Cisco’s planned purchase of Ubiquisys, a U.K.-based intelligent small cell software provider, is the latest move in a buying spree that positions the Wi-Fi router maker to be a player in the small cell RAN space. The Ubiquisys acquisition, valued at $300 million, follows the purchases of Intucell and BroadHop in January of this year, and the November 2012 acquisition of Cariden.
Ubiquisys provides mobile operators with intelligent multimode LTE/3G/WiFi small cells cell software platforms. Intucell brings a self-optimizing mobile network management solution to Cisco, and BroadHop has a policy control solution that enables carriers to control converged networks. Integrated traffic management, network design and planning are the domain of Cariden.
Ubiquisys was ranked as the number one access point vendor for enterprise and residential small cells by ABI Research in March, with Alcatel-Lucent and ip.access placing second and third place respectively. “Already first in our recent competitive assessment, Cisco will compete further in the small-cell space with its acquisition of Ubiquisys. In combining Intucell’s self-optimizing networks (SON) and BroadHop’s policy management technologies with Ubiquisys’ small-cell access points, Cisco signals its coming to traditional mobile-infrastructure vendors,” according to ABI Research.
Jared Headley, director of service provider mobility at Cisco, said the purchase of Ubiquisys was a component of the company’s $2 billion “build, buy and invest strategy” during the last nine months, according to an interview in ThinkSmallCell.
The small-cell solution designed by Ubiquisys adds dynamic intelligence at the edge of the network enabling service providers to better monetize and optimize their mobile networks.
“Ubiquisys’ indoor small-cell expertise and focus on intelligent software for licensed 3G and LTE spectrum, coupled with Cisco’s mobility portfolio and Wi-Fi expertise, will enable a comprehensive small-cell solution for service providers that supports the transition to next-generation radio access networks,” said Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president and general manager, Cisco Mobility Business Group, in prepared statement.
Cisco is now attacking the mobility market with an end-to-end product portfolio that includes integrated, licensed and unlicensed small cell solutions, which are coupled with SON and backhaul.
“Cisco’s acquisition of Ubiquisys gives it some serious in-house credibility around indoor small cells. If there was any doubt that Cisco was serious about the space or a potential threat to RAN vendors in the small-cell space, that ends now,” according to a tweet by Current Analysis. Ed Gubbins, senior analyst, mobile access infrastructure, Current Analysis, added that he felt the purchase was important because Ubiquisys helped develop the 3G small cell debuted by Cisco earlier this year.
Begun in 2004, Ubiquisys focused on very small cells that dynamically adapted to the changing conditions to complement to macro networks, then known as femtocells. That technology became the foundation public-access small cells and small cell SONs.
Will Franks, Ubiquisys CTO and co-founder, said the company was founded on the idea that cellular networks needed to catch up with the capabilities of cell phones. The timing was right. Three years later the iPhone blew the roof off of AT&T’s data capacity.
“We went ahead and solved the cost, scalability, usability and the flaky backhaul challenges that the cellular industry of the time had not begun to address,” Franks wrote. “At the core of our inventions were miniature cellular base stations that were intelligent enough to think for themselves – to enable dense deployments without interference problems, and to enable autonomous self-organizing networks and heterogeneous networks. This was the birth of the femtocell; now grown up and known as the small cell.”
Network Challenges Demand Intelligence
Intelligent small cells are the key for carriers to add capacity to their networks, according to Franks, as they struggle to get the most out of their limited spectrum blocks. And now as intelligent indoor small cells join with macro networks, demand is increasing for heterogeneous network compatibility.
“Small cells and macro cells are becoming increasingly dynamic, and increasingly coordinated by central SON systems that in turn dynamically adapt the policies that each network needs to follow,” Franks wrote. “Intelligent small cells, and local SONs of small cells, make autonomous decisions based on local conditions, and central SON management like that provided by Intucell (also acquired by Cisco) provides the umbrella of dynamic self-organization across the macro and the small cell domains.”