Cisco may buy WiMAX player

Cisco keeps mum but has said before it will stick to IP

Cisco Systems is close to buying a company that makes WiMAX base stations, according to an industry report. The move would be Cisco's first foray into the wireless technology.

Cisco, by far the largest networking equipment maker, would not comment on the report, but a spokesman did refer to Cisco's online position paper on WiMAX.

The paper notes: "WiMAX will be one of several high-speed wireless WAN technologies seeing broad deployment ... [and] Cisco has no current plans to build WiMAX base stations or base stations using any other WAN radio access technology."

The paper notes that Cisco will work with partners and also provide IP technology for next-generation base stations. Partners will provide the radio components. Also, Cisco plans to provide IP infrastructure to network the base stations together, the paper says.

The wireless news site Unstrung has reported that two unnamed industry sources said a purchase could take place in a matter of weeks and that Cisco had narrowed down the potential list of targets to four companies: Alvarion, Aperto Networks, Navini Networks -- which made the technology used by Australian wireless broadband provider Unwired -- and Redline Communications.

Craig Mathias, an industry analyst at The Farpoint Group, said that a deal makes sense but it's not essential for Cisco to be involved more directly in WiMAX. He said any of the four companies being named would be solid choices. Mathias said he had not heard any rumours, however.

"Every company is on Cisco's list to buy all the time," he noted. "They buy according to what's going to provide the biggest return on investment."

Last month, Cisco announced plans to buy Cognio to acquire its wireless network management technology. That would be Cisco's first acquisition for its current fiscal year but purchase number 122 overall.

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