Ruckus Wireless has told eWEEK that it plans to announce agreements with 15 rural telephone companies to provide wireless broadband and IPTV equipment to customers.
Ruckus uses a revolutionary antenna design to deliver high-bandwidth program material over standard Wi-Fi signals. This means that a telco can provide video service to a home and not have to also wire the home for television service.
Instead, all thats needed is a wireless access point where the signal enters the home, and a wireless set-top box where the television or computer is located.
Ruckus, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is already providing similar products and services in Asia and Europe, but is only now making serious inroads into the U.S. market.
Ruckus also provides equipment for a variety of other uses, such as community Wi-Fi. Its adaptive antenna system can automatically reconfigure itself to provide a solid signal regardless of problems caused by interference, blockage, distortion or fading.
“Everybody said that Wi-Fi cannot support multimedia, and we proved them wrong,” said Ruckus President and CEO Selina Lo. “We use standard Wi-Fi chip sets … We have an antenna to morph in real time to adjust around interference. Its a multi-element antenna that can be changed in real time,” she said.
Until now, Lo said, carriers, including the rural carriers shes selling to, had bad experiences with wireless multimedia. “Most of these carriers have written off Wi-Fi before,” she said. “Theyve tried and it didnt work well.” Lo said its the new antenna technology that overcomes the problems experienced by those carriers.
“With our smart antenna technology, we can pick the best data path,” Lo said, “so we dont have drops. We focus on making the worst case suck less.”
Lo said one significant challenge was dealing with IP multicast. “Wi-Fi devices treat multicast as non-essential,” Lo said. “We recognize that and can guarantee reliable multicast.” She said this is accomplished by configuring access points to give multicast a high priority and by using QOS (quality-of-service) guarantees.
According to Lo, the wireless IPTV business is growing faster in Europe and Asia than in the United States. She said the company already has a major contract with Hong Kongs PCCW phone company, a mostly state-owned PTT (post, telegraph and telecommunications), while in Europe, “the business has been more robust … We have installations in Ireland Finland, Slovenia, and were working on deals in Italy, France and Belgium,” she said.
“I think its actually the perfect market for them,” said Jeff Heynen, directing analyst for Broadband and IPTV at Infonetics Research, based in Campbell, Calif. “The rural telcos in North America have been the real adopters for IPTV,” he said.
Heynen said using wireless communications for television saves the telephone companies a substantial amount of money.
“Once you add an IPTV set-top box, which costs 150 dollars each, you have to consider how to distribute the video signal,” Heynen said. “In a lot of instances there is not existing coax [coaxial cable] in the house, much less Cat 5 [Category 5]. In order to use some of these new home networking standards, you have to have a house thats fully wired, and most of these houses arent, plus you have only one point of entry.”
“The only cost-effective option other than rewiring the house is to distribute the signal with wireless,” Heynen said, adding that the Ruckus Wireless equipment is the obvious choice because its reasonably priced (about $150) and works very well.
“Its easy CPE (customer-provided equipment) to manage, it does the job its supposed to do and the operator doesnt have to worry about getting calls throughout the day about TV signals not working,” he said.
Heynen also said he thinks Ruckus is poised to expand significantly, and that it is important for the company to start with small steps, get its relationships and distribution in place, and be ready to go for larger orders when they come in.
He said the Ruckus technology will be essential for phone, satellite and cable companies installing broadband and video products in areas with older buildings. “Theres absolutely a market in existing neighborhoods … particularly in Europe,” he said.
Heynen said he also expects to see Ruckus technology integrated into products from other vendors such as Netgear and D-Link, as well as into set-top boxes from other manufacturers. The official announcement for the Ruckus Wireless deals will be on Monday, July 17.