Cisco is primarily known for its switches and routers for service providers and enterprises. It has not been a big competitor in the radio access networking space against vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia. But, on its fiscal Q3 2019 earnings call this week, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins mentioned “wired and wireless” networking a few times.
“We are moving into an era of truly immersive and pervasive wireless connectivity, which generates demand for high density, low latency performance, for real-time experiences over both wired and wireless networks,” said Robbins, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “Our guys like to say behind every great wireless network is a great wired network,”
In fact, the company has been hired by Rakuten to help it build its new greenfield mobile network in Japan. Cisco is building Rakuten’s network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi) with 4,000 edge nodes. In addition to software, Cisco is delivering routing and switching hardware. And Cisco is also the primary systems integrator for Rakuten’s virtualized telco cloud.
On its earnings call, Robbins said, “With our newest Catalyst 9000 family additions, we have completed the most comprehensive enterprise networking portfolio refresh in our history. We have rebuilt our entire access portfolio with intent-based networking across wired and wireless.”
Robbins also mentioned 5G, saying Cisco is helping telcos build out their core networks ahead of large-scale 5G rollouts. Although Cisco is already selling packet core technology to carriers for their new 5G networks, “the big play for us is when they begin to evolve their networks to accommodate the traffic,” he said. “And we've always said we felt like that would be sometime in calendar 2020."
Carriers are leveraging their existing core networks to run the early trials on 5G. "We believe that sometime in the future when the number of connections increases and the capacity gets to a point, then they're obviously going to begin to build out these new backbones dedicated to the 5G infrastructure, where we will generally come into play,” he said.
Although Robbins focused on telcos' core networks in the earnings call, the company has investments in Altiostar, a startup that has developed RAN virtualization technology. Altiostar is also working with Rakuten.
Finally, Robbins talked a bit on the earnings call about Wi-Fi 6. Cisco recently announced new Wi-Fi 6 access points across its Catalyst and Meraki portfolios, as well as the Catalyst 9600 core switch family.
“Wi-Fi 6 is effectively what used to be called 802.11ax,” said Robbins. “And, what's happening now is when you get these high-performance access points into the organizations and you get the low latency immersive experience possibilities, then it's also going to drive the need to upgrade the backbones.