I recently had the opportunity to speak with David Callisch, VP of marketing at privately-owned Ruckus Wireless on the common mistakes that SMBs make in deploying Wi-Fi. Since Ruckus specializes in the design and manufacture of business-centric Wi-Fi products, I took the opportunity to understand more about the unique value proposition of its product lineup, as well as glean a more detailed perspective of Wi-Fi in the enterprise.
What are some problems with Wi-Fi that you've seen?
Callisch: There are two problems with Wi-Fi that people generally have. Signals don't reach where people want them to reach, so there is a performance problem. Another problem is erratic performance, which is interference and obstacles. Interference causes packet loss, which results in retransmissions, which results in delays. This [interference] can come from another Wi-Fi network or another interference source.
Do you see any change in how enterprises are deploying Wi-Fi?
Callisch: A lot of enterprises have tried traditional Wi-Fi systems and have found issues with reliability and performance. Enterprises are looking at a little more sophisticated solution for such areas such as multimedia. Pixelation and corruption is likely for most consumer access points (APs) on the market.
Enterprise wants to do voice, streaming, digital advertising and they want to do more robust applications. [In addition,] they also want to be able to put an AP anywhere they want without having to run an Ethernet cable to it.
Tell me more about interference rejection.
Callisch: There is a smart antenna arrangement inside each [Ruckus] AP. Think of it being like in a dark room, and you could turn on a light which will go to every corner of the room, or shining a beam of light at a specific direction. And because it is in your hand, if somebody walks around, I can move it. In terms of interference rejection, we can turn the other torchlight beams off, so that you don't have to listen [even though] other people could be talking in a large crowded room. We are able to reject noise that other access points can't because they have to listen to everyone at the same time.
What about beamforming. Is this technology unique to Ruckus?
Callisch: Beamforming is part of the Wi-Fi standard, [and there are two ways of doing it.]
Beamforming done using the chips is all about the timing of the signal. It's like throwing two rocks in the pond. Where two meet is the beam that is going to be formed. It uses timing, or phasing of the signal to create a virtual beam. The problem is that you can't really control it properly if you are controlling it using timing alone. Beamforming from [Name of enterprise networking brand omitted] is done at the chip, using timing to form a beam. But there is no way to control it or know if you're forming the right beam for the right client since there is no feedback mechanism.
Ruckus makes use of the physical antenna to direct the RF (radio frequency) energy using antenna-based beamforming. Because antenna-based beamforming radiates a beam of RF energy in the direction of the client device, performance is more predictable and sustainable.
Tell me more about SmartMesh Networking
Callisch: This is useful in areas such as hotels where there might not be an Ethernet connection; this is different from how WDS works (Wireless Distribution System). The smart antenna used by Ruckus allows for higher reliability and higher range. The difference is that Ruckus can dedicate one band to the backhaul, and use the smart antenna to make a connection between two APs. And because they can shoot the signal very far, you can create better mesh with fewer hops by simply placing the mesh nodes further apart. Essentially, doing this allows you to steer around problems such as interference or obstacles.
So, is Wi-Fi suitable for business?