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Could mesh make a comeback in 'hotzones' that displace traffic from crowded 3G networks onto WiFi?

Ruckus Preps WiFi Hotzone Push

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
7/20/2009
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WiFi TV specialist Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) claims its two new outdoor WiFi access points won't just coexist with 3G networks, but can be used to supplement the performance of a carrier's cellular network.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is introducing the ZoneFlex 7762 and 2741 access points (APs) today. The WiFi boxes use a multiple antenna technique, called "beamforming," to automatically select the highest-quality signal path and optimum data rate for each client, boosting performance above standard APs. (See AP v 2.0.)

Here are the specifications:

  • The ZoneFlex 7762 is a concurrent, dual-band, 802.11n, outdoor access point capable of pushing a signal at up to 150 Mbit/s over 1,000 feet between meshed nodes and up to 50 Mbit/s to WiFi devices over 500 feet.
  • The ZoneFlex 2741 is a centrally managed, 802.11g, outdoor access point that can deliver 30 Mbit/s over 1,000 feet between mesh nodes and up to 25 Mbit/s over 500 feet to devices. For short-range connections, this is much faster than the average 3G network connection, which is currently around 1 Mbit/s on the downlink. (See WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World.)
This improved stability and performance should win the APs friends in the carrier community, according to Ruckus CEO Selina Lo. She tells Unstrung that cellular operators can use the meshed boxes for "hotzone" applications, which off-load smartphone and other WiFi data traffic from 3G networks.

This isn't your old-style citywide WiFi mesh network though, Lo stresses. (See New Muni Models.)

"That wasn't a good model for municipalities. They had to plan the whole network first; it was costly... With hotzones, carriers just add WiFi where they need it in heavy traffic areas," says Lo.

These new outdoor boxes are fast enough to enable applications such as mobile video streaming (or surveillance) and could support multiple download streams in crowded areas.

The new Ruckus boxes are derived from its enterprise WiFi offerings. Much of the company's revenues come from its initial WiFi TV offerings, which have been picked up by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY), and others. (See Ruckus Raises 802.11n Stakes.)

Lo says the company has now seen four consecutive quarters of revenue growth and expects to be profitable this year. She says the TV business revenue allows the company to be creative in finding new applications for WiFi hardware.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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