Cisco could become 4G Leader: WiMax and Now LTE

Cisco already had it’s underlying technology of WiMAX with their previous acquisition of Navini Networks and involvement with Service Provider Clearwire, Cisco now plans to explore and play in the LTE space.

Why? —

LTE is one of several all-IP radio access technologies that will enable the Mobile Internet. The others include HSPA and EV-DO for paired licensed spectrum, WiMAX for unpaired licensed spectrum, and Wi-Fi in the unlicensed bands. LTE is being developed as part of an industry-wide effort to stay ahead of the tremendous growth in mobile data traffic.

LTE is an Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA)-based radio access technology that has been highly optimized for packet traffic. The Serving Gateway (SGW) will be primarily tasked with issues related to micro-mobility and the PDN gateway is the IP point-of-attachment for mobile users. Cisco will be building both Serving and PDN gateways.

Cisco, today, offers a mobile gateway on its 7600 series routers by way of the Service and Application Module for IP (SAMI). But they will not be LTE gateway capable until LTE-specific software is available for it. Whatever the case is, Cisco calls themselves LTE Ready, though their SAMI is incomplete solution.

Senior director of Worldwide SP marketing at Cisco, Nagesh, doesn’t yet tell when that will be, but he added that it will be in early field trials with mobile operators later this year.

That ain’t all, Cisco plans to offer a “LTE readiness assessment service” to integrate its gateway with a packet data node (PDN) and mobility management entity (MME), which forms the ControlPlane for wireless access. Cisco will supply the LTE gateway and PDN (7600 router), but rely on third-party LTE RAN vendors for the MME. The result will be a “single, unified LTE solution” pulled together by Cisco, Nagesh says: “We won’t just go as a (LTE) gateway.”

Cisco’s interest and imminent involvement in LTE does not conflict with its immersion in WiMAX. “Our strategy is to be radio aware, or agnostic,” Nagesh claims.

Cisco is currently experimenting a femtocell solution with Big-fish and we should see an announcement soon on Cisco’s overall strategy. It will mesh with the vendor’s connected home/connected business initiatives to support unified communications, video and collaboration applications — e.g. a coverage augmentation for Cisco’s Telepresence, Unified communications  WebEx Connect offering.

The current 4G plan can blend into Cisco’s femtocell strategy.

As per cisco:

“We believe each technology has a role to play. WiMAX is ahead since it was built end-to-end IP. But Clearwire is building a lot of LTE capabilities even though the RAN is WiMAX. It doesn’t matter if it’s WiMAX or LTE on the RAN side. How will operators make money out of their spectrum assets? The challenge of figuring out the business model is still at play.”

• In the future we plan to allow our mobile gateway applications to be more easily ported onto service modules that run on a variety of our high-end edge routers. This gives operators far more flexibility in their choice of a platform to host the gateway function.

• We are announcing our intention to develop LTE gateway functionality. We will support operators that are migrating from a CDMA environment as well as those migrating from a GSM/UMTS environment. Our plan is to develop both Serving and PDN gateways. Our gateways will be built on the SAMI module, the only shipping LTE-ready platform in the industry.

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