Cisco confirmed its intention to dominate the airwaves again last week when it bought Australian wireless developer Radiata for $567 million of Cisco stock. Radiata, which originally grew out of wireless projects at Macquarie University and the CSIRO, provides Cisco with technology for high-speed wireless connectivity of up to 54Mbps.
The company develops semiconductor chipsets within the IEEE 802.11a standard that operates in the unlicensed 5GHz frequency range. Radiata's products, including its Baseband Processor and Radio chips, will be integrated into Cisco's Aironet wireless LAN products, said a statement released by Cisco.
However, Cisco currently ships the Aironet 340 Series based on the more popular IEEE 802.11b standard, which is limited to data throughputs of 11Mbps.
Cisco is not taking a punt on the 802.11a standard over 802.11b, claims Tom Garvey, manager of business development for Cisco, but rather is supporting both to "give our customers more choice".
Within hours of the announcement made last Tuesday, analysts had started chiming in with comment and opinion. IDC Australia's research manager, Joel Martin, claims Radiata's high throughput speeds and low-cost pricepoint makes it an attractive buy for the acquisition hungry vendor.
"Cisco is expecting to leverage this investment - much as other companies leverage internal investments in research and development - to add high bandwidth services to wireless devices," Martin said.
What's more, Martin claims Radiata's products are geared towards internal integration with other devices - rather than plug-and-play additions to existing devices - not limited to PCs and PDAs.
"The company differentiates itself by offering wireless communications solutions able to support higher quality streaming media, voice and data. Moreover, its low cost of implementation means the chipset can easily be integrated in next generation Internet appliances without negatively affecting the price point, an aspect very attractive to consumer electronics manufactures," Martin said in a prepared statement last week.
"Customers may well begin to see a Cisco Powered' moniker on the next home appliance they purchase," claims Martin.
But Garvey doesn't agree. He claims that while Cisco will be looking at partnering with consumer electronic manufacturers, it would probably be a case of licensing the chipset technology. "This hasn't been figured out yet," said Garvey. "We've still got a bit of time to wait for that."
Garvey claims Cisco is looking to release adaptors and bridges by Cisco's Q3 in fiscal 2001, with appliance-based product possibly available by late 2002.
The big opportunity for the channel, according to Garvey, is in boning up on Radio Frequency (RF) skills in order to sell the new offerings.
"The same Cisco salesperson, or channel salesperson, who is selling routers will be able to say I'll give you a couple of access points as well, or a few network interface cards'," Garvey said. "These guys won't have to be RF experts but they will have to know a bit about it."
Radiata's 53 staff will join Cisco's Wireless Networking Business Unit of the Ethernet Access Group.
Prior to the sale, Cisco already owned 11 per cent of Radiata and will finalise its purchase in the second quarter of Cisco's fiscal year 2001.