Cisco pushes broadband

Cisco Systems Inc. Wednesday made some bold pronouncements for the value of broadband access in an effort to proliferate service rollout and stimulate demand for its products, including some announced this week.

Claiming that broadband is the "key enabler" for new multimedia applications and bundled services demanded by enterprises, Cisco officials said they are working with governmental bodies and stimulating competition between incumbent carriers and multicable system operators (MSO) in order to maintain or increase the rate of adoption of broadband connections. Though broadband has reached 10 percent adoption among consumers as fast or faster than other technologies -- such as PCs, cell phones and VCRs - Cisco officials say it is still unknown how long it will take broadband connections like cable, DSL and Ethernet to reach 50 percent adoption.

The four years it took broadband to reach 10 percent adoption is "good," says Mike Volpi, senior vice president of Cisco's routing technology group. "But we need do some work to keep up the adoption pace."

Cisco is hoping its several new broadband products will help in that regard. The new products include scalability and density enhancements for its 7200, 7400 and 10000 series routers; a mobile access router; and an IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN access point.

Cisco doubled the session capacity of the 7200 and 7400 routers with enhanced ATM OC-3 and DS-3 port adapters. These adapters will improve the routers' ability to aggregate broadband connections, Cisco says.

The adapters will be available in November at prices starting at US$8,000 apiece.

The company also unveiled an eight-port ATM DS-3 interface module and high-density Fast Ethernet line card for the 10000 series router. Cisco claims these new products for the 10000 series will enable the router to offer the industry's highest subscriber density for broadband aggregation.

Pricing for these products starts at $20,000, and they too will be available in November.

The new mobile access router is called the Cisco 3200. It is designed for moving vehicles, such as airplanes, ships, tanks and trains, Cisco says.

The 3200 supports the Mobile IP standard for wireless roaming by IP clients, and a Cisco-proprietary software feature called Mobile Networks. Cisco says Mobile Networks enables an entire network to stay connected while in motion, not just a single client.

The 3200 also features firewall filtering and encrypted VPN support for security.

Cisco did not disclose pricing or availability of the 3200.

The wireless LAN access point is called the Aironet 1100. It's the first Cisco wireless LAN access point to be based on Cisco IOS routing software, the company says.

Its IOS features include the ability to provide virtual LAN participation and segregation, quality-of-service and Mobile IP roamability, Cisco says. Aironet 1100 users can deploy up to 16 VLAN segments to differentiate services, such as security and QoS, for different users, Cisco says.

The 1100 is designed for field upgradeability to the 54M bit/sec IEEE 802.11g standard, and enhanced encryption.

The Aironet 1100 costs $599 and ships this month. Cisco's other wireless LAN offering, the Aironet 1200, will support IOS software in the first quarter of 2003, Cisco says.

Despite these product incentives, Cisco still has its work cut out for it in facilitating widespread deployment and implementation of broadband access and aggregation, analysts say. Cisco needs to make the case that broadband is an essential business tool, they say.

"They have to follow the telephone model," says Robin Layland, an independent consultant in West Hartford, Conn. "Everyone's got to have one, and everyone's got to be in the Yellow Pages. They need to form a community Internet -- apply the Yellow Pages logic and make it easy for the community to get together. They have an uphill battle until they provide a vision of why people should care."

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