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How Smart Wi-Fi Improves Wireless Network Performance

Paul Rubens | Jan. 3, 2013
If poor Wi-Fi performance in your busy office is a problem for your organization, smart Wi-Fi is worth investigating. Here's why one company ripped out it Cisco wireless network gear and went with a new hardware-and-software-based Wi-Fi approach.

Its access points are able to make their Wi-Fi signals highly directional using a software-controlled antenna array, which is made up of multiple individual antenna elements. Pairs of these elements can be combined in real time by the software to form different antenna patterns.

"There are thousands of possible antenna pairs, and each pair beams in a different direction," says Callisch. "Our software can choose the best antenna pair at any given time, and as a client moves around we alter and optimize the beam using different antenna pairs. We can determine in microseconds which antenna pairs will yield the best results and switch so fast that you won't drop a packet."

The result, says Callisch, is a WLAN that offers up to three times faster performance, and one that reaches between two and four times farther. A side effect of this is that fewer access points are needed to cover an entire building, he adds, which reduces the hardware cost of rolling out a WLAN solution.

Ruckus claims that its access points cost about half as much as Cisco gear, and since half as many access points are needed, the cost of building a WLAN with Ruckus equipment is about 25 per cent of the cost of a Cisco one. (Ruckus' ZoneFlex access points can use mesh networking to extend a WLAN with extra access points without the need for additional cabling. While this capability is not unique to Ruckus, it can help keep down costs.)

Smart Wi-Fi in Practice

That's the theory, anyway, but how true is all of this in practice? One organization that has tried the technology is Atlantic Aviation, a company that operates 65 facilities at airports around the country. Each multi-room facility offers free Wi-Fi access to customers and pilots, and 50 or more people may use it at any one time.

"Before we started using Ruckus, our users experienced very poor reliability and we constantly had customer complaints about our Wi-Fi, which was based on Cisco equipment," says Rob Davis, the company's vice president of information technology.

He approached six service providers to implement an alternative solution for Atlantic Aviation, and all six recommended using Ruckus equipment, he says.

Once the company stripped out all the old Cisco gear and implemented a similar number of Ruckus access points, Davis says that the change in Wi-Fi performance was enormous. "The Ruckus equipment we have is fairly inexpensive--significantly cheaper than what we had before--but it gives us better performance and better coverage at all our sites. Wi-Fi is now no longer a topic of conversation or a source of complaints from our customers--they now just assume that it will always work."


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