: Look out, Mary!

The wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) specification -- 802.16a revision d, or WiMax to its mates -- is being championed by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Cisco rivals Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), and Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX), and many of the smaller so-and-sos in the fixed wireless equipment market.

Supporters of the WiMax spec -- which is intended to provide high-speed wireless data services over distances of 30 miles or so -- make some bold claims for the spec. Intel is pushing it as a cable/DSL replacement, especially in areas that are difficult to wire up, while others talk about the technology as replacing everything from wireless LAN to third-generation cellular systems [ed. note: it chops, slices, and dices!].

Cisco, which may be once-bitten-twice-shy around these kinds of wireless MAN plays, because of its unsuccessful acquisition of Clarity Wireless back in the late nineties,isn't saying much of anything about plans for WiMax.

"It's Cisco's policy not to discuss unannounced products," a company spokesperson wrote in a email reply to questions.

Nonetheless, analysts think that Cisco will have to get in on this action.

”In my humble opinion, they have no choice,” says Craig Mathias, principal at analyst and consulting firm, the Farpoint Group. “Cisco’s a networking company and the world is going wireless.”

“They’re already number one in wireless LAN; how hard can it be?” he muses.

Chris Kozup at the Meta Group Inc. concurs: “I would expect that as the specification moves closer to delivering product and silicon comes along Cisco will add [WiMax] to its product line," he says, going out on the world's shortest limb.

Most observers expect WiMax systems to start arriving in volume around the middle of next year.

Kozup thinks that WiMax products will easily slip into Cisco’s enterprise wireless offerings, supplementing -- or supplanting -- the 54-Mbit/s 1400 series 802.11 box that Cisco currently offers customers for outdoor network bridging applications.

But Cisco says that it has a history of 802.11 bridging products and plans to stick with that standard. "Given the high level of integration that has been achieved in the 802.11 space, Cisco finds 802.11 to be the fastest, most cost effective, and most tested path to standardized metro wireless bridging," writes the spokesperson.

Farpoint's Mathias notes that Cisco's experience with Clarity may have colored the firm's attitude towards the wireless MAN market.

Cisco bought Clarity back in 1998 for $157 million in stock and ended up cancelling the product line in November 2001 because of poor sales. Many of the brains at Clarity ended up at WLAN sooper WiFi chip startup Airgo Networks.

Farpoint’s Mathias thinks that Cisco got in on the game too early with Clarity. “Cisco was definitely ahead of its time to think about buying them,” he says. "But they kind of let it die on the vine, didn't they?"

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

angelseye2000 12/5/2012 | 2:08:36 AM
re: Cisco Late to WiMax Party Cisco WMAN/VOFDM History:

Since Cisco gave up their V-OFDM and WMAN focused efforts they have not actively participated in the MAN standards groups besides 802.20. Now could it be that Cisco is backing Flarion with there 802.20 technology so they won't back 802.16a/d and especially not 802.16e
Flarion Investors?

Cisco gained VOFDM technology through its acquisition of Clarity Wireless in September 1998.

February 12, 2002 -- Cisco Announces the End-of-Sale and the
End-of-Life Process for the Cisco WT-2700 Series
of Fixed Wireless Access Products

VOFDM was the basic technology behind the BWIF Forum. Funny that there website is still on line?

802.20 vs 802.16e

Cisco and WiMax? Cisco isn't a 802.16 Member....

How long does it take before Cisco will come a WiMax member? Cisco was one of the participaters of a Mobile Broadband Wireless Access Event in 2000......

Mobile Broadband Wireless Access: Report of Tutorial, CFI and 802.16 Activities, St. Louis, March 15, 2002
Broad Industry Interest Organizations
Participating In Both Tutorial and CFI Session Organizations http://grouper.ieee.org/groups...

Cisco on the issue of the 802.20
election (scroll).

Cisco 802.16 Involvement?

Interest seems there (fwiw)

Reminder: ISP Planet - Technology - Cisco vs. Wi-LAN: David/Goliath Battle over Wireless Technology
The very entry of Cisco Systems into the fixed wireless arena says the technology's time has come. But has the hardware giant misappropriated another company's intellectual property?

jbohac 12/5/2012 | 2:08:34 AM
re: Cisco Late to WiMax Party Cisco's Clarity experience is a good case study as to why WiMax will fail. There is no market and the replacement alternative where there is money is far better. Bottom line - you cannot achieve sufficient density in a wireless system to compete with wired alternatives.
lrmobile_Gman_too 12/5/2012 | 2:08:23 AM
re: Cisco Late to WiMax Party It would seem to me that Cisco favors 802.20 given their investment in Flarion. Since 802.20 is an all-IP solution, i.e., no TDM, it makes sense for them to back it, as it will eventually sell more routers with it.

In my opinion, either technology can support small islands of wireless IP, but the real winner will be the technology that first links ALL of these islands in a cohesive, fast, national network akin to the wired Internet, albeit at far slower speeds (3 Mbps).

I do agree that wireless Internet (mobile or fixed) can rival and effectively compete with Cable modem service. Eventually, demographics will determine what service people use. I see the younger users will probably take to the wireless Internet in greater numbers initially, and will have a higher tendency to have only one broadband connection. Multi-user families will probably always keep their cable modem connection, and add a wireless connection for mobility.

We all know that given enough time (& $)engineers can design anything. The true winner in the 802.16 vs 802.20 battle will be the technology that has the best economics.

If carriers can deploy a cost-effective solution that allows them to charge DSL/Cable prices to end users, they will WIN.

I think 802.20 will have an advantage here since it uses all-IP. The users use IP in their laptops/PDAs and the carriers manage only IP routers in the core. Not having to buy both TDM and IP cores will be attractive to the carriers. It will save in CAPEX (less boxes) and in OPEX (just an IP network).

However, given the rocky venture capital history in backing the latest and greatest wireless technologies, the VC community will be slow in accepting solutions that require an entirely new network. So to WIN this battle, the economics story needs to extend and play into the existing deployed infrastructure.

The solution that can first slide directly into most of the hundreds of thousands of EXISTING base stations, will WIN.

I envision a national network of base stations being able to leverage existing voice-only technologies and provide an overlay network for Internet access, as being the WINNER.

The wireless carrier will not incur the expense on building an entirely new network. They will not cannibalize their existing voice revenue; rather, they can augment revenues with IP revenue. Eventually when VOWIP (voice over wireless IP) is ready for prime time, the migration will be seamless.

I think that Nextel is on to something.
Sign In