U.S. multinational technology group Cisco has taken to MWC 2019 in Barcelona to announce a collaborative effort with Sprint that will ultimately see the carrier shifting away from Huawei to use the former company’s routing technology in support of 5G. Specifically, Cisco's Network Convergence System 540 router series will provide support for Sprint’s backhaul network traffic through the shift, propping up next-gen networking as well as supporting the backbone of the network for 3G and 4G use cases.
The routers in question will effectively triple Sprint's network capacity, Cisco says, pushing "100G connectivity into the core transport network" and helping the fourth-largest US carrier meet growing demand on its network in a more targetted fashion.
Taking advantage of a long-time rivalry for the merger bid
Sprint's decision to partner with Cisco may be as much about the current sentiments from the US and other countries' officials about Huawei and Sprint's $26 billion merger with T-Mobile as securing solid network speeds and low-latency for mobile and IoT. Huawei and Cisco represent two of the most common networking hardware solutions providers in the world and have a long-standing rivalry. So, given Sprint's apparent need to step away from its parent company's provider of choice, Huawei, the decision makes sense.
The company's decision to create distance from Huawei's networking equipment and the alleged ties between that company and the oppressive government of its home country was first reported back in December for precisely the purpose of helping drive the merger forward.
Concerns about the merger stem from the accusations that Huawei allows the Chinese government access to network 'back doors', effectively allowing access to user data and other information that crosses over networks using Huawei equipment. With the impending widespread wave of 5G-driven IoT products ranging from smart home to smart city devices, the worry is that access -- if the accusation is true -- would be a clear national security risk.
Like Sprint's parent company, Softbank, T-Mobile's Germany-based parent company T-Mobile's Deutsche Telekom has made extensive use of Huawei networking equipment. Deutsche Telekom has also been reviewing its choice of vendors, in an apparent bid to assuage the fears of legislators and regulators regardless of whether those fears are well-founded.
Sprint's new partnership with Cisco seems to indicate that the carrier is, at very least, working to test out its options for alternative partners and could signal a complete shift across the board for its 5G efforts. Perhaps more importantly, the new system would support backhaul for its existing 3G and 4G LTE networks.
Sprint's own 5G push
Next-generation 5G networks from Sprint will be turned on commercially in no fewer than four cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City as early as May of this year. In-depth information about that activation hasn't been outlined just yet but Cisco's solution is behind those and at least 230 square miles of the greater Dallas Fort Worth area will be covered.
Sprint's remaining five cities for its initial 5G push will include Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. with each region to be covered by the end of the first half of 2019. For New York, the network will span 30 square miles from Midtown to Manhattan and, in total, it will cover more than 1,000 square miles.