MWC 2012: Cisco Touts Small Cell Solution For Operators

Cisco is to offer a “small cell” solution to provide mobile operators with connectivity across heterogeneous networks

Cisco Systems has revealed its Small Cell Gateway that will allow mobile operators to seamlessly manage user activity across heterogeneous networks.

The device was aired at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The unit is based on Cisco’s ASR 5000 Series Mobile Multimedia Core Router, and it integrates 2G/3G/4G LTE and femtocell networks with WiFi networks.

Next Generation Internet

In a 28 February statement, Cisco CEO John Chambers suggested that small cells would “play a critical role in delivering the next-generation mobile Internet.”

Cisco is apparently working with AT&T, Shaw Communications, and other companies on the initiative. In theory, a broad network of access points upgraded to these next-generation hotspots will facilitate connectivity in mobile-heavy areas such as retailers and stadiums.

According to at least one analyst, the move could allow Cisco to compensate for some softness in its current strategy.

“In many camps, Cisco has been undervalued as a mobile infrastructure provider,” Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst at Ovum, wrote in a 28 February research note. “Much of this blame falls in two areas. First, Cisco does not sell a macro base station, the traditional cornerstone of the wireless infrastructure market. Secondly, Cisco has done a poor job marketing itself as a mobile infrastructure provider.”

Cisco’s announcement, he added, is part of a more concerted effort to change its market perception and “recalibrate itself in the mobile infrastructure space.” As a result, the company “now has a much richer story to tell with greater mobile operator focus on small cells and carrier Wi-Fi solutions… and other assets such as backhaul and mobile packet core.”

Data Deluge

In a June 2011 report, Cisco predicted that global Internet traffic will reach 966 exabytes per year by 2015 (an Exabyte equals 1 quintillion bytes), with almost 15 billion network connected-devices such as smartphones, notebooks, tablets, appliances and smart machines.

That will increase the pressure on any and all networks, and clearly lead to an increase in demand for infrastructure capable of handling multiple devices on both Wi-Fi and some combination of 2G/3G/4G LTE. Hence Cisco’s newest foray into small cells.

That need to provide infrastructure will also inevitably bring Cisco and other companies into increased competition.

So far in 2012, Cisco made news when it decided to appeal the European Commission’s approval of Microsoft’s Skype acquisition, potentially kicking off a messy legal battle between tech behemoths. The company claimed it wanted interoperability between its products and those of the combined Microsoft-Skype entity, particularly with regard to the enterprise and small and midsized businesses (SMBs).

How much do you know about smartphones? Take our quiz.