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Both sides of the wire

Jul 21, 20033 mins
BroadbandCablesCisco Systems

Acquiring Linksys gives Cisco much more than SOHO hardware.

Acquiring Linksys gives Cisco much more than SOHO hardware

Cisco acquired Linksys not just for its SOHO network leadership status, but for its broadband service provider partnerships as well. Linksys has been selling residential gateways to Verizon, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Comcast for more than a year. (For more on gateway devices, see (For more on gateway devices, see story “Residential gateways ready to grow” .)

How did Linksys gain a foothold in the nascent residential gateway market dominated by 2Wire and Netopia? Those incumbent companies offer DSL gateways with mature and stable embedded software platforms for gateway autoprovisioning, management and services delivery. But Linksys has been offering much of that too, on both DSL and cable gateways, and more.  

For DSL gateways, which today lack standards, Verizon and Linksys worked together to develop Verizon’s own embedded software. Other providers like Bell Canada have done the same thing. “The user just types in a phone number to set up the whole thing,” says Matt McRae, Linksys director of broadband. “We might offer it up to the DSL Forum,” he adds. 

The DSL Forum’s DSLHome group is considering a variety of vendor software platforms for its upcoming residential gateway standard, including that of 2Wire, Motive, SupportSoft and others.

For the cable gateways, Linksys built a standards-based gateway using the CableHome 1.0 specification, which currently enables basic remote provisioning and management. The company is behind other players in developing a parental control application, but is working with third-party vendors to catch up.

Linksys is also helping provider partners improve their technical and customer support. The company has set up training programs for their tech support reps and installers, and helped cut truck roll times from 2 hours to less than 30 minutes. Cable providers still prefer to install the gateway and set up the home network themselves, McRae says, because it offers that personal touch and cuts down on support calls in the long run.

Next month, providers will begin offering Linksys’ new cable broadband gateway, which includes a four-port switch and 802.11g wireless. Earlier models included HomePNA, but Linksys no longer offers it because it is “seeing demand disappear.” McRae’s team likes power line, but prefers to offer a power line to Ethernet bridge, rather than build it into the box.

With the acquisition finalized May 31, where does Linksys fit into Cisco’s plans?

“Now we have both sides of the wire,” McRae says. “Before, Linksys would go to service providers about all the things we wanted to do in the home and they’d say, ‘But how does that tie into my core and edge, and how do I control it?’ Same with Cisco. They’d go in and pitch services, but providers would ask, ‘What [customer premises device] do I stick in the home to make this work?’ Now we can sell a solution that includes a CPE on one end, the software to manage and support it, as well as the core equipment and consulting providers need to get up and running. None of our competitors can do that yet.