Ruckus Wireless, the Sunnyvale, Calif., maker of municipal wireless and IPTV equipment is moving into the small and midsize business market.
The company is announcing a new suite of wireless products that will allow business users, as well as larger users of public hotspots, to create high-end wireless networks without paying the high prices or hiring the IT staff normally required for enterprise equipment.
The new wireless LAN system, called ZoneFlex, is designed to be a reasonably priced and easy to manage mesh network that uses the companys smart antenna system to overcome obstacles and interference.
In addition to its plug-and-play capability, the new design enhances RF performance with an improved smart antenna system. The new WLAN design has automated security, an automated encryption key distribution system and it requires no RF planning.
The system consists of ZoneFlex access points for 802.11g and 802.11n as well as a ZoneDirector Smart Wi-Fi Controller. Also included in the suite is the FlexMaster remote management system. The ZoneFlex suite of products will begin appearing commercially in July.
"We believe Wi-Fi is becoming the universal on ramp for universal networks," said Ruckus CEO Selina Lo. "The area not addressed by current technologies are small and medium business and hot zones. They have been forced to use either expensive enterprise systems which are overkill, or they have been forced to buy consumer type products."
Lo added that in addition to the lack of products, there is also a lack of people to implement these networks.
"Our heritage is building industrial strength Wi-Fi," Lo said. "We have built reliability and extended range. The network itself is plug and play. You dont have to worry about AP placement or wireless settings. Thats the principle behind the whole ZoneFlex network."
Lo said that one of the key advantages of the Ruckus approach is in its antenna design. The ZoneFlex WLAN system uses technology called Beamflex, which the company first developed for municipal and IPTV networks.
"This is a steerable antenna that has multiple antenna elements and is flexible. These elements can be combined so you have omni coverage," Lo said. "With the ZoneFlex we have an enhanced antenna so we have more flexibility. The antenna has 12 elements, six horizontal and six vertical. We can handle all sorts of client devices with different client designs."
Lo said that the BeamFlex antenna system also includes software to manage the operation of the antenna. The software builds an antenna table that ranks all of the endpoints in relation to the antenna and selects the best pattern for the best operation.
Lo said that the antenna chip set is already compliant with 802.11n Draft 2, and that an 11n version of the access point will be introduced later in 2007. "It can support 50 simultaneous users or 20 concurrent VOIP calls," Lo said of the new access points, adding that the two versions would include one thats designed for industrial environments.
According to Lisa Phifer, vice president of Core Competence, an analysis firm near Philadelphia, Ruckus has correctly identified a niche they can fill and the company has interesting technology for environments where you need more than access points but have the ability to manage them.
"They need to self configure and be easy to set up. Ive seen it fill dead spots. Their antenna design does an outstanding job of getting around that," Phifer said. "Were seeing a big jump to 11n, some interest in distributing voice and media. They do need to jump on this fairly quickly."
Phifer said that while Ruckus is bringing out their new line of products at exactly the right time, the company needs to get out in a splashy way and have something to point at.
"I think that they need to quickly complement their initial offering with the 11n product because theyre going to be competing with other 11n products," Phifer said. "I think if they can get a channel in place they can do fairly well."
The ZoneFlex 2925 access point, which is designed for office and indoor environments will be priced at $259.00. The industrial strength ZoneFlex 2942 will sell for $349.00 and the ZoneDirector controllers will start at $1200.00 depending on the configuration.