Aruba's Marina Trist

Marinas aren't the easiest venues for providing wireless connectivity. It can be expensive to install the infrastructure required to provide decent coverage, and the kit needs to handle interference, provide bandwidth, and stand up to the elements once installed.

According to Kevin Keating, CEO of Seattle-based BroadbandXpress, using a centralized switch architecture from Aruba Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: ARUN) has helped his company solve some of these specialized problems. The firm is a wireless Internet service provider that focuses exclusively on marinas around the U.S. and the San Juan Islands. BroadbandXpress touts 80 marinas in its network thus far.

Interference from other radios on the 2.4GHz frequency in urban areas created a host of problems for Keating's firm. The cost of installing T1 lines in the same areas was also an issue.

Aruba has helped solve these problems. Keating's staff can use the software at the centralized switch to change channels (and more) whenever they face interference issues. To combat interference, the Aruba APs tunnel back to the centralized switch over less costly connections for management purposes. Keating reckons that his customers are getting speeds of over 1 Mbit/s on their WiFi connections.

The firm has begun installing Aruba APs in areas like Seattle's Union Lake. Initial costs can be high: The firm has one switch, which costs $1,750, and 10 APs, and plans to add more. Keating says that this is still saving money for the firm compared to the alternatives.

The firm is already using wireless APs and gateways from Colubris Networks Inc. and Nomadix Inc. in its WiFi network, Keating notes.

"I can't say we're exclusively using Aruba... We just ran across them. I think this is the first time they really deployed with a hotspot aggregator."

However, Keating is impressed with the performance of the Aruba infrastructure so far. "They seem pretty bulletproof," he says.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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