Ruckus Wireless unveils 11n Wi-Fi gear for net operators

Ruckus Wireless unveils 11n Wi-Fi gear, with the goal of making it easier for carriers and network operators to create reliable Wi-Fi services for business and consumer subscribers.

Ruckus Wireless this week unveiled hardware and software to make it easier for network operators to create reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi services for enterprise and consumer subscribers.

High-bandwidth 802.11n chips power two of the new access points, including a system designed to transmit several  simultaneous high-definition IP television streams throughout a typical home. Ruckus also is introducing a managed 802.11b/g router that, once installed in a home or office, can also be set up to share some bandwidth with visitors as a public access Wi-Fi hotspot.

Also new is a network management application that lets a network operator or service provider remotely manage tens of thousands of Ruckus access points and routers in subscriber homes and businesses.

The wireless gear uses Ruckus' patented antenna array, dubbed Smart Wi-Fi. The antenna consists of 12 sections, and each can be polarized on its vertical or horizontal access. From potentially hundreds of directional antenna configurations, the Ruckus software selects the best one to sidestep interference, and to maintain a stronger signal and consistently higher throughput over greater range than conventional wireless LAN (WLAN) products. The access points also can mesh wirelessly, so traffic hops from one to the other, minimizing the number of wired Ethernet connections needed in a Ruckus deployment.

Ruckus has been marketing its products to network operators and telcos, with the message that a manageable, reliable Wi-Fi signal makes it possible for these companies to deliver and charge for services beyond data access, such as IP TV and wireless VoIP, says Selina Lo, president and CEO of the company. It's been doing this with a set of 802.11abg access points and routers, and is expanding this offering with higher-throughput 11n gear. (Compare enterprise WLAN products.)

Efforts to make Wi-Fi a managed service from network providers, and from venues such as hotel and restaurant chains, have foundered on repeated and numerous customer complaints about erratic wireless performance and coverage, according to Lo. The 801.11n WLAN standard promises to be a better technical foundation for such services, due to the benefits resulting from two underlying technologies, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) and multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO). The result is much higher, and more consistent, throughput over longer distances compared with 802.11abg networks. (You can find our 2006 Clear Choice Tests of selected draft 11n MIMO products here.)  

What Ruckus has done is to add smart antenna technology to this combination. In effect, the smart antenna boosts some of the 11n benefits, and minimizes some of the 11n trade-offs, resulting in a cleaner signal that's less prone to interference and sustains itself at consistently higher bandwidth over longer distances.

The Ruckus ZoneFlex 7942 is an entry-level, 11n access point that runs as a stand-alone, hotspot-type device or with the Ruckus ZoneDirector controller, as part of a WLAN. It has one radio, running only in the 2.4GHz frequency, and can support 11bg client devices. It is priced at $699.

The second new 11n product is the MediaFlex 7000, designed to deliver at least 40M to 45Mbps throughout a typical home, able to support two or three high-definition TV streams. Previously, Ruckus offered this product with an 11g radio. It will ship during the second quarter of this year, with pricing to be announced at that time.

Also new is the MediaFlex 2835 router, with a 802.11bg radio. It's designed to be managed by the carrier or service provider. It can be configured with as many as four SSIDs, each dedicated to a separate, managed service and with a specified bandwidth. In a subscriber's home, one SSID can be the owner's wireless data access network with VPN support, a second for dedicated bandwidth available for VoIP calls, with a third to reserve capacity for guests as a public access hotspot by routing them to the carrier's authentication and billing systems. It is priced at $259.

The FlexMaster network management system is intended to meet carrier requirements for remote management of many Ruckus devices. For example, the Ruckus access points and routers automatically contact FlexMaster when they come online. Templates let administrators automatically configure and provision subscribers in groups or regions, and schedule software updates. The application communicates using standard Internet protocols such as HTTP and HTTP/S, so it appears as standard Web traffic to user firewalls. FlexMaster starts at $5,000.

Learn more about this topic

Clear Choice Test: Ruckus delivers wireless multimedia performance

04/10/06

Tricky wireless environments call for tricky WLAN equipment

11/19/07

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