Cisco enters muni-WiFi market

We wrote a few weeks ago that the war over muni-WiFi is essentially over (but for the grumbling), and that the incumbents lost. What better proof of that than Cisco's decision to enter the municipal wireless market with wireless mesh products in cities in Ohio and Oregon? When we think about Cisco, adjectives such as "quick-footed" and "nimble" are not the first ones to leap to mind. But the company's strategists are smart, and metro-wide wireless is a growing industry, with US cities estimated to have spent about $76.5 million on wireless networks in 2005. Analysts say that the number will likely jump 430 percent to $405.6 million in 2007. Yes, Cisco is known for wire-line routers and switches, but the municipal market is proving too tempting.

The company's first wireless mesh product, the Aironet 1500, will use two radios and can be placed on rooftops, light posts and power poles in cities. The company also announced several other wireless products, including a wireless switch, a WLAN controller and a wireless protocol for large-scale deployments. Cisco will deploy Aironet across the 55 sq. mi. of Dayton, OH. The small town of Lebanon, OR, has also begun deploying Cisco's mesh product and says it is 40 percent completed. The University of California, Berkeley served as the test area for the technology and the company had installed 11 APs which handled 100 users on campus at any time.

Other companies already in the field should eye Cisco's move with some anxiety. It is true that Tropos, BelAir and Strix Systems have a two- or three-year advantage in selling wireless mesh hardware to cities, but Cisco's brand name and deep pockets will help it compensate for its late start. Strix Systems' VP Cyrus Irani does not mince words: "When Cisco enters a market, any company that says they don't pick up and think twice is lying."

For more on Cisco's muni-WiFi move:
- see this Red Herring report

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