Cisco Takes Wireless Mesh to Cable

Cisco Systems wants to help cable operators break into the great outdoors.

The networking company’s Cable ServiceMesh solution is a suite of products -- designed with its Scientific Atlanta subsidiary -- to let cable operators extend indoor wireless Wi-Fi networks to outdoor “mesh” networks.

The Cable ServiceMesh offering centers around a new wireless-access point, the Aironet 1520, which includes an integrated Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 2.0 cable interface. The access point uses a routing algorithm to create a mesh network with other 1520s, which communicate in a peer-to-peer fashion to backhaul traffic to the wired network.

The solution, according to Cisco, would let cable operators expand their market reach by providing Wi-Fi access to metropolitan areas, multidwelling units, hotels and small businesses.

“Traditionally, the business model was, ‘I buy a high-speed-Internet contract and get a cable modem,’” SA director of wireless networking Bob Scott said. “Now I could have 100 different subscribers on a single access point in areas where I don’t necessarily have [coaxial] plant.”

Other pieces of the Cable ServiceMesh solution include the Intelligent Services Gateway, which provides the ability to authenticate and bill on a per-subscriber basis without being tied to a specific DOCSIS cable modem, according to George Manuelian, an architect in Cisco’s service provider group. The Cisco Intelligent Services Gateway was designed to support both IP Multimedia Subsystem and non-IMS based applications.

Theoretically, Cisco’s mesh-wireless-networking system could allow a cable operator to offer subscribers ubiquitous connectivity in a metro area. For example, someone watching TV could choose to transfer the video signal to a cellular phone and walk outside if Cisco’s Cable ServiceMesh is deployed in the subscriber’s neighborhood, Scott said.

“I’ll have a continuous IP stream -- whether that’s voice, video or data -- wherever I am going,” he added.

The Aironet 1520, scheduled to ship in July in North America, provides several power and mounting options for outdoor installations. The radio includes IEEE 802.11g three-channel Maximal Ratio Combining technology to provide better coverage.

Cisco plans to show the Cable ServiceMesh solution at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo this week in Orlando, Fla.