Wi-Fi solutions provider Ruckus Wireless announced the launch an expanded range of smart 802.11n Wi-Fi products this week. The system is aimed at providing network operators with an affordable solution to offload data from overburdened 3G networks, augment backhaul capabilities and to provide last mile broadband access to rural areas.
John McGann, EMEA director of sales for service providers, told Wireless that the comprehensive 802.11n system has been designed to give network operators the confidence to use Wi-Fi applications and services in the notoriously crowded and sometimes unreliable unlicensed spectrum.
McGann said: ‘Wi-Fi needs to play a strategic role alongside 3G and later LTE, to help operators provide more bandwidth capacity to meet the exponential growth in data demand. But the networks tell us that although Wi-Fi is a good tool, it must be of industrial strength resilience for them to have the confidence to us it. It has to provide a consistent service like a cellular 3G network to avoid a poor user experience.’
The problem with using Wi-Fi in the unlicensed spectrum is that there is a lot of interference, which means the user experience can be patchy at best. McGann said that Ruckus’ BeamFlex technology overcomes this problem by combining a newly designed Smart Sector antenna array with best path selection software and automatic interference rejection. Being able to actively reject interference and find the best transmission path is critical to providing a consistent and reliable, industrial strength service.
McGann said Ruckus’ 802.11n portfolio provides a number of advantages for network operators. It can be used to offload Wi-Fi data traffic from expensive cellular networks, meaning the operator can keep its higher ARPU callers happy.
It can offer value added services such as Wi-Fi wholesaling and managed enterprise wireless LANs. ‘It can also be used to provide last mile broadband access where copper or fibre fixed line based wireless services are not economically viable,’ said McGann.
He added that Wi-Fi can also augment backhaul capabilities with a low cost and low power Wi-Fi alternative that is consistent and reliable. It also provides networks with a way to help reduce subscriber churn by bundling Wi-Fi services.
Scott Reeves, technical director EMEA at Ruckus, said that the Ruckus smart mesh networking technology also enables more efficient spatial reuse. By varying the direction of each packet transmission, adjacent mesh access points (APs) can often transmit simultaneously on the same channel, thereby maximising usable capacity.
The company also offers a hybrid meshing capability, which allows end users to mesh Smart Wi-Fi APs over wired Ethernet connections. According to Ruckus, these solutions enable end users to start small and scale up their wireless LAN according to demand, rather than having to install blanket wireless coverage, which may provide more capacity and coverage than is required.
Reeves said that Ruckus has half a dozen trials underway in the UK at the moment, but has some large deployments in India with Tikona (50,000 APs by 2011), with Stel in Chile and with PCCW in Hong Kong.
It has also tapped into a new business model in New York, where wholesaler Towerstream is installing Ruckus equipment and then selling backhaul services to tier one carriers for 3G offload.
New product range
Access: A key product in the new system is the ZoneFlex 7762-S high-speed dual-band 802.11n smart Wi-Fi access point. The AP integrates a dual-polarised, sectorized, smart antenna array capable of delivering 600Mbps of throughput, up to 10dBi of signal gain and 15dB of interference within a 120 degree beam width.
What this means, according to Ruckus, is that the AP provides for much longer range signals, better signal penetration of buildings and more resilient mesh connections that adapt to interference and changing environmental conditions.
It can be deployed as a standalone AP or as part of a unified wireless system. At just 20cm by 24cm and weighing 4lbs (2kg) it is one of the smallest and lightest APs on the market, which may make it appealing to local councils keen to keep telecom additions to their street furniture to a minimum. An AP cost $1,999.
Backhaul: The ZoneFlex 7731 is an 802.11n (5Ghz) point-to-point and point-to-multipoint outdoor bridge capable of extending Wi-Fi signals over kilometers at data rates of up to 300Mbps. It delivers Ethernet speeds of: 1km – 180Mbps throughput; 5km – 100Mbps; 12km – 60Mbps.
Ruckus claimed the ZoneFlex 7731 is the only high-speed Wi-Fi bridging system that automatically selects the best channel based on actual throughput measurements. Ruckus is marketing the device as the ideal solution for a low-cost, high performance backhaul connection for GSM or data traffic. It costs $1,199 per device or $2,398 per pair.
Customer premise equipment: MediaFlex 7200 is a line of low cost, 802.11n Wi-Fi gateways for homes and businesses. Each one integrates a dual-polarized antenna array for better indoor signal propagation of outdoor Wi-Fi networks. There are three models, which can be pole or wall mounted: indoor with no external antenna; indoor with external antenna; and outdoor only. The cost for CPE equipment starts at $99.
Management: FlexMaster 9.0 is a Wi-Fi management system that allows network operators to monitor, troubleshoot and configure an entire smart Wi-Fi network down to client level from a single point of control. It also includes graphical reporting to help operators monitor capacity and performance against committed service level agreements. The cost of FlexMaster starts at $5,000.