The convergence of wired and wireless networks is becoming increasingly important to the economics of operators, from supporting multiplay services, to offering a more flexible approach to the cost:capacity ratio in the access and transport layers. This opens up opportunities for cablecos and telcos to secure new revenues from mobile operators, and is also driving mergers of fixed and wireless providers, and of their suppliers.Nokia’s acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent was driven by convergence. Nokia had made a strategic decision to concentrate only on mobile broadband infrastructure, but with integration of fixed and wireless links becoming critical to many customers, ALU brought a valuable portfolio in fixed IP equipment. In 5G, that convergence will have to be truly seamless, putting a huge premium on fiber assets.Other, smaller acquisitions will result from the need for fixed-line and cable operators to have wireless networks, and for MNOs to have fiber and cable. One asset which is on the table is the IP networking business of Brocade, following its own acquisition by chip giant Broadcom, which has already said it will sell off the IP elements. Included in those are Ruckus Wireless, the carrier WiFi vendor which Brocade bought earlier this year.
Ruckus could be attractive to many vendors of fixed line equipment, and one possible acquirer is Arris, the cable equipment specialist. Since its core cableco customers are moving quickly to adopt WiFi-first and cellular MVNO deals to support quad play services, it would make sense for Arris – or other cableco suppliers like Cisco or Juniper – to snap up Ruckus.
Arris CEO Bruce McClelland told the recent Needham & Co Next-Gen Storage/Networking conference that he wants his firm to “become one of the major names in tech going forward” and that wireless would be important to that. He said: “I think wireless is a natural adjacency and there are certainly technologies we have that allow us to grow into that if that becomes a big segment … but when you get into the managed wireless cellular space, there’s a lot of very specialized technology there that we don’t have today so that would be something we’d probably have to go get.”
That prompted LightReading to speculate that Ruckus would fit the bill nicely, boosting Arris on the WiFi side and also bringing expertise in cellular networks, since it has been expanding its portfolio into 4G with a vision of converged WiFi/cellular leading towards 5G. Arris already resells Ruckus kit and the two companies have a joint project with Nascar in the US, and they also partnered with Aptilo and Benu Networks in 2015 to launch a carrier WiFi solution for smaller businesses, apartment blocks and campuses.