According to the company, the key to the success of the MetroFlex DZ is a new antenna technology designed specifically for work with outdoor public Wi-Fi sites. The antenna array is software-controlled to pick the strongest path to the Wi-Fi signal automatically. The antenna design optimizes the signal for both the outdoor source and the indoor users, and it can change its optimization as needed, even for multiple users.
"Its designed for the residential user for full in-home coverage, or the downtown business user who wants connectivity throughout the building," said Eric Stresen-Reuter, technical director for the Americas for Ruckus Wireless, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. Stresen-Reuter said the MetroFlex DZ differs from range extenders because of its sophisticated design and active antenna control.
"Range extenders are good if you have a good signal," he said. "Where we really shine is with the very sensitive receiver that allows us to hear very faint signals. We can maintain connectivity and maintain communications."
Stresen-Reuter said the MetroFlex software is designed to stick with its chosen access point instead of continually searching for another, perhaps stronger, signal, as is the case with many similar products. Constant searching is "not good for a metro environment," he said, explaining that it can disrupt communications. "You dont want to be scanning continuously for a new radio."
"Weve rewritten the association algorithm to be more sticky," Stresen-Reuter said, but he noted that the MetroFlex will still look for a new access point if the one with which its associated becomes too busy, slows in its response, or goes down.
"The main thing we bring is antenna technology. We can have antenna patterns optimized between us and the outside node and the device inside," he said, adding that the antenna for the MetroFlex is unique, because it supports both vertical and horizontal polarization.
Similarly, IDC Research Manager Jonathan Gaw said, "The benefit that Ruckus brings to this isnt so much the routing or the modem, its the antennas. When youre talking about a lot of different environments that will change based on weather conditions, traffic, trees, or whatever, having a good antenna is really valuable," and, in fact, necessary for "any city that has varying weather, where you have signals behaving differently in different conditions."
Gaw said its important to solve connectivity problems with good antenna technology rather than expecting the municipality to populate as many light poles with Wi-Fi access points as it can. The MetroFlex DZ is "purpose-built for muni Wi-Fi," Gaw said.
Stresen-Reuter said earlier versions of MetroFlex can be upgraded to the new DZ software for free. He said that the new units are available now with a suggested price of $149.00.