Saturday, 04 April 2015 23:16

Waving, not drowning: Ruckus Wireless to drown Wave 2 802.11ac users in connectivity

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The latest big commotion from Ruckus Wireless has arrived: the industry’s first 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi Access Point feeds appetite for voracious multi-gigabit capacity.

Ruckus Wireless has announced its new ZoneFlex R710 Wi-Fi access point (AP), the first to deliver Wave 2 features of the 802.11ac standard, extending Wi-Fi to enable ‘multi-gigabit Wi-Fi performance and unprecedented capacity.’

How does it work? By supporting ‘major technical advances in the 802.11ac standard that allow the simultaneous transmission of multiple client streams to different devices over the same frequency, a highly anticipated new capability called multi-user multiple input/multiple output (MU-MIMO).’ 

The benefit? Over two times the density of mobile devices versus Wave 1, and aggregate data rates exceeding two gigabits per second.

Of course, we wonder how much faster and better this would be if it were delivering Artemis Networks’ pCells with Wi-Fi connectivity, but with pCells yet to be available for the public to buy and deploy themselves, Ruckus Wireless has the most advanced Wi-Fi for all the fly girls and guys out there.

Ruckus says that the City of San José in the great state of California is ‘among the first organizations to deploy the ZoneFlex R710 within a production environment’, and as you can expect as a paying customer, says it ‘sees big value in the migration to new 802.11ac Wave 2 technology.’

Vijay Sammeta, San José’s CIO said: “We are at an inflection point in the industry as we deal with insatiable demand for wireless capacity and speed.

“We need to be able to plan and prepare for devices and services we haven’t even seen yet. Wave 2 represents an investment in a platform that not only meets our current needs, it will also meet those in the future that we can’t even predict.

“Delivering our Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi service has become a distinct competitive advantage for the City of San José. The Ruckus ZoneFlex R710 helps us take this to the next level. It’s simply the best performing Wi-Fi access point we’ve ever deployed, even without multi-user MIMO clients.”

Summit said that, after installing the Ruckus ZoneFlex R710, the City was able to ‘achieve dramatic performance improvements, reaching over 445 megabits per second speed with two-stream-capable laptops, and over 200 megabits per second with single-stream mobile smart phones.’

That sounds seriously fast to us, so it’s no surprise to see Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless stating: “The R710 is an extraordinary feat of engineering that marks a new era for our industry. The work and innovation we’ve put into the R710 reflects our leadership in delivering the world’s best in class wireless products that stand the test of time.”

Here's the Ruckus Wireless promo YouTube video for the ZoneFlex R710:

So, now that we have the top-level picture of how the R710 works and its benefits, what is some more technical detail?

Spruiking its ‘patented BeamFlex+ adaptive antenna technology’, Ruckus makes a big noise about the ZoneFlex R710 supporting ‘up to four spatial streams and 500 concurrent clients’, with BeamFlex+ ‘enhancing the operation of Wave 2 802.11ac technology by optimising antenna coverage on a per client, per transmission basis.’

With the R710 you’ll find ‘four discrete, dual-band smart antenna arrays, capable of dynamically creating over 4,000 unique directional antenna patterns per radio, mitigating up to 15dB of RF interference while also reducing co-channel interference.’

In addition, ‘dual-polarised smart antennas also allow the R710 to automatically adapt to the changing physical orientation of mobile client devices such as smartphones and tablets, thereby helping to maximise uplink performance and offer unmatched reception of weak mobile client signals.’

BeamFlex+ is also said to offer ‘a significant increase in performance and range, delivering up to 5dB of signal gain and aggregate data rates of over two gigabits per second (Gbps), 1,733 Mbps (@ 5 GHz) and 800 Mbps (@ 2.4 GHz).’

Naturally, it is backwards compatible with existing Wi-Fi clients, with the ZoneFlex R710 able to operate ‘as a standalone Wi-Fi access point or part of a centrally managed Ruckus Smart Wireless LAN (WLAN).’

On top of all this, the ZoneFlex R710 ‘is equipped with dual gigabit Ethernet ports that can be aggregated to satisfy peak throughput requirements for maximum investment protection.’

A unique feature is its ability to support spatial multiplexing, adaptive antenna switching and transmit beamforming — which Ruckus says is ‘designed to ensure that Wi-Fi performance and reliability are never compromised.’

And, the ZoneFlex R710 maintains full 4x4:4 802.11ac functionality with standard 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE), which Ruckus says ‘eliminates the need for costly and cumbersome wired switch upgrades.’

What about monetising Wi-Fi? Well, Ruckus says the R710 also has a built-in USB port to accommodate Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Combined with Ruckus’ ‘SPoT location-based services (LBS) and analytics’ this ‘enables opportunities for enterprises and Service Providers to monetise their Wi-Fi investment in public venues through rich analytics and location-based user engagement.’

We asked Ruckus Wireless A/NZ MD, Pat Devlin, for some additional comment on the ZoneFlex R710, and naturally, he happily obliged, stating: “High density environments (ie: lots of users in a small space) can often be challenging for Wi-Fi infrastructure. A single Access Point can only handle a limited number of concurrent connections.

“So if you have lots of people, you need lots of access points. Adding more access points can create its own problems. Wi-Fi transmits over radio and there are only so many channels available. When 2 APs talk on the same channel, you get interference which reduces throughput.

“The answer to dense environments isn’t MORE Access Points, the answer is more capable access points. Wi-Fi is a shared medium, meaning only one device can talk at any one time on the same channel.

“As you can imagine, in an environment with multiple clients, this could be problematic. The best high density access points make use of multiple antennae and multiple spatial streams.

“Multiple spatial streams means multiple transmissions of different data streams at the same time on the same channel. This is MIMO (Multi-in / Multi-out). Up till now that maxed out at 3 but 802.11ac Access Points broaden those numbers.

“Here’s the problem: Although you can have multiple data streams – they all have to be to/from the SAME CLIENT! So only clients with MIMO capability could benefit. How does that help dense environments? It means the client gets its data back and forth much faster leaving more time for other clients to connect. This is an oversimplification but it works for our purpose.

“SO what? Most mobile devices in use today are only capable of 1 or 2 spatial streams. That means, having more antennae and more spatial streams on the AP are not going to help much in most situations, especially in high-density areas.

“802.11ac WAVE 2 includes a number of new features which are geared to speeding up connections in dense environments. One key feature is MU-MIMO or Multi-User MIMO. This means multiple conversations with DIFFERENT devices at the same time.

“The effective result is Access Points that can handle many more concurrent clients, get higher throughput and become ideal for high density deployments.

“We think the market will be very excited by the release of the Ruckus R710 access point. There is already strong demand in our key markets. In Hospitality, hotel conference areas will see immediate benefit. In the education sector, school halls and university lecture theatres face density challenges today.

“The retail market in Australia is embracing Wi-Fi for its rich analytics capability and Ruckus is front and centre with several high profile deployments. MU-MIMO and the R710 will make these deployments simpler than ever. Ruckus’ beamflex antenna gives us an additional edge in these environments that no other Wi-Fi vendor has been able to match.”

So, what does the Ruckus ZoneFlex R710 cost, and when will it become commercially available?

It’s coming ‘this quarter’, and will cost US$1295. No Australian price has been announced as yet but you can presumably add the extra cost the lower Ausrtalian dollar will add to the price.

Ruckus has its ‘authorised BiG DOG resellers worldwide’, so this presumably means that wherever you currently get Ruckus gear is where you’ll be able to get one in Australia!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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