Packet core

Starent at Core of Cox's 3G Push

Cox Communications Inc. has tapped Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR) to supply the multimedia core of its 3G mobile network, a move that, the vendor claims, will provide Cox with a smooth migration path to Long Term Evolution (LTE) via software updates.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Cox said it will provide data and multimedia services via its initial CDMA-based 3G network using Starent's Packet Data Serving Node (PDSN) and Home Agent (HA) platforms. Combined, those products will enable Cox to obtain continuous visibility into its wireless network and allow it to support content filtering and application detection. The Home Agent component will also supply the mobility "anchor point," which maintains wireless sessions as customers roam across cell sites. (See Cox Picks Starent's Multimedia Core .)

Cox has not identified any specific applications that will take advantage of Starent's packet core at the start, but, by way of example, it will enable the MSO's wireless subscribers to access the Internet and tap into any "walled garden" services that Cox might opt to set up, notes Jon Morgan, Starent's senior director of product marketing.

Thanks to location and presence capabilities, the system could also enable Cox to support applications and services with advertising, according to Morgan.

Cox, which bought its own Advanced Wireless Services spectrum during the 2006 auction, hasn't yet released a launch date for its wireless service, but the Atlanta-based MSO is expected to start offering services later this year using its own 3G network and a virtual network operator-type partnership with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). The MSO has indicated it could start some LTE field trials as early as this year. (See Cox Wireless: Soup to Nuts , Cox Preps Cellular Network, Eyes LTE, SpectrumCo Gets Licenses , and Cox Waxes Wireless .)

Morgan claims the Starent core can migrate to LTE without a forklift upgrade. Carriers "don't need a new hardware platform to go to LTE with us. It's all software [upgradeable]," he says.

Although Starent likely beat out Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. for this piece of Cox's wireless puzzle, the Chinese giant has not been left out. In late March, Huawei won a deal to supply Cox with its "LTE-ready" SingleRAN system and its 3900 base stations. (See Cox, Huawei Make Wireless Connection .)

The other main vendors in the 3G mobile core sector are Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and Nokia Networks .

Cox has also fleshed out its vendor ecosystem by selecting Bridgewater Systems Corp. (Toronto: BWC), for subscriber authorization and authentication products, and BCI Communications Inc. (OTC: BERL), which is on board for cell site acquisition, design, and construction. (See Cox Calls for More Mobile Aid and BCI Gets Busy With Cox's 3G Buildout .)

For Starent, the Cox deal comes on the heels of a strong first quarter, in which the vendor beat revenue expectations and raised its full year earnings projection. It also landed a piece of the action in Verizon Wireless 's LTE plans. (See Starent Blazes Q1 Trail, MWC 2009: Starent Dines on LTE, and After Verizon, What's Starent's Next Move?)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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