Cisco's take on 4G: It's all about video

Cisco is predicting that the advent of 4G services will lead to an explosion of new video applications that will transform telecom service providers into what the company is dubbing "experience providers."

Suraj Shetty, the vice president of marketing for the Cisco Worldwide Service Provider Marketing, said during an interview this week that companies' investments in high-speed wireless broadband technologies such as WiMAX and Long Term Evolution (LTE) will make high-definition video streaming widely available on both fixed and mobile devices. The upshot of this, he said, is that telecom providers will move more into the cable companies' traditional territory by offering more comprehensive video services, while the cable companies will offer improved voice and Internet options that will put them in position to better compete with the telcos.

"One thing that has been very clear from day one is that you could deliver high-definition video over a fiber or a DSL connection but it was never possible to deliver it over the air," he said. "But when 4G comes along, whether it's WiMAX or LTE, it opens up that possibility."

A recent Cisco study on Internet traffic trends projects that 64% of mobile data traffic will be for video by 2013, versus 19% for data services, 10% for peer-to-peer and 7% for audio. The study also says that the projected video traffic will increase four-fold between now and 2012. Shetty said that this coming increase in available video services and applications mirrors what has happened every time new Web services expand their bandwidth capabilities. For instance, he noted that when 56Kbps services came along in the 1990s, it led to an explosion in Web bulletin boards, while peer-to-peer applications mostly came into fruition after carriers began offering 1Mbps services in the early part of the past decade.

"4G has bandwidth capabilities that will allow for 15Mbps one day," he said. "When you have that kind of bandwidth along with quality of service, more and more applications will come along."

Cisco recently scored a big win for its WiMAX routers by striking a deal with Clearwire to supply equipment for its nationwide WiMAX network. Clearwire is currently testing Cisco's Cisco's 7600 series routers, its ONS 15454 and ONS 15310 optical platforms and its ASA Firewalls for certification. Shetty said that this sort of deal fits in with Cisco's broader strategy of providing IP network equipment for 4G networks rather than building out 4G radios of its own.

"Our strategy for 4G is to predominantly focus on IP networks," he said. "We think it's a great technology for when you have to deploy that last mile with a mobile connection."

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