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Carrier WiFi

Ruckus Packs Wi-Fi & LTE Into Small Cells

Wi-Fi offload vendor Ruckus Wireless Inc. is going all-inclusive with its newest line of small cells that bundle 3G, Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Wi-Fi into one heterogeneous network.

The company plans to unveil the new small cell system, SmartCell, at next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

SmartCell is compromised of two products: a multi-radio access point, SmartCell 8800, what VP of Marketing David Callisch calls a "very low-profile, light-weight box with an adaptive antenna in it"; and a Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) edge services platform, the SmartCell 200 gateway. The small cells have a slot for 3G or LTE with 5Ghz backhaul.

By collocating Wi-Fi access points with LTE small cells, Ruckus says operators can save on cost and complexity, share site-leasing agreements and, importantly, backhaul to both add capacity and offload traffic.

SmartCell integrates with existing 3GPP and LTE macro infrastructure and includes authentication through IEEE 802.1x, meaning no new software is needed on handsets, as well as billing and service provisioning software. It uses self-organizing network (SON) principles to backhaul what can add up to be a massive amount of small cells, often with little to no line-of-site.

Callisch says the SmartCell system is in trials in North America and Europe with wireless operators today, but won't be deployed commercially until the end of the year.

Why this matters
Ruckus isn't the first to combine LTE and Wi-Fi with backhaul. BelAir Networks Inc. , for one, also offers an integrated box. But, it's still early days for what will become an important combo as the operators look to add capacity to their networks at a cost-effective rate. (See BelAir Small Cell Packs Backhaul Punch .)

It is going to take the carriers some time to get their HetNets and 4G infrastructure rolled out, and that is still priority No. 1. But, after that is when is when Wi-Fi starts to get more interesting. The next step is to add policy to Wi-Fi offload to monetize it, and then to make the authentication process more seamless for consumers. Callisch says carriers are already thinking about policy, but authentication improvements for the handoff are still years away. "The big deal in the mobile space is to offer more bundled services, more value-added services and wholesale services," he says.

For more
Wi-Fi, small cells, LTE and combos therein will dominate next week's show. Check out our MWC site for all the coverage, and see below for what's already been announced.



— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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