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Cisco's Wireless Wait

When will customers be ready for Cisco's bright and shiny new wireless routers?

September 2, 2002

2 Min Read
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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