Cisco is not entirely new to cellular base stations, having worked with partner ip.access on the AT&T MicroCell, a tiny "femtocell" designed for use in a consumer's home. But entering into the public small-cell business will expose Cisco to both a much bigger opportunity and a long list of technical and siting challenges that are still being worked out. Key among these is the ability of long-range macrocells to coordinate with small cells so that the two can deliver the maximum efficiency and not interfere with each other.
Combining small cells with Wi-Fi in the same access point may be a natural move for Cisco and is one that other vendors are already working on. A hybrid cellular and Wi-Fi access point holds the promise of both simplicity for location and mounting and flexibility for serving subscribers with the best possible technology in a given situation.