Cisco has introduced a 3G module for its Integrated Services Router line of branch and small-business routers at the CTIA Wireless show in Florida.
The new product is expected to bring third generation (3G) mobile technology – largely seen as a consumer-led development – closer to the business mainstream by connecting it to the widely used Cisco router.
The 3G wireless wide-area network High-speed Interface Card will provide a link to the internet through the Evolution-Data Optimised (EV-DO ) or High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) networks of mobile operators working with Cisco.
Most users would turn to 3G only as a back-up when their main internet connections went down, said Inbar Lasser-Raab, a director of marketing for network systems at Cisco.
Cisco said 3G had grown in both speed and coverage over the past few years, to a point where it can compete on costs with DSL and cable modem access. It is also faster than ISDN, which is commonly used for back-up in Europe. As faster wireless data technologies such as WiMax appear, Cisco plans to introduce new models.
The new 3G module will initially be available for the Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and AT&T Cingular US networks, and the Telefonica Moviles network in Europe.
The ISR is a modular router designed to bring capabilities including security, wireless local area network switching and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) into branch offices, retail stores and small and medium-sized businesses.
There is one caveat: VoIP calls to the outside world may not work, despite VoIP being a major selling point of the ISR. The module does not officially support VoIP, which requires low delay, and mobile operators were not guaranteeing call quality, Lasser-Raab said.
As a back-up, 3G could be more economical than some alternatives, according to analyst Michael Brandenburg at Current Analysis. A large enterprise might get a discount on the connection if it had a big account with the carrier, he pointed out. However, if VoIP is required, they might treat it as a secondary back-up, he said.