Optical/IP Networks

Motorola, Cisco Win Mesh Deals

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) have both separately unveiled new WiFi mesh contracts as the battle to unwire more cities and states across the world heats up.

Motorola's new deal to unwire six U.K. cities -- including Birmingham and Newscastle -- for major operator BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is the Schaumburg, Ill.-based firm's most important public mesh win to date. Motorola will supply mesh equipment and services for its deployments.

By extending its Fusion fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) system to the new networks offering VOIP calls that can move between WiFi and cellular connections, BT plans to offer a more ambitious package of services over the networks than most other municipal networks announced recently . Motorola is already a handset supplier for the Fusion project. (See BT Unveils FMC Service.) The firms are also planning more standard mesh services such as extended hotspot connectivity, closed-circuit TV support, and secure enterprise connections.

The deal could function as a flagship public municipal deployment for Motorola. The firm was one of the earliest major players to enter the municipal game with its acquisition of Mesh Networks in 2004. Initially, however, Motorola concentrated on the 4.9 GHz public safety market rather than on WiFi mesh. The BT deal is one of its largest public municipal deals to date and -- if the rollout goes smoothly -- will show off widescale VOIP services over city networks. (See Gorillas in the Mesh.)

BT plans to unwire 12 U.K. cities in all. It hasn't yet announced vendors for the other six municipal contracts up for grabs.

Cisco, meanwhile, already has its flagship mesh deal in the recently-awarded Silicon Valley contract. (See Cisco & Pals to Unwire Silicon Valley.) The vendor, however, is extending its domestic and international reach with deals in the capital of New York state, Albany, and the island nation of Singapore. (See Cisco & Pals to Unwire Silicon Valley.)

The Albany deal will incorporate "free Internet access to residents and visitors" and "use the wireless network as a platform for city endeavors, including public safety services" on the 4.9GHz band, Cisco says. Local service provider Tech Valley Communications will head the management and deployment of the Cisco "ServiceMesh" system.

In Singapore, domestic operator Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) will use Cisco equipment to wirelessly extend broadband services on the north side of the island. It plans to deploy more than 2,400 hotspots by May 2007.

Mesh networks will eventually cover Singapore. The local authorities have split the deals between several operators, who in turn have awarded contracts to different vendors. Domestic operator iCell is using equipment from mesh startup Firetide Inc. to unwire the east side of the island.

Initial deployments of mesh technology on Singapore are supposed to be completed by the end of January 2007. At a minimum, the island will provide an interesting test bed to determine how different manufacturers' equipment operates in relatively similar networking and topographical conditions.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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