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Ruckus & the Revenge of Metro Wireless

Metro WiFi is back, according to Ruckus Wireless Inc. , but this isn't like your father's mesh network, unless you happen to have relatives in Mumbai.

Ruckus is using its deal with Indian carrier Tikona Digital Networks Pvt. Ltd. to highlight its 802.11n-based outdoor access points, customer premises equipment, and backhaul boxes. Tikona is using the gear to build out WiFi clusters on business or residential buildings in Mumbai.

"We call it metro broadband 2.0, or maybe 3.0," says Ruckus CEO Selina Lo.

Tikona, which is backed by Goldman Sachs & Co. , intends to eventually roll out similar WiFi clusters across India. The carrier has deployed around 5,000 Ruckus APs, according to David Callisch, Ruckus VP of marketing.

"They're on track to probably be the largest WiFi network in the world by the end of next year," Callisch claims.

Ruckus is supplying all of the WiFi-related equipment for the Tikona project. This includes outdoor mesh access points, CPE units, and 5-GHz backhaul boxes that can link back to fiber nodes in city railway stations at speeds at 180 Mbit/s over one kilometer or 60 Mbit/s over 12km.

This means that, when Tikona finds a building that wants service, it can provide occupants with Internet service of half a Megabit to 2 Mbit/s. Not bad for a country with a distinct lack of copper infrastructure. None of this would be possible without the combination of 802.11n's better capacity and longer range or Ruckus's smart antenna technology, Lo claims. 802.11n has helped drastically reduce the cost of deploying these mesh clusters over previous 802.11g deployment. "Basically you needed five times the equipment to cover the same area using .11g," she says.

The smart antenna and beam-forming technology, which helps the signal find the best radio path, is necessary because building roof-tops in Mumbai are often crowded with other microwave and RF antennas. "The air is tremendously polluted with RF stuff," Lo notes.

Ruckus isn't just looking at India for these mesh clustering applications. "We're also doing this in Malaysia," says Callisch. Lo also foresees applications in China, Latin America, and possibly the U.S. itself.

Lo points to the way that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has been using WiFi to try and offload traffic from its 3G network in densely used areas: "You cannot get away from using unlicensed spectrum."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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