A Cisco office in San Diego, California. Picture: REUTERS
A Cisco office in San Diego, California. Picture: REUTERS

Barcelona — Cisco Systems aims to disrupt the wireless radio access market led by Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia by backing challengers who make more flexible software versions of traditional mobile gear.

Known for making networking equipment that moves big volumes of data around the internet, Cisco says it wants a bigger share of the mobile market by backing these alternative providers rather than by making radio access equipment itself.

Its radio access network push is part of Cisco’s efforts to prove to mobile network operators that investing in modern infrastructure and automation tools can help them to cope with increased data demands while lowering costs.

The Silicon Valley company made the announcement ahead of this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where telecom operators are looking for new ways to deal with exploding customer data demands and pricing pressures.

Cisco said it was working with more than 20 network operators to offer next-generation 5G services, which promised to deliver not just faster phones and video but also connected cars and internet-connected industrial sensors.

"Many of the things we enable you to do, you can do before 5G," said Yvette Kanouff, GM of Cisco’s business unit for telecom service providers.

Ray Mota, an industry analyst at ACG Research, said Cisco was looking to persuade operators to spend more on what he called "precursors to 5G", which solve pressing network issues but would not need to be replaced once 5G rolled out in earnest starting around 2020.