After months of rumors, Cisco confirmed that it has invested in stealth startup Altiostar Networks, which is reportedly working on a cloud-based radio access network (C-RAN) architecture for LTE.
Cisco confirmed to Light Reading that not only is it an investor in Altiostar but Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's mobility business group, is on the startup's board of directors.
Ashraf Dahod, Altiostar's president and CEO, was formerly senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's mobile Internet technology group, which was formed after Cisco acquired Starent Networks in 2009 for $2.9 billion. Dahod had been president and CEO of Starent, which he cofounded in 2000.
Similarly, Altiostar CFO John Delea was formerly a Cisco director of business development, having come to Cisco from Starent. Other members of Altiostar's executive team also share the Cisco-Starent connection.
Little is known about Altiostar's plans. Its website carries the tagline "creating intelligent networks" and offers a very general vision, saying, "Our unique LTE eNodeB is designed to improve quality of experience, enhance spectral efficiency, and significantly reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)."
Light Reading reported that Altiostar may be working on a C-RAN type of architecture to augment cellular network coverage in dense urban environments. In general, C-RAN architectures include centralized baseband-pool processing, remote radio heads and real-time cloud infrastructures. However, Altiostar's approach is rumored to include synchronized microcells rather than RRHs.
Speculating on why Cisco might be interested in Altiostar's rumored technology, Peter Jarich, vice president of consumer and infrastructure at Current Analysis, wrote in a December post on the Current Analysis Network Matter Blog, "Cisco's interests in new LTE RAN R&D would align well with C-RAN architectures."
Jarich, a FierceWireless contributor, added: "Ubiquisys gave Cisco the assets to deliver small-cell base stations. Intucell gave it a play in the macrocell RAN from a SON and optimization standpoint. This leaves it without a real macrocell base station play; Altiostar could be a solution."
At the time of his blog post, it was rumored though unconfirmed that Cisco had a connection to Altiostar. But Jarich noted that if it turned out Cisco did have a relationship with the startup, that would "confirm that Cisco is serious about mobility in a way that many operators would have doubted just a few years back."
Altiostar may be close to launching commercial product. Four months ago, the company posted an ad on LinkedIn looking for a service delivery manager to support lab and field trials in Mexico City. The preferred candidate needed to have "significant experience in RF and eNodeB lab testing and optimization" and have previously "worked with the wireless operators in Mexico."
The Boston Business Journal reported last August that Altiostar, which is based in Tewksbury, Mass., reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had recently raised $50 million in new funding. The startup, which was formerly named Radio Mobile Access, also reported raising $10.5 million in March 2013 and $9.5 million in April 2012, according to the news report.
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