Ruckus Wireless has launched enterprise wireless LAN equipment that complies with the emerging 802.11n standard - but is reserving its dual-band equipment for service providers for now.
The Ruckus ZoneFlex 7942 is an 802.11n AP that has the company's special smart antenna array, but uses only the 2.4GHz spectrum, not the 5GHz spectrum where most Wi-Fi vendors are betting the market will move to. It can be used standalone by service providers for hotspots, or as part of the ZoneFlex wireless LAN system, managed by a ZoneDirector switch.
"Other companies are bringing general purpose 802.11n to market and throwing it against the wall to see where it sticks," said Bill Kish, chief technology officer and founder of Ruckus. In his view Wi-Fi in 2.4GHz is mature, and 802.11n for business should start there. Despite only having one band, the 7942 gives 50 percent better 802.11n performance than the Cisco 1250 AP which is currently market leader, said Kish, crediting the device's intelligent antenna system, which gives reliable multiple 802.11n data streams.
"The upgrade cycle will take some time," said Kish, pointing out that the majority of Wi-Fi clients will be in the 2.4GHz spectrum for some time. "It will be three or four years before existing 802.11g clients are replaced by 802.11n devices." Ruckus chief executive Selina Lo told Techworld that the company would hold back on dual band 802.11n last year.
"N is a roadmap that will keep vendors busy for another five years or more," said Kish. "There are many optional portions in terms of additional spatial streams, beam forming and error correction. It is very silicon intensive, and you will see more and more of these optional features being brought into the chipsets."
Ruckus' AP has two radios and can use one for an 802.11n-based mesh backhaul, reaching areas that were not covered before, said Kish: "The speeds of N are good enough for backhaul, so you only need Ethernet for every ten or twenty APs," he said. A hotel, for instance, may have only 10Mbit/s for the whole building, but need to distribute that to hundreds of rooms, making the cost of cabling prohibitive.
The 7942 costs US$599, but the company has an "N-Tice" programme under which users can claim a US$100 rebate if they promise to retire an 802.11g access point, and provide a serial number to prove it.
Despite arguing that enterprises don't need the 5Ghz band yet, Ruckus has a dual-band product for operators to sell to consumers as a home gateway device cabpable of streaming high-definition TV round a house: "It's a HD version of our MediaFlex access point," said Kish. "It gives 40 to 50 Mbit/s as an absolute worst case."
"We are arguably late to market in the enterprise wireless LAN space, because we went after other spaces first," said Kish. "Now N allows us to have a level playing field with other vendors - everyone is eventually going to move to N, and we will add value. We will deliver a dual band product for the enterprise by the end of the year, with our smart antennas."