Cisco's Wireless Wait

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has a new high-capacity "wireless router" based on the 6500 series waiting in the wings. However, the networking giant is waiting for wireless carriers' data service requirements to ramp up before going into volume production.

"99 percent of our customers are using the 7200 [Cisco's current wireless router]," says Larry Lang, VP and general manager of mobile wireless at Cisco. The issue, he says, is not Cisco's ability to produce a high-capacity product, but whether the market is ready for it.

The 6500-based is in lab trials with carriers in the U.S., Europe and Asia, Lang says. The 6500 will be able to handle more simultaneous mobile sessions than previous Cisco wireless routers, but hard facts on the hardware's performance are scant at the moment.

Wireless routers, which link next-generation GPRS and CDMA2000 radio networks to the IP backbone and enable carriers to develop new data services, are called gateway GPRS service nodes (GGSNs) in GSM-derived networks and packet data service nodes (PDSNs) in CDMA networks (see A Wireless Taxonomy).

Cisco's rivals in the space include Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). The company has worked with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) on developing GGSN and PDSN products based on the 7200 series routers.

Lang reckons the recently forged partnership between Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) has helped to change the game for operators looking to buy next generation networking gear, because carriers now realize they don't have to source their equipment from just one supplier (see Juniper Unveils ‘Wireless Router’). "I think [the major wireless router suppliers] are going to end up being data networking companies," Lang says.

However, some analysts think Cisco will have to do more than produce a heavyweight GGSN if it wants to play in the wireless market. "Cisco has essentially missed the opportunity to gain a strong position in the edge routing market for wireless," says Phil Marshall, program manager of mobile and wireless technologies at the Yankee Group. Instead, he says, Cisco will likely go head-to-head with vendors that are marketing service creation boxes, such as GGSN startup Megisto Systems (see Having a Flutter on the GGSNs).

These service creation boxes can do clever stuff with the data streams they handle, such as prioritizing a certain quality of service level for those customers that pay for the privilege.

Marshall notes that Cisco has always been strong on its VPN services and expects to see more emphasis on those capabilities in its next generation of products. Lang says Cisco is always looking at VPN capabilities and prepaid services, although he claims Cisco already has "a pretty rich offering" in that area with its existing hardware and software.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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alan80 12/5/2012 | 1:15:50 AM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Here is a link and a code to download a free copy of the CWNA wireless LAN administration book.


code: CWNP3331

spc_King 12/4/2012 | 9:50:06 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Spot on Dan!

A lot of it is old news though for anyone following the discussion threads on this website...

I wonder if Cisco is right about the router functionality being such an important differentiator? Conceptually it looks cleaner than to have a separate site router, but GGSNs today are being sold at more than 'n' times the price of a backbone router so it begs the question if it is worth your money to be using the expensive kit of GGSN equipment to be routing packets back and forth for non-GPRS/3G traffic or doing lots of heavy routing table updates etc. which would steal capacity that could otherwise be used for handling more throughput from GPRS/3G users and/or more intelligent handling of their traffic (like the QoS stuff you mention).

If it turns out a combined router/GGSN is what operators want then I think the days would be numbered for most startups since I know many have only the most rudimentary routing functionality and could not possibly hope to keep up with the massive amount of features being developed for Cisco/Juniper type routing platforms...unless they have some other ace up their sleeves

Speaking of the QoS example you mentioned: If Cisco's 6500 series are going to be more than their 7200 series counterparts then one must assume they will support more recent 3GPP specification and the QoS mechanisms that are specified there and then the functionality you referred to MUST be there as a basic part of it so I don't really understand what the Startups would offer that would be so different (from the 6500 series that is).


noitall 12/4/2012 | 9:49:46 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Just a couple of opinions here:

1) Most of the startups will die because they can't spell routing much less implement anything resembling stable routing code for a live network. Support 150,000 plus sessions simultaneously? Forget it. The startup with the most stable routing code wins hands down. That's why Watercove is stumbling. Don't have an opinion on Megisto or Tahoe in this regard.

2) The 6500 absolutely has no HW QOS story at all. Classic CSCO. Dress up old gear and try and force it down customer's throat with promises of "future generations." Wireless operators won't follow the wireline operators and put up with FUD not when they've been buying from NOK and ERICY for 25 years.

3) If it comes down to CSCO vs. JNPR my bets are on JNPR because their stuff was designed in 1998-99 vs. 1993. In 1993 no one knew anything about IPSEC, SIP, etc.
spc_King 12/4/2012 | 9:49:35 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Fairy,

You say Watercove has trouble with routing protocol stability?!

I love juicy rumours. Let's here more about this issue. I hope you can substantiate this since we don't want to have to think you are just trying to eliminate one startup at the time just to end up with Tahoe as the only one being spotless...:-)

I must say I am not entirely surprised if this is true though. I know of at least one more startup with only very basic routing functionality, but as I've said before operators may not want to use their GGSNs as routers anyway because it is so much cheaper to buy a site router off the shelf than to use up GGSN capacity for that.

Of course, the protocols that are supported must have sufficient quality so again if you have the gory details you have a willing audience here :-)

noitall 12/4/2012 | 9:49:30 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Let me clarify. Watercove doesn't have any more trouble than any of the other startups, but they were first to market and from the admittedly vague feedback I've gotten the thing just isn't ready for primetime. They'll get it right eventually if they don't run out of money too soon (a problem for everyone by the way).

Even now, in 2002, startups underestimate the challenge of developing and delivering a stable protocol suite. You can have a million features and bullet-proof hardware but routing is the secret sauce. Watercove has always had a weak routing team. Hey, they're in Boston. All the good routing engineers I know in Boston are at Junisphere.

I do not have an interest in Tahoe. I saw a demo in their lab and that's it. I actually own shares in Megisto :). Let's just say I'm optimistic for a return.

Guglielmo 12/4/2012 | 9:49:14 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait notthebluetoothfairy wrote:
"I do not have an interest in Tahoe. I saw a demo in their lab and that's it."

So give us some gossip! What did they demo? What was interesting? What looked half-baked?
joset01 12/4/2012 | 9:49:13 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Yeah, come on NTBTF, we wanna know cans and string or what? :-) If you're feeling shy you can always drop me a line at [email protected]

[email protected]
spc_King 12/4/2012 | 9:49:11 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Guglielmo,

I've seen the number 200 PDP context establishments per second mentioned on this site and I have seen the number 10 million mobile users mentioned in a Tahoe press article.

Fairy says it is big and it does seem that way, but I'd be interested to hear what more he can relate.

I am also surprised they let a guy that has Megisto stock in to see a Tahoe demo!!!? Who is this guy?!

noitall 12/4/2012 | 9:48:57 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait I didn't have stock at the time :). BTW I now have stock in both and am looking for a way to invest in Watercove. I want to hedge my bets and own stock in Megisto, Watercove and Tahoe. I really believe one of these three companies will do something. I'm just not convinced any of the public companies has what it takes and will need to buy one of them. It will be a quesion of price.
noitall 12/4/2012 | 9:48:54 PM
re: Cisco's Wireless Wait Dan, I would NEVER breach an NDA. That's why I'm so vague in these boards (also because admittedly I'm not technical, and not a line executive in a wireless infrastructure company).

FYI, I am an angel investor. Not a happy one at the moment.
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