Cisco snaps up wireless wonder

Cisco snaps up wireless wonder

Cisco Systems is looking to offer users as many alternatives as possible for accessing corporate networks and the Internet.

That was the rationale behind Cisco's recent announcement that the company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Clarity Wireless.

Clarity is a developer of microwave wireless communication technology for enterprises and ISPs.

Clarity develops 90Mbps microwave communications systems that operate in long-distance, non-line-of-sight links. By contrast, today's high-speed wireless communications require clear line-of-sight paths between end points, Cisco says.

Cisco had been a minority investor in Clarity. For the past year, Cisco and Clarity have been developing wireless systems that can be integrated with Cisco products.

This acquisition provides Cisco with wireless technology for last-mile applications in multiservice - voice, video and data - networks.

The last mile

The last mile represents the distance between an enterprise and a service provider's point of presence.

According to Cisco, last-mile technologies can be divided into two areas: narrowband, which includes dial access; and broadband, which includes xDSL, cable and wireless technologies.

The Clarity acquisition is "very consistent with Cisco's plan of just covering all the bases when it comes to broadband access", says Scott Heritage, an analyst at Warburg Dillon Read in New York.

"Wireless is another alternative for providing access, so it fits in with Cisco's plan," he says.

Wireless networking has been fairly dormant for the past 18 to 24 months. But Cisco's purchase of Clarity, and Bay Networks' recent acquisition of wireless LAN vendor NetWave, might indicate that users are finally waking up to wireless because of increasingly mobile work forces and their growing reliance on Internet access.

"I don't know if it's a resurgence, but there's more interest now than there was a year or a year and a half ago," Heritage says.

Nonetheless, "it's going to take a while for broadband wireless to happen," he says.

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