Cisco Rolls Broadband Wireless Into Branch Office Routers

3G broadband WLAN Router

The company on Tuesday unveiled the wireless wares, including new interface cards and modules for the ISR line, at the CTIA Wireless 2007 conference in Orlando, Fla.

"This is one more example of Cisco providing an opportunity for channel partners to go out and upgrade our routers," said John Growdon, director of routers and switches for worldwide channels at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

Partners can use the new products to target Cisco's installed based of more than 2 million ISRs and as incentives to coax customers to upgrade from its extensive base of older 1700, 2600 and 3700 routers to the ISR platform, he said.

Although 3G broadband services have been primarily a consumer play, they now are gaining traction in the enterprise space as customers look to replace ISDN backup links with lower-cost options, said Henry Vinton, product manager at Cisco.

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"It's really an ISDN replacement technology," Vinton said, noting that 3G wireless data services typically cost less and can be deployed more quickly than ISDN services. "The interest [in broadband wireless services] we've seen from our customer base has been nothing short of overwhelming."

The new Cisco 3G Wireless High-Speed WAN Interface Cards (HWICs) will give customers the option of rolling out CDMA- and GSM-based broadband wireless services from carriers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, all of which have been testing the new cards.

Cisco expects most customers to choose 3G wireless services as backup links, but some will use it for primary connectivity for certain applications, such as retailers that want kiosks in the middle of a shopping mall where no wired connectivity is available, or emerging markets where terrestrial infrastructure has not yet been installed, said Inbar Lasser-Raab, director of enterprise router marketing at Cisco.

The interface cards will be available in June for $850 on modular ISRs, including the 1841, 2800 and 3800 models.

In addition to other WAN interface options, the router family also includes integrated support for security, VoIP, WAN optimization and WLAN services.

On the WLAN front, Cisco also is rolling out a new Wireless LAN Controller Module (WLCM) for the ISR family that can centrally manage up to 12 access points, double the scalability of its predecessor. Set to ship in May, the WLCM will be available in two models, a version that supports up to eight access points for $4,750 and a version for up to 12 access points for $6,500.