Cisco chief confirms LTE small cell ambitions

16 Nov 2012

ITEM: Whilst discussing Cisco Systems’ Q1 results on a conference call Tuesday, CEO John Chambers confirmed the company is getting into the small-cell business.

Chambers said the company intends to build on the success of its Wi-Fi access points business, which raked in $100 million in Q1 – small by Cisco’s standards, but a number double from the same quarter a year ago, Network World reports:

"Then, we're going to move into small cell, and then we're going to combine small cell with [service-provider] Wi-Fi, with 3G, with 4G, with our architectural plays," Chambers said. While specifying that Cisco won't make "traditional" base stations, the large radios that are typically found on towers, he said Cisco would make the kinds of base stations designed to go on top of light poles.

Cisco’s interest in small cells isn’t too surprising – it’s been touting a small-cell solution since February (it’s Wi-Fi, but that counts as “small cell” these days), and small cell business development manager John Murray said in July that small cells were a “priority” for Cisco.

Also, while Cisco has been targeting cellcos for some time with end-to-end infrastructure solutions for the all-IP world of LTE, the RAN segment is the biggest gap in its portfolio.

Cisco’s track record with wireless access has been patchy – it bought Wimax player Navini Networks in 2007, only to shut down the business three years later.

But with small cells and heterogeneous networks (which include Wi-Fi) now a key focus of activity for LTE planning, this is as good a time as any for Cisco to jump in, even if a number of companies are already ahead of Cisco on the small-cell front.

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