Ruckus unveils 2-radio 11n access point, with its beam-forming antenna array

Ruckus this week announces a new high-end 802.11n access point, its first with 2 radios for dual-band operation, and an update to its controller software that will allow a single controller to oversee up to 500 access points instead of 250. The company is betting that 11n plus the signal quality and reliability improvements of its beam-forming antenna will impress enterprise customers.

Ruckus Wireless this week is unveiling a new high-end 802.11n access point, and new controller software that will allow a single controller to oversee up to 500 access points instead of 250.

The new products are intended to leverage the benefits of the draft IEEE 11n standard – 300Mbps data rates, greater coverage, more consistent signal – and marry them with Ruckus' beamforming antenna technology for larger-scale deployments than the company has been able to support until now.

Ruckus 7962

The Sunnyvale, Calif. company claims that the combination leads to much higher, and much more consistent, throughput for wireless clients (in the 170Mbps range), and at a much lower total cost per user (about $71), compared to rivals like Cisco and Aruba. Ruckus offers a lifetime warranty on its gear.

[Check out enterprise WLAN products in our online Wireless & Mobile Product Guide]

The new ZoneFlex 7962 is the company’s first two-radio 11n access point. The previous 11n product, model 7942, has only one radio. Each radio in the 7962 can be set to either 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands, and each has a data rate of 300Mbps based on 2 spatial streams and a 3x3 transmit/receive antenna MIMO (multiple input multiple output) configuration (as do other brands, these radios can also work with 11bg and 11a clients).

The Ruckus antenna system is a kind of an overlay on top of MIMO. It consists of multiple components that can be combined in different arrangements on a packet-by-packet basis to create the best possible signal for a given wireless client, a technique Ruckus calls beamforming. There are over 4,000 possible combinations from which to choose. The effect, according to Ruckus, is to minimize radio interference from other sources, while increasing the sensitivity and therefore signal strength to the client. The end result is a lower signal-to-noise ratio, creating a more reliable and consistent radio link between the access point and each client.

Cisco recently introduced the Aironet 1140 access point, with support for a chip-level type of beam forming that boosts performance for legacy 11g and 11a clients.

As with the latest 11n products from most WLAN vendors, both ZoneFlex 7962 radios in the access point can run at full 11n functionality and data rates over existing 802.3af power-over-Ethernet systems. Many of the first generation of 11n access points required additional power for full functions.

The 7962 access points can be meshed to minimize cabling costs, and configured to dedicate different SSIDs (up to 16) and frequency bands to different classes of users or classes of traffic. The 5GHz band be dedicated to IP video, for example, with 2.4GHz reserved for data users.

The new ZoneDirector 3500 controller, due in the second half of 2009, will have revamped software to support up to 500 access points. The previous high-end controller supports up to 250.

Part of the new Ruckus SmartOS software version, which will run on all Ruckus controllers, includes an expanded set of controller-based applications, all included in the price. The existing applications include wireless mesh, security, interference mitigation, and RF management. Among the new applications in the updated software will be: WLAN grouping, to group different SSIDs on different access points for different classes of users; new user access controls; and additional automated traffic handling features.

The 7962 has a list price of $999 and is available now. Pricing for the new high-end ZoneDirector 3500, due later this year, will be announced closer to its shipment date.

Learn more about this topic

Cisco's new 11n gear boosts legacy Wi-Fi performance with beamforming

Nearpoints, by Craig Mathias: Why Cisco Continues to Lead in WLANs

Wireless Alert, by Joanie Wexler: The role of beam-forming in 11n

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