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Wi-Fi vendor Ruckus expands into hybrid mobile networks

Stephen Lawson | Feb. 23, 2012
With Wi-Fi poised to become a much bigger part of mobile networks, the leaders in wireless LAN and cellular technology are converging on the same space from opposite directions.

Ruckus is among many vendors embracing SON (self-organizing network) technology, which allows macro and small cells to coordinate their use of spectrum in real time. A recent addition to the alphabet soup of cellular standards and an improvement on earlier small-cell management standards, SON is designed to overcome interference in networks where there are many small cells for each large macro cell.

SON is one area where a relative newcomer such as Ruckus could have trouble finding a place in networks dominated by more established cellular vendors, said analyst Monica Paolini of Senza Fili Consulting. Though SON is based on standards, it's too early to expect full interoperability, she said. This pains the carriers, which want to be able to choose a specialized vendor for small cells but find it harder to make two suppliers' gear work together, she added.

"Not all vendors are equally cooperative in creating an interoperable SON, because they want to protect their revenue," Paolini said. "For a small cell vendor like Ruckus, they depend on having a SON that is interoperable so they can work with the big guys."

However, to the extent that it can partner with big cellular vendors for the cellular portion of the SmartCell 8800, Ruckus may find a way in to carrier networks, she said.

While some network vendors will buy into Wi-Fi, as Ericsson did, others are likely to partner, Paolini said. Either way, the two technologies will be working in tandem to satisfy demand for mobile data.

"For a long time, the big vendors have tried to stay out of Wi-Fi offload," Paolini said. "Now, they understand they can't stop it."


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