April 5, 2013

Cisco acquisition underscores desire for small cell technology

A recent technology acquisition shows how the business world is beginning to take a bigger interest in small cells, which aim to give mobile users improved coverage and speeds. Small cells use smaller base stations to improve coverage and mobile data speeds. Additionally, they provide a lower signal that is closer to users than the traditional macro network. 

Cisco Systems will acquire British small cell specialist Ubiquisys. According to Stéphane Téral, a principal analyst at Infonetics Research, the technology is not new, but this year will see major changes as 4G small cells are being used for capacity upgrades.

In the United States, companies like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless have already made moves in the small cell market, Téral said, because they are driven by the need to enhance the capacity of saturated macro cellular networks.

Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst at Ovum, told IDG News Services that he thinks of small cells as a mobile network enhancer. Even as the interest for the technology is slowly growing, Schoolar said that it could still take time before their proposed full potential is realized.

"What we'll see this year are trials and limited deployments with commercial-ready gear, and next year you'll actually see launches take place … The question used to be if you were going to need [small cells] or not, but now it's more about how to best deploy them," Schoolar said.

Mobile vendors are trying to address the issue of network connections not always being readily available by offering wireless products. This was also something discussed at length at this year's Mobile World Congress, according to the news source.

Technology mergers and acquisitions are often able to involve both parties, as is the case with Cisco and Ubiquisys. By acquiring the small cell company, Cisco will gain the knowledge, products and credibility it needs to compete in the expanding market.