Cisco Ties 5G to... Everything


By: Michael Vizard

BARCELONA -- Cisco (CSCO) arrived here at the Mobile World Congress 2018 conference this week with a lot to prove and potentially lose. As service providers continue to invest in networking technologies to drive next-generation 5G networking services to enable a broader array of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, many of them are trying to strike a balance between investments in open versus proprietary networking technologies.

Advocates of open networking contend building and deploying commercial networking hardware is prohibitively expensive. As the largest provider of networking equipment to carriers, Cisco begs to differ. Cisco contends stitching together and supporting multiple open-source technologies is the very definition of prohibitively expensive.

At the MWC conference, Cisco launched a 5G Now initiative anchored around a new Cisco NCS-500 Series of 10/100 Gigabit access routers that come in 1ru and 2ru form factors and a Cisco SONFlex Studio that presents a drag-and-drop interface through which self-organizing network (SON) application programming interfaces (APIs) can be invoked. All told, Cisco says it is working with 20 different service providers on 5G networking projects.

Cisco also launched an open virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) project to drive next-generation mobile wireless networking services in collaboration with Reliance Jio, Altiostar, Aricent, Intel, Mavenir, Phazr, Red Hat, and Tech Mahindra.

In addition, Cisco today announced that Cisco Jasper Control Center for NB-IoT is now generally available. Based on the Narrow Band for IoT communications standard, the Cisco implementation is intended to enable organizations to manage IoT deployments in a way that makes it possible to capture and analyze data, says Sanjay Khatri, global head of platform product marketing at Cisco.

“Most organizations today are only getting a fraction of the value out of their IoT data,” says Khatri.

Among the largest users of Cisco Jasper Control Center for NB-IoT is China Telecom, which Khatri credits with helping to jointly develop the platform. This week, Cisco also revealed it is working on NB-IoT projects with Altice Portugal.

Cisco also this week announced a new IoT alliance with Telenor as well as revealing a 5G networking project with Saudi Telecom Company. Cisco also announced it is working on a content delivery network (CDN) project with Reliance Jio and that SFR, a subsidiary of the Altice Group, is now employing Cisco orchestration software to automate network operations. Finally, Cisco also touted a network slicing project it is working on with Vodafone and a security services project it is collaborating on with TIM and a SON project with Bharti Airtel.

Clearly, Cisco stills holds a lot of sway with service providers. Less clear is to what degree many of those same service providers are also experimenting with rival free open-source technologies to hedge their bets.