Despite its immersion in WiMAX as a strategic 4G offering via the Navini Networks acquisition and deep involvement with Clearwire, Cisco also plans to play in the LTE space — no doubt due to the selection of LTE by deep-pocketed customers Verizon and AT&T for their 4G buildouts.
Cisco claims to be “LTE ready” today by offering 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. Kittur Nagesh, senior director of Worldwide Service Provider marketing at Cisco, would not say when that will be but he added that it will be in early field trials with mobile operators late this year.
Cisco also plans to offer an “LTE readiness assessment service” to integrate its gateway with a packet data node (PDN) and mobility management entity (MME), the control plane for radio access. Nagesh says Cisco will supply the LTE gateway and PDN (7600 router) as well, 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.”
Nagesh says 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,” he says.
This may also bleed over into Cisco's femtocell strategy. Cisco is currently piloting a femtocell “solution” with major players, Nagesh says, and that we should see an announcement soon on Cisco's overall strategy. He says it will mesh with the vendor's connected home/connected business initiatives to support unified communications, video and collaboration applications — for example, a coverage augmentation for Cisco's WebEx Connect offering.
Nagesh shied away from disclosing which radio technology would be supported with Cisco's initial femto offering but did say that there's a “compelling reason for a 3G femto” and then extending it to new radio technologies “as they become popular.”
But as far as a “boxing match” between WiMAX and LTE, Nagesh says that standoff was contrived by we in the media.
“We believe each technology has a role to play,” he says. “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.”