Motorola invests in video WLAN startup
By Stephen Lawson
IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)

Motorola and Deutsche Telekom are teaming up to investing in a maker of home WLAN equipmentt.

The companies have invested US$16 million round of investment in Ruckus Wireless Inc., which designed its MediaFlex system to reliably deliver multimedia content across a WiFi wireless LAN. It was the third round for the Sunnyvale, California, company, which has now raised a total of $30 million.

The investments don't come with commitments to use or roll out the technology but could lead to closer cooperation, said Rob Mustarde, vice president of worldwide sales with Ruckus. Motorola might eventually integrate Ruckus technology in its set-top boxes for service providers that want it. Deutsche Telekom has tested Ruckus's products, Mustarde said.

Ruckus will announce MediaFlex NG, a new version of its product that is designed for remote management and easier deployment.

As the range of content available on PCs and over broadband grows to include multimedia, sharing that content over a wireless LAN creates new challenges. Even with emerging high-speed IEEE 802.11n technology, standard wireless LANs won't be able to deliver streaming video from a broadband gateway to a TV, according to Ruckus. Its MediaFlex includes a router and an adapter that use multiple antennas and software to maintain a steady video stream. The system complies with IEEE 802.11b/g and can be used with conventional Wi-Fi gear, but it gives better results with Ruckus gear, according to the company.

About 40 service providers, including PCCW in Hong Kong and some rural carriers in the U.S., have deployed the Ruckus system for their subscribers. The Ruckus router plugs into a service provider's Internet gateway and each Ruckus adapter attaches to a TV set-top box or other device.

Ruckus's new products configure themselves automatically so subscribers don't have to set up the network's SSID (Service Set Identifier) or security settings. Each time a new adapter is added, it automatically gets those settings. But service providers can also have the system set up to allow subscribers to create their own virtual network with its own SSID, Mustarde said. While the subscriber can control security, priority and other settings there, the carrier can manage the rest of the system remotely. MediaFlex NG is available now for list prices of $159 for a router and $99 for an adapter.

Motorola Ventures and T-Online Venture Fund joined with other venture investors in the latest round. Ruckus's new money people are good friends to have, according to In-Stat analyst Mike Paxton. Motorola is the highest volume maker of set-top boxes for cable TV networks and among the biggest for boxes designed for the emerging telecommunications carrier TV market, he said. Cable operators as well as DSL (digital subscriber line) providers are interested in helping their customers network their homes, and vendor Cisco Systems Inc. and operator Comcast Corp. also have made investments in new technologies in this area, he said.

"They're spreading their manure around, hoping a few flowers will sprout," Paxton said.