WiMAX radios aren't the business for Cisco any more

In late 2007, Cisco Systems Inc. acquired a WiMAX company called Navini Networks, consuming the smaller competitor's 70 commercial WiMAX deployments, all of the network hardware, and its portfolio of Radio Access Network (RAN) patents. Though Cisco was never exactly hot on WiMAX as a wireless standard, the company saw that the 4G standard was maturing, and made its move into the WiMAX base station business.

At the time, Cisco senior vice president Tony Bates said, "Recently, the WiMAX radio systems to deliver broadband wireless have matured, customers are deploying live networks, and overall investment and demand has increased. Therefore, Cisco views this as the proper time to add licensed WiMAX products to our broadband wireless offer."

Not two years later, though, Cisco says it is halting that business to shift its focus away from radios.

A company spokesperson told FierceBroadbandWireless, "After careful review, our mobility strategy is to focus on providing a radio-agnostic IP end-to-end mobile multimedia services network. Cisco will continue to focus on the packet core and to also focus on investment in radio technologies such as femtocells and Wi-Fi. As part of this decision, we have decided to discontinue designing and building new WiMAX base stations. We believe the best way for Cisco to serve our customers is by delivering value at the edge and the core of our customers' networks."

Rather than focus on a single, isolated radio technology, Cisco is going to push the network-agnostic IP core technologies it acquired last October when it bought Starent networks. Starent's technology supports a much wider range of access technologies such as GSM, CDMA, UMTS, LTE and even WiMAX, and already has a significant number of customers. This way, Cisco can offer technologies to whichever network standards are out there without suffering if one becomes less popular than another.

Sai Subramanian, Director of Product Marketing for Cisco's Wireless Business Group recently said, "We expect to continue to be a significant player in the WiMAX market... just not in the access part of the network."

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