WiFi/cellular integration won’t be enough to save Cisco/Ericsson deal

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Cisco and Ericsson have added a combined WiFi offering, called Evolved WiFi Networks (EWN), to their portfolio, but the announcement has done little to boost market confidence in their strategic alliance, first announced in November 2015.

Of course, complex partnerships between giant companies with very different cultures and behaviors take time to deliver visible results. However, whether this is a matter of poor communication or poor execution, there is a clear contrast between the perceived impact of the Cisco-Ericsson tie-up and that of the Nokia-Alcatel merger. The former was touted by its participants as a way to avoid the challenges of a full merger and to deliver results more quickly, but in reality, the new Nokia made more significant progress in 2016 than its Swedish rival.

Both the cellular giants, and Cisco, had major challenges last year, and were consistently outperformed by Huawei, whose progress put paid to the idea that the vendors’ setbacks were entirely down to a difficult market, and not partially down to their own mistakes and hesitancies. It is too early to say the Cisco deal is a mistake for Ericsson or, indeed, that it was a mistake not to push for a full merger. But after 14 months, good execution should have yielded greater improvements, and the launch of EWN is certainly not enough to change anyone’s view.

Evolved WiFi Networks:

It looks like a useful and logical agreement, allowing for more integration between Cisco WiFi and Ericsson cellular networks, but with most operators engaging in some kind of multi-RAT HetNet planning, why has it taken a year to crystallize an offering which seems to lie at the heart of the Cisco/Ericsson opportunity?

This is the kind of offering which is clearly a sweet spot for the two vendors, bringing together their different platforms, channels and customer base under one umbrella. “EWN includes pre-integrated and verified offerings based on Ericsson and Cisco products and Ericsson’s customer support, design and deployment services as well as Ericsson’s man-aged services,” the companies stated, and it can be offered as a fully managed service across 180 countries.

Specific target applications include combining indoor Ericsson networks with Cisco WLANs for mobile/WiFi enterprise systems; letting operators with Ericsson macro networks use Cisco WLANs to offer access to subscribers; and integrating Cisco WLANs with Ericsson macro or indoor small cell networks using Ericsson’s Real Time Traffic Steering; integrating Cisco WLANs into Ericsson’s packet core using trusted configurations so that operators can offer all their core network services over WiFi as well as cellular.

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.

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