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I was wondering the level of support and duration one could get on new cisco equipment without a support contract
The short answer is that no tac support is provided without a contract.
The equipment will generally be covered by a 90 hardware gaurentee but the the replacement terms are not as responsive as Smartnet so best not to bank on it.
The specific terms differ for some products so use the following tool to check your cover. Also if purchased through a reseller check with them directly.
Please rate if tthis has been of use.
You can get TAC access on any product, however there is a minimum charge that TAC will automatically apply to a case if you don't have a service contract.