Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014
The networking giant plans to trial multimode small cells -- tiny base stations that pack in 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi -- with more than one service provider at the end of this year, and they will go live in early 2014, Partho Mishra, VP and GM of Cisco's small cell technology group, confirmed to Light Reading in a telepresence briefing at Cisco's Rosemont, Ill., office.
Cisco's big push into small cells didn't come until this year when it acquired self-optimizing network (SON) provider Intucell in January and LTE small cell vendor Ubiquisys in April. Mishra said that with these two companies under its belt, multimode small cells will be relatively easy to build. (See Cisco to Buy AT&T's Favorite SON Startup and Cisco Buying Ubiquisys for $310M.) "The 3G and Wi-Fi pieces are mature," Mishra said. "The work we are doing is on LTE on the access side and core network infrastructure side. It's all available today with our packet core, so we can reuse that."
As the company moves to multimode, it's still focusing on areas where network congestion is most acute, such as indoor venues. Mishra said that Cisco will use Intucell's SON technology to tackle the non-trivial issue of dynamically selecting which network to use and avoiding interference when a mobile device latches on to a multimode small cell. (See Multimode Small Cells Get Stalled in Labs.)
The company hasn't said which service providers it is working with, but AT&T Inc. is a good bet as it's supplied AT&T with 3G femtocells since 2009. Plus, AT&T has said it will have multimode small cells on the market in 2014. Verizon Wireless has also been rumored to be a potential customer for Cisco. (See 3G, 4G & Wi-Fi: AT&T Plans Small Cell Threesome and Cisco: A Verizon 4G Small Cell Provider?)
Cisco plans to continue to grow its small cell strategy organically, but it's not opposed to making more acquisitions in the name of progress. Mishra said the company does a good job of integrating acquired technology into existing product lines, and it plans to continue to do this with small cells to address gaps in key "transport and service" areas. "In the areas of small cells, we've done five acquisitions in the past year and spent close to $2 billion," he said. "We're not shy about making an investment to make the market happen."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading