Cisco’s intros public gear

Cisco Systems Inc. has joined its comrades and competitors alike in offering public network-based equipment, a move that one industry insider said is “good” for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based gear maker.

Cisco’s new mobile solution works by providing broadband wireless access across a municipality to public sector agencies including state and federal agencies, the public safety sector and the transportation and public works departments, according to the company.

The mobile solution is a mixture of new and existing products, explained Jon Leary, product line manager for Cisco’s Wireless Networking Business Unit. The key introduction is that of the 802.11 Wireless Mobile Interface Card for the Cisco 3200 Wireless and Mobile Router, which was released at the same time as the complete metropolitan solution in late June. The card supports IEEE 802.11b/g for wireless local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) access.

Released in May, the Cisco Aironet 1300 Series Outdoor Access Point and Bridge is used in the solution as a counter part to the 802.11 wireless module that was created for the mobile and access router, Leary noted.

What they are doing with their 802.11b/g access — which is usually provided by companies including Lucent Technologies Co., and Motorola Inc. — is making it possible to take a mobile device from a municipal government office into a vehicle and have the networking gear switch over and adapt to the various frequencies, explained Roberta Fox, president and senior partner at Fox Group Consulting in Markham, Ont.

“They are extending their network reach from the enterprises over to the public space and back,” Fox added.

Cisco’s solution would work well for organizations such as municipal government offices that already have Cisco gear in their buildings and would then only have to “stick an air card in a device [which would allow] their people to move freely across public and private areas,” she added. “[Cisco is] allowing their customers’ networks to be extended without changing devices.”

When used in vehicles, Cisco said its 3200 Series Wireless and Mobile Routers along with the new integrated Wireless Mobile Interface Card create a network made up of several mobile technologies including laptops, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and video surveillance cameras. This network would maintain wireless connectivity as the vehicles move between Wi-Fi and cellular coverage areas, Cisco explained.

As well as having the ability to drift between different coverage areas without dropping the signal, Cisco’s new integrated 802.11 capabilities also makes it possible for the technology to be deployed in fixed locations including light poles and roof tops.

When developing locations for fixed wireless access, Cisco has spent quite a bit of time doing significant integrating with some of its partners in the area of traffic signal control, explained Cisco’s Leary.

The mobile access router is able to integrate into a traffic signal controller that would be mounted on a traffic light pole and essentially it would be able to monitor the status of all the data that is associated with that traffic light as well as provide a interface for security cameras, Leary said. It could also provide multiple back haul interfaces for bringing that control information back to a central location, he added.

“In the past what has been done is an individual community or city may lease a T1 line or a fractional T1 line out to each traffic light to do this control function,” Leary explained. “Which if you expand over a large community, can actually get to be fairly cost prohibitive.”

With prices ranging from US$1,299 for the Cisco Aironet 1300 Series Outdoor access point and bridge to US$3,650 for the Cisco 3200 Series Wireless and Mobile Router and Mobile Interface Card, Fox said she “was surprised how low the prices are.”

“The last time I installed this kind of stuff you couldn’t get anything wireless for less than $10,000 to $15,000,” Fox said. “That was in the nineties but still, I was quite surprised by the pricing.”