As expected, Cisco declined comment. "Cisco does not comment on rumors or speculation in the marketplace," said a company spokesman.
If Silva is right, the internal debate may be over whether WiMAX could drive a billion dollars in new revenue. That was the thinking behind Cisco's acquisition of Aironet, a maker of Wi-Fi radio chipsets, and later of Airespace, one of the pioneers of the wireless LAN controllers and their companion thin access points.
The timing of the Airespace acquisition, and the subsequent purchase of Linksys, which sells Wi-Fi gear into residential and SOHO markets, has given Cisco the lion's share of both the enterprise and consumer Wi-Fi markets. And Cisco has maintained that dominant share quarter after quarter in a fast-growing market.
WiMAX offers the chance for a repeat performance, especially in Asia, South American, and Africa. These are areas where WiMAX operators are hoping to use wireless broadband to introduce voice and data network infrastructures where copper and fiber are prohibitively expensive.
As the Cisco's Wi-Fi move shows, the wireline vendor is increasingly seeing wireless of all kinds as a key area of growth. In 2005, Cisco launched the Application Oriented Network initiative, introducing support for RFID traffic over the net infrastructure.
A WiMAX buy would be a logical step in a Cisco plan to the infrastructure leader in broadband wireless as much as broadband wired nets.