Cisco routers get an upgrade

Cisco Systems on Tuesday will introduce faster, more feature-laden versions of its hot-selling access routers in an attempt to fend off competition from rivals Juniper Networks and 3Com. Cisco's new 1800, 2800 and 3800 wide area network access routers feature embedded security measures and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a method for making phone calls using the unregulated Internet, rather than the heavily regulated and taxed traditional phone network, said Mike Volpi, senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's routing technology group.

"These devices once just needed to direct traffic, but that won't do it anymore," Volpi said. "You have to do a whole lot more." Such equipment is typically used by small to midsize businesses, or by larger businesses with branch offices. The routers sit on a customer's network and provide access to the Internet and other wide area services. The bulk of these devices are sold through the carriers, which offer them to customers as part of their data networking or Internet services. Cisco dominates the $4 billion-a-year market for such equipment, claiming a 90 percent market share. But in the past six months, Cisco rivals Juniper Networks and 3Com have made efforts to attack Cisco's dominant share, according to Joel Conover, principal analyst at Current Analysis.

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