Clearwire and Cisco on Wednesday announced an alliance designed to expand 4G mobile WiMAX services throughout the U.S., with Cisco as its national core Internet infrastructure provider.
Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) also unveiled plans to build new consumer and small-business mobile WiMAX devices for Clearwire’s (NASDAQ: CLWR) 4G mobile WiMAX service, marketed under the name Clear.
As part of a multiyear network build-out plan with Cisco, Clearwire’s 4G mobile WiMAX service will be available in major metropolitan areas, with service slated for 80 markets by the end of 2010, according to the company, which currently provides mobile WiMAX in Baltimore, Md., and in Portland, Ore.
In addition, Cisco is aiming to introduce its first mobile WiMAX device later this year. Future Cisco WiMAX- and Wi-Fi-enabled devices are targeted to include products from the networking giant’s Linksys line of consumer routers.
“By teaming with Cisco, one of the world’s most forward-looking IP network infrastructure providers, we’re building a robust and cost-efficient next-generation network that’s designed specifically for delivering rich broadband services,” Scott Richardson, Clearwire’s chief strategy officer, said in a statement.
Through the partnership, Cisco and Clearwire’s are betting on the future growth of mobile data traffic — a bet that seems reasonable if trends in usage continue as smartphones and mobile-enabled PCs proliferate.
A single, high-end smartphone today generates more data traffic than 30 basic-feature cell phones, while a single laptop connecting to a carrier network generates more data traffic than 450 basic-feature cell phones, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Mobile Forecast for 2008-2013.
Cisco also projected that mobile data traffic will increase a thousand-fold over the seven years from 2005 through 2012, with video being a significant component.
“Clearwire’s ecosystem of partners, coupled with our all-IP, next-generation network, will deliver a true mobile broadband experience,” Ned Hooper, a senior vice president for Cisco’s corporate development and consumer business, said in a statement. “In addition, incorporating WiMAX into our products will help enable people to move freely throughout the United States, while maintaining continuous connectivity to personalized applications and services.”
For its network, Clearwire is now in the process of the testing and certifying the Cisco Internet Protocol Next-Generation Network (IP NGN) architecture, which includes Cisco 7600 Series Internet routers, Cisco ONS 15454 and Cisco ONS 15310 platforms, Cisco ASA Firewalls and the Cisco Service and Application Module for IP (SAMI) Home Agent.
Clearwire’s $14.5 billion WiMAX project is a partnership between Sprint (NYSE: S) and Clearwire, with a total of $3.2 billion chipped in by Intel, Googl , Comcast , Time Warner Cable , and cable provider Bright House Networks.
The goal: offering customers high speed wireless connectivity that trumps Wi-Fi and other networking standards such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE), the 4G networking approach favored by rival Verizon Wireless.
On the LTE front, Verizon Wireless is touting its own time-frame. The company expects to begin LTE deployment later this year in a few markets and plans to roll it out to 25 or 30 markets in 2010, with the expectation of faster expansion thereafter.
Verizon also plans to open what it’s calling an “LTE Innovations Center” later this year, where the carrier will help product developers assess the potential for various types of products that connect to Verizon’s planned 4G LTE network.
Despite a souring economic climate, some industry watchers remain upbeat about the potential of WiMAX adoption. ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis said growth will be more modest for WiMAX base stations by themselves for 2009, but 2010 will see healthy expansion.
“To ignore a growth market in a down economy would be a mistake,” Solis said.