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Cisco in bid to make cellnets like sci-fi


Published: 2 March, 2012


If you are an avid sci-fi reader and have happened across the work of Iain M Banks, you will know that many of the people in his fabled Culture, have floating cyborg friends (think iPad) which communicate with the rest of the universe in a somehow magical way. When we thought about this, we just assumed it would use wireless and devices which dynamically range up and down the spectrum until they find enough of the most appropriate spectrum, and use it.

Well it's a bit like that in the visions being painted by all and sundry at the Mobile World Congress this week, with the idea that cellular base stations will sit alongside WiFi access points, in many cases with the same kind of reach, and use all manner of cellular and WiFi spectrum, all at once.

Of course in order to do that, there will need to be a huge number of standards, detailed methods for handing off from one spectrum to another, and certainly and lot of clever work on avoiding interference. But Cisco has decided to throw its hat firmly in the ring and try to partner with both operators and cellular equipment suppliers to provide some of the management process in the cloud, some of the backhaul management, and much of the WiFi for such an arrangement.

Cisco said it has built the first carrier gateway which implements the Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) standards, which standards automate authentication, security and roaming across cellular and Wi-Fi networks to create a transparent experience for the user. It can also allow the cellco to dip into the WiFi management, so that it can track the shift from cellular spectrum to WiFi and back and give these cellcos tools to manage the process.

Cisco says that AT&T and 6 other operators are already trialing this platform, which combines an NGH hotspot, connected to a small cell gateway which can work with 2G, 3G or LTE, as well as WiFi. The system aggregates the various networks and hands off seamlessly between them, and ensures that services like video streaming remain uninterrupted at the application level. Other trials are at BT, Hong Kong's PCCW, Canada's Shaw Communications, Portugal Telecom, Smart in the Philippines, and Thailand's TrueMove H.

If you would like more details on this audacious move by Cisco, go to and order our special MWC issue of Wireless Watch.

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