Cisco gets deeper into small cells with Ubiquisys acquisition

Cisco has made a major move into the mobile networking space by announcing its intention to acquire small-cell technologies provider Ubiquisys.

The UK based privately held firm specialises in 3G and LTE small-cell technologies that provide connectivity across heterogeneous networks. Cisco has agreed to pay approximately $310m in cash and retention-based incentives to acquire the firm outright.

The move follows the similar recent acquisitions in the mobile network space of policy management solutions firm BroadHop and SON software provider Intucell.

Cisco aims to add Ubiquisys’ indoor small-cell and software expertise to its own radio and wifi portfolio to create a small cell solution for operators that supports their transition to LTE networks. Cisco said that the move reinforces its commitment to operators and will enable it to deliver more intelligent mobile data networks.

“Cisco is ‘doubling down’ on its small cell business to accelerate strong momentum and growth in the mobility market,” said Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president and general manager, Cisco Mobility Business Group.

“By acquiring Ubiquisys, we are expanding on our current mobility leadership and our end-to-end product portfolio, which includes integrated, licensed and unlicensed small cell solutions that are tightly coupled with SON, backhaul, and the mobile packet core. For service providers, Ubiquisys supports cost effective coverage and capacity that delivers a differentiated customer experience.”

Upon the completion of the acquisition, Ubiquisys employees will moved into Cisco’s Service Provider Mobility Group.

“Cisco is no stranger to small cells, but that has been primarily through its carrier wifi efforts,” explained Daryl Schoolar, principal analyst at research firm Ovum.

“In the licensed spectrum small cell space Cisco has basically been reliant on its femtocell relationship with AT&T. Outside of its work with AT&T, Cisco’s licensed small cell experience has been hard to find.”

Schoolar added that in contrast, Ubiquisys has over 50 customers including Japan’s Softbank, France’s SFR, and Network Norway.

“Ubiquisys’ small cell experience greatly bolsters Cisco’s small cell position,” he added. “The acquisition doesn’t just provide Cisco with Ubiquisys’ small cell knowhow; it also gives Cisco experience in working with a broader set of mobile operators.”

Schoolar added that with the acquisition of Ubiquisys, Cisco would have greater market credibility when it comes to 3G and LTE small cells.

“Cisco will also benefit by having greater control over Ubiquisys’ product development cycle, freeing Cisco from having to rely on the development cycle of third-party partners like IP access.

“Small cell vendors should take Cisco very seriously. Not only is Cisco greatly improving what it can offer mobile  operators  in terms of a licensed small cell, Cisco can also offer those mobile operators other tools, like data analytics, SON, and evolved packet core needed to build a mobile network. This isn’t something all of Cisco’s competitors can claim.”

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