LAS VEGAS – Cisco Systems, the networking industry behemoth, and Sequans Communications, a venture-backed start-up, both displayed their WiMAX roadmaps at the CTIA Wireless show – and both are ready to switch allegiances to LTE if WiMAX doesn’t succeed.
After acquiring WiMAX equipment maker Navini Networks for $330 million last fall, and renaming it the Cisco Systems Broadband Wireless Business Unit, the division is now on track to launch WiMAX hardware with Profile C support later this year. That allows the Access Services Network gateway to interconnect with multiple vendors’ infrastructures, explained John Hindle, director of mobile service provider marketing. Hindle’s vision is to enable high-bandwidth business applications such as on-the-fly mobile video collaboration – and to sell more of Cisco’s traditional hardware along with middleware and security features.
“This is a bit of a new venture for Cisco. This is really our first foray into licensed spectrum and public network types. The one thing we understand is that there are some things we don’t understand. What we want to make sure we get right is how to go out and successfully deploy these things in scale,” Hindle said. Navini had success in emerging markets but Cisco needs to ensure Tier-1 scalability, he noted.
WiMAX can succeed with our without Sprint, Hindle added. “The size of Sprint, they have a big impact on the perception … so people obviously want to listen to them,” he said. But as other companies succeed, the impact of Sprint’s obstacles such as its recently announced deployment delays will be marginalized, he believes.
“Some of our cellular customers say they want to migrate to LTE. … We’re working with most of the big service providers driving the standards,” Hindle said. “We’re looking 5-10 years out as to where the technology’s going to go. They are very, very similar,” but ultimately, “I think that’s going to be a fantastically irrelevant debate.”
Meanwhile, Sequans President Georges Karam said his company’s sales were split evenly between base stations and mobile WiMAX in 2007, but that it will be just 20% for base stations and a massive 80% for mobile this year. The mobile opportunity is what can take Sequans into a public offering someday, he said.
Shorter-term, Sequans in June will offer a new chip with RF, baseband and memory functions all integrated in a 90-nm size. The plans call for 65-nm by the end of this year.
As with Cisco’s Hindle, Karam insists that WiMAX can live without Sprint’s help. “I can sustain my development and maintain my company until Sprint fixes its problems,” he said. But, “We have serious plans to turn this technology to LTE … Our objective is to be ready next whether it’s WiMAX or LTE. Sprint, they need a story,” he said. “It’s more a political game than about technology or anything else.’
Sequans is also developing chip-level integration for Bluetooth and WiFi radios. That is also planned for this summer as long as interference issues can be overcome.