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Q&A: Cisco Takes Mobile Ready Net to the Next Level

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

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At last week’s LandWarNet Conference in Tampa, Florida, Cisco introduced its latest wireless router, the 5915, the latest offering in the company’s 5900 Series Embedded Services Router (ESR) product line.  The new router is optimized for mobile and embedded networks and expands the capabilities of the Cisco Mobile Ready Net solution architecture with such new components as Dynamic Link Exchange Protocol (DLEP) and the latest Radio Aware Routing (RAR), and is designed to ensure communications networking capabilities for public safety, military, transportation, and other industries. 

9-1-1 Magazine spoke to Louis Sutherland, a Product Manager for Cisco (above right), about the significance of the company’s new offering.

Q: What is the significance of this type of router to public safety communications and coordination?

Louis Sutherland: We wanted to develop a platform with advanced networking capabilities – a type of networking that’s independent of any fixed infrastructure.  This is what we think is required for success.  The 5915 is designed as a replacement for older solutions like our 3200 router; that product was designed about nine years ago and released eight years ago, so it’s really due for a life cycle change.  The new product is a little smaller than the old one; on the previous generation, you had to have two boards, now you can combine it into one board.  It’s basically the same price with a whole lot more performance.  What this Embedded Services Router (ESR) brings to the table is everything we’ve done well in previous generation enterprise routers – the operating system, the Cisco IOS, is like Windows or what you’d have on a PC, and it’s the operating system that brings the great things we can do with voice, video and data on all these platforms, plus all of the mobility features from Cisco Mobile Ready Net.

Q: What is the advantage of Radio Aware Routing to public safety response and coordination?

Louis Sutherland: Radio Aware Routing (RAR) is a way to use radio frequencies to pass traffic in a manner than behaves more like a wired fixed network.  The kinds of applications and services that we were wanting to run don’t work very well in a native radio frequency environment, so we have developed this [RAR] technology that allows it to work better.   With Ad-Hoc Mobility, there are no fixed access points - every vehicle is a network unto itself and they can connect, reconnect, and be plug-and-play.  You think of a Hurricane Katrina scenario where there’s no infrastructure, no cell towers or anything, and you can roll up with a technology like this and set up a full network and start passing different services among each other.

A router is what makes your network work.  Radio Aware Routing lets you use your radio links more efficiently.  Without RAR, the router has to make educated guesses on what’s going on in the network; with it, it lets the radios tell the router exactly what’s happening. 

We’re also releasing the latest protocol in the family of Radio Aware Routing, it’s called DLEP – Dynamic Link Exchange Protocol.  We have two previous versions and we’re migrating everyone to DLEP. So if you see a product that’s RAR-compliant and it uses DLEP, then it’s going to make your ability to use radios or data sources in these kits more line plug-and-play.  Most users don’t want to think about it too much – they just want to be able to hook the radio in and have it work.

Q: How will the 5915 take advantage of solutions developed by other companies?

Louis Sutherland: The 5915 is also designed as a more agile product for these new products that don’t have any [dedicated] solutions.   The 5900 series is a family of routers that are primarily designed to embed in a channel partner solution.  We’ve got a program called Cisco Technology, which is similar to “Intel Inside” that you see on different computers – the idea is that we would sell these [router] cards to different integrating partners and they would integrate this technology.  These cards themselves are not designed for the average consumer – they won’t even work out of the box, they don’t have a power supply and they don’t have a case, but we’ve got many integrator partners and channel partners that are already set up with solutions, and this product will roll right into those solutions.


Q: What is the 5940 router designed for?

Louis Sutherland: The 5940 is a higher end router – it’s really designed for a command post situation in a first responder scenario.  You could roll up with one of these types of kits and you could support a 150-manned command post with voice, video, and data.  It’s a very expensive router but it’s designed in such a way that in a card you’ve got what you would normally have in a four-unit, 19-inch rack router. 


Q:  What is the optional satellite component of these routers?

Louis Sutherland: With Cisco Internet Routing In Space, or IRIS, we’ve actually partnered with some satellite manufacturers and we’ve put a router in space in a satellite.  IRIS enabled satellite communication users to seamlessly collaborate and access network content and services; it makes satellite communications operate more efficiently.  IRIS turns the satellite into an active node in the network, and makes the efficient flow of satellite traffic much more reliable. There’s more bandwidth that’s available as a result of having this router in space.  It’s a commercial grade satellite.  Telecommunications Systems (TCS) is the service provider that sells the bandwidth for Cisco.


Q: To what extent is the router dependent upon the capabilities of existing radio systems? In the case of something like Katrina where infrastructure wasn’t available, how effective would IRIS be as a back up to that? 

Louis Sutherland: You’re right, there is a lot of reliability on the radio technologies, but there’s also deployable 3G and 4G solutions that can roll out and provide connectivity until normal 3G is established.  We’ve got a host of solutions that can meet almost every scenario.  The good news is that the mobile world that we’re developing for has a solution for just about everything.  So if all of the communications have been wiped out, you would certainly want to link back in with satellite. It could be with IRIS or it could be another type of satellite communications.  One of the things that we offer at Cisco is our deployable NERV truck (Network Emergency Response Vehicle), which is a good example of what we’d use in that scenario.  It would serve as a base and then you’d enable or have these small 5915 kits in each vehicle that would communicate with that, or they could communicate with each other, or if the network was in place they could communicate with your own network.  Being independent of any radios, you can pick and choose the different type of radio systems that are out there and look for them to be RAR compliant, and you get a host of options depending on the scenario you’re trying to operate in.


Q: How would you summarize the advantages of this new product offering?

Louis Sutherland: Cisco Mobile Ready Net is a marketing term for what we’re developing in our portion of mobility.  It’s used to connect vehicles anywhere, anytime, anyplace, and it’s primarily focused on the router, with software in there that provides all the features that Cisco does well. We’ve added other features like Radio Aware Routing to make it work more efficiently in a mobile environment, and Dynamic Link Exchange Protocol is the latest protocol in the RAR family.   These mobile packages are rugged, they’re secure, all the things that we do whether it’s VPN or security or packet inspection, all these features are built in, so your ability to trust the product to do what it’s going to do is pretty high.  We’ve had a lot of time to flush this out and develop these solutions for the industry.

For more information on Cisco's family of routers for public safety response and other industries, see:


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