Cisco Steals Smart Grid Show

2:05 PM -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) really wants to be central to the smart grid, and it's putting its money where its mouth is, with a new partnership and an acquisition. In the past two days, it has partnered with smart-meter vendor Itron and acquired IP-based wireless network provider Arch Rock Corp. (See Cisco, Itron Team for Smart Grid and Cisco to Buy Smart Grid Player.)

With Itron, Cisco wants to establish a reference-model IP communications platform for the grid and help utilities build their own wireless mesh networks based on a full IPv6 implementation, a goal that Arch Rock will aid. That's bad news for the telcos angling to be the public network provider of choice. Cisco's stance has always been a network-neutral one, but it will initially home in on 900MHz wireless mesh to build its "modern, more intelligent energy infrastructure."

Does that imply that telcos' public networks just aren't smart enough?

Some utilities think so, citing security, privacy, reliability, and latency as key concerns -- concerns the telcos are working to prove are overblown. Itron is also a partner with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which have both been exploring different angles to get at the grid. (See Mu Chief: Smart Grid Isn't and Can Utilities & Telecom Team on Smart Grid?)

Cisco has been talking big about the grid for awhile but has, so far, announced only a few products and partnerships. But, seeing as it considers the smart grid a $20 billion-per-year opportunity, this week's M&A is only the beginning. (See Cisco Takes Energy Management to the Home.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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