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Cisco's marks foray into 3G with MNET

Cisco Systems Inc has unveiled Mobile Office Network (MNET), a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution that marks the company's first step into the lucrative third generation (3G) mobile phone market.

SINGAPORE--Cisco Systems Inc has unveiled Mobile Office Network (MNET), a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution that marks the company's first step into the lucrative third generation (3G) mobile phone market.

At the heart of MNET is GP10, a device which "converts" GSM-based calls to IP packets for transmission over a corporate IP network instead of a Public Line Mobile Network (PLMN).

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communications.

MNET aims to significantly reduce employees' mobile telephony expenses, Cisco Systems Wireless Solutions manager for Asia Pacific Matt Daly claimed. However, he could not provide estimated costs savings.

Weighing 3.1kg with a 242mm x 300mm x 110mm dimension, GP10 comes with a standard 10/100 Base-T port for connection to the corporate Local Area Network (LAN).

MNET also includes GSM Mobility Controller (GMC), the software which authenticates GSM calls. It supports Unix and Windows NT operating systems.

How exactly does MNET work? (Refer to diagram below.)

To make a call in the MNET environment, the caller has to be within a 250m radius (of GP10).

He can call any GSM mobile phone using his GSM handset, and be contacted at the same mobile phone number anywhere--both in the MNET and Public Line Mobile Network environment.

For instance, a call from handset A to handset B will first be converted into IP packets by GP10 to be transmitted over LAN. The packets will then be re-converted back into voice signals by another GP10 to be picked up by handset B.

As long as the recipient is in the MNET environment, no payment to the mobile operator is required.

Meanwhile, the caller has to pay the mobile operator for making a call in the MNET environment--the cost of which would be less than calls made from a Public Line Mobile Network, said Daly. He noted that the exact cost will vary with different mobile operators.

MNET is expected to be commercially available worldwide from August 1, said Daly at a press conference Thursday.

He noted that 15 mobile operators--two in North America, seven in Europe, two in China, two in Australia, one in Singapore and one in New Zealand--are currently evaluating the solution. However, he declined to name them.

Daly also declined to reveal revenue targets.

Customers will be able to purchase MNET from mobile operators or from Cisco; GP10 and GMC costs US$15,000 each, he noted.

The current version of MNET (1.5) supports GSM phones but Daly expects version 2.0 to be released by year end for General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) phones. GPRS is an enhancement to the GSM system that supports data packets.

Cisco also plans to release a version of MNET for 3G phones, but Daly declined to reveal a timeframe.