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Cisco promises "elastic" mobile core for data deluge

Upgrades former Starent platform with ASR5500 gateway, signing up Verizon and Bharti Airtel


Published: 6 June, 2012

READ MORE: Cisco Systems | Core Network | LTE

Cisco has upgraded the mobile core technology it acquired with Starent in late 2009, unveiling the ASR5500 core gateway, to handle "the new normal" - millions of mobile devices, each running dozens of always-connected applications.

This was the scenario painted by Murali Nemani, the company's director of service provider mobility, who said in an interview: "For Cisco, this is a very critical play in terms of our growth, especially in the mobility sector. "Traffic growth puts a lot of strain on the network and it also creates bottlenecks for consumers that want to access high quality, internet based content."

He outlined the three different challenges of that growth, telling GigaOM that carriers had to maintain millions of sessions, support millions of individual transactions, and handle vast data throughput. All three are often involved in a single process such as a chat session or Facebook interaction.

That involves a difficult balancing act for carriers, since traffic runs at very different levels at different times of day, and provisioning the core to handle peak loads at all times can be wasteful of resource. "How do I address these demands without over-addressing these demands?" Nemani said. Cisco says its platform can help operators create an "elastic" core which can be expanded to handle different levels of signaling and throughput during the day. It claims that the ASR5500 can enable carriers to reduce their physical hardware by 82% and their total cost of ownership by 73% compared with existing solutions.

The first carriers to sign up for the ASR5500 are Verizon Wireless and India's Bharti Airtel. The mobile core is an important entry point to the mobile carrier's budget for Cisco, which does not have the higher profile route of providing the RAN, like rivals such as Ericsson. Starent was a pioneer of decoupling the packet core from the access network - in the early 3G era, carriers tended to purchase both elements from the same supplier, but as data traffic increased, the core became more complex and more mission critical. The acquisition of Starent has enabled Cisco to take the market lead in a mobile core segment which was worth $2.4bn last year, according to Synergy Research. The analysts say Cisco has won a total of 270 3G gateway contracts and is the core supplier for more than 30 LTE networks.

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