Cisco invests in femtocell company

Cisco Systems has taken a strategic investment in a company that makes devices to boost cell phone signals indoors.

Cisco Systems said Wednesday that is has invested in a U.K.-based company called IP.access, which has developed gear to boost cell phone signals indoors.

Details of the deal or how much of a stake Cisco has in the company have not been disclosed.

IP.access makes devices called femtocells, which boost cell phone signals indoors to provide better in-building cell phone coverage. Femtocells offer wireless operators a cost effective way to improve network coverage. Several wireless carriers around the world have already begun using the technology. Sprint Nextel announced last year it would offer its Airave femtocell product. And IP.access says on its Web site that it already has deals with several network operators including T-Mobile USA, Smart in the Philippines, Telfort (now KPN) in the Netherlands, and Telefonica O2 in the Czech Republic.

It's not surprising that Cisco would be interested in a femtocell company. Cisco, which has traditionally provided carriers with IP infrastructure equipment, has also been bulking up its wireless offerings in the last few years. It's biggest acquisitions so far have been in the Wi-Fi market, most notably Linksys and Airespace. But it's moved into other wireless technology, too. In September it bought Cognio , a company that has developed technologies to better manage wireless spectrum. And in October it acquired the WiMax equipment provider Navini for $330 million. As more of its customers go mobile, Cisco sees an important opportunity. And femtocells, like Wi-Fi routers, offer another way to provide mobility indoors.

Other large technology companies have also taken an interest in femtocell technology. Last year, Google invested an undisclosed amount in a femtocell company called Ubiquisys.

IP.access has been around since 1999 when it was spun out from TTPCom, a cellular infrastructure company later acquired by Motorola. In the last couple of years, the company has been out raising money from venture capitalists, and it counts Intel Capital among its investors.

 

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