WiFi/cellular integration won’t be enough to save Cisco/Ericsson deal


Cisco and Ericsson have added a combined WiFi offering, called Evolved WiFi Networks (EWN), to their portfolio, but the announcement has done little to boost market confidence in their strategic alliance, first announced in November 2015.

Of course, complex partnerships between giant companies with very different cultures and behaviors take time to deliver visible results. However, whether this is a matter of poor communication or poor execution, there is a clear contrast between the perceived impact of the Cisco-Ericsson tie-up and that of the Nokia-Alcatel merger. The former was touted by its participants as a way to avoid the challenges of a full merger and to deliver results more quickly, but in reality, the new Nokia made more significant progress in 2016 than its Swedish rival.

Both the cellular giants, and Cisco, had major challenges last year, and were consistently outperformed by Huawei, whose progress put paid to the idea that the vendors’ setbacks were entirely down to a difficult market, and not partially down to their own mistakes and hesitancies. It is too early to say the Cisco deal is a mistake for Ericsson or, indeed, that it was a mistake not to push for a full merger. But after 14 months, good execution should have yielded greater improvements, and the launch of EWN is certainly not enough to change anyone’s view.

Evolved WiFi Networks:

It looks like a useful and logical agreement, allowing for more integration between Cisco WiFi and Ericsson cellular networks, but with most operators engaging in some kind of multi-RAT HetNet planning, why has it taken a year to crystallize an offering which seems to lie at the heart of the Cisco/Ericsson opportunity?

This is the kind of offering which is clearly a sweet spot for the two vendors, bringing together their different platforms, channels and customer base under one umbrella. “EWN includes pre-integrated and verified offerings based on Ericsson and Cisco products and Ericsson’s customer support, design and deployment services as well as Ericsson’s man-aged services,” the companies stated, and it can be offered as a fully managed service across 180 countries.

Specific target applications include combining indoor Ericsson networks with Cisco WLANs for mobile/WiFi enterprise systems; letting operators with Ericsson macro networks use Cisco WLANs to offer access to subscribers; and integrating Cisco WLANs with Ericsson macro or indoor small cell networks using Ericsson’s Real Time Traffic Steering; integrating Cisco WLANs into Ericsson’s packet core using trusted configurations so that operators can offer all their core network services over WiFi as well as cellular.

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