Demand is skyrocketing for more reliable and effective Internet connections with wi-fi devices, says Louis Au, VP of APAC, Ruckus Wireless, in an email interview with Zafar Anjum.
Enterprises are increasingly adopting mobility forced by the consumerisation of IT. How is this trend affecting companies like Ruckus?
This has presented tremendous market potential that Ruckus can tap. With the barrage of data traffic hitting corporate networks from these new wi-fi-enabled smartphones, tablets and other bandwidth-hungry devices, enterprises must contend with data volumes that exceed network capacity, and a crowded RF spectrum that is impossible to navigate. Meanwhile, to keep costs down and sex appeal up, providing wireless support for these devices is often an afterthought. Low powered wi-fi devices, with mediocre antennas, make it difficult for tablets and smartphones to connect to wi-fi networks and vice versa.
As these wireless-only devices flood enterprise networks, user expectations for more reliable and pervasive wireless connectivity are exploding. Nearly every vertical market including schools, hotels, hospitals, small and medium businesses, airports and shopping malls today understand the value of wi-fi beyond simple and convenient connectivity.
How do you see this trend picking up in Asia?
We see the demand of providing more reliable and effective Internet connections with wi-fi devices skyrocketing. Hotels are inundated with requests from their guests carrying two to three different mobile devices for reliable and easy connectivity. Schools primarily rely on their wi-fi to collaborate with their students and deliver learning content. In extreme cases, density access is not uncommon anymore. In public venues where huge crowds gather, such as temples, airports, sports stadiums, and exhibition halls, wi-fi has become indispensable keeping thousands of guests to stay connected simultaneously.
Ruckus has been pioneering in many aspects of wireless technologies. What new technologies are you bringing to the market this year?
Ruckus has recently introduced a new high-capacity WLAN controller called ZoneDirector 5000 which can manage up to 20,000 devices’ connections and manage up to 1,000 Ruckus ZoneFlex access points together. Also we have announced several new features in our Smart/OS, the software running in all of our wi-fi systems. That will ease IT managers’ work in managing wi-fi networks in remote offices, troubleshooting and support of IPv6. All these new technologies can help IT managers dealing with the continued growth of mobile devices in their networks.
Can you tell us about the new industry standard IEEE 802.11u, and how it is going to affect the wireless scene?
The emerging IEEE 802.11u protocol, certified by Wi-Fi Alliance, will further fuel the growth of wi-fi. 11u is the fundamental standard for Hotspot 2.0, an initiative driven by vendors and network operators. 802.11u automates what is now a cumbersome and tedious process for users trying to connect to wi-fi networks and services.
Hotspot 2.0 uses 802.11u to provide seamless automatic wi-fi authentication and handoff, allowing mobile users to roam between the networks without fiddling a host of unfamiliar wireless network names and re-authenticate themselves and select the networks while roaming.
Hotspot 2.0 will further ease the mobile data traffic offloading to wi-fi by encouraging network operators to work together much easier as well. For example, with hotspot 2.0, a traveller can instantly hop on a wi-fi hotspot just like the way his mobile phone roams in another country. His smartphone or tablet will automatically connect with and log in the hotspot with which his mobile operator has roaming contract with.
The hotspot provider can be another mobile operator, fixed carrier or even property owners such as hotels, sport stadiums or airport terminals. Ruckus will integrate support for the IEEE 802.11u protocol in our solutions in the next 12 months.
What challenges do you foresee in Asia Pacific with regard to the future development of wireless technologies and their adoption?
IT managers are often confronted with the challenges for delivering outstanding wireless connectivity for different devices with different speeds in a variety of situations. Currently most users on average use two different devices at work. This means IT managers are having 2x the number of clients to service.
In some specific environments such as warehouses, hotels and restaurants, their wi-fi systems may need to connect with other purpose-built clients such as IP phones and barcode scanners that are still in 11b. They do not realise that these slower clients could hog the same amount of RF medium as the current 11n devices, thereby slowing down these faster clients.
In public venues, interferences could diminish the quality of connectivity. Ruckus recently joined an independent product test commissioned by Tom’s hardware, testing today’s most well known wi-fi equipment to deal with the real world scenario.
Our adaptive antenna technology along with other advanced features proved that our APs can automatically adapt into these deployment situations and delivered a much better overall performance over the other wi-fi networking devices. That’s why we coined our products – Smart Wi-Fi.
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