Ruckus has launched a Wi-Fi adapter designed to handle multimedia. The adapter will be built into IP TV services for consumers first, reaching businesses when IP voice services take off.
"It's all about consistent, uninterrupted bandwidth," said Selina Lo, chief executive of Ruckus, formerly known as Video54, which provides multiple-antenna hardware for NetGear's RangeMax line of fast Soho Wi-Fi products. "We provide a constant bit-rate over unstable airwaves."
Ruckus Wireless provides NetGear with BeamFlex, an array of six antennas with control software, which can double the range of Wi-Fi equipment. Netgear's RangeMax is the top "MIMO" class product, says Lo, although rivals claim that, since it uses multiple antennas not multiple radios, it is not technically MIMO (multiple input / multiple output).
MIMO products, including Airgo "True MIMO" multiple-radio system which is used by Linksys, Belkin and others, are likely to remain in home or small-office equipment until the 802.11n standard is complete.
Ruckus has now built its system into customer-premises equipment which already has one customer, PCCW, which will use it to deliver a home IP TV service in Hong Kong.
The new box includes SmartCast, traffic management software which handles IP multicast for TV data. "There are standards for QoS, including 802.11e," said Lo, "but people don't have them yet. We have a mechanism for deep packet inspection which can put packets in the relevant queue."
SmartCast's benefits are reminiscent of Lo's previous company, Alteon, which was bought by Nortel for $7.8 billion in 2000. While IP TV data is normally sent by UDP, with no quality, SmartCast adds the ability to prioritise it over other (TCP) data, and also to select priorities amongst video streams.
Wireless distribution of IP TV services will increase their take-up, and make "triple play" (voice, video and Internet) services more saleable, said Lo: "Thirty percent of potential cable subscribers turn the contractor away when they find out about the wiring requirements."
SmartCast also includes remote monitoring and management, so service providers can tell whether they are delivering the quality they say the should be, and fix problems without engineers visiting, said Lo.
All these benefits would also help businesses, but they are waiting on fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) before implementing wireless LANs everywhere, said Lo: "Fixed-mobile convergence is bigger in the longer term, but IP TV is a more pressing opportunity."
Businesses will also want standards for fast reliable wireless, which will emerge when 802.11n is finalised. "Whatever the final 802.11n standard, you can apply BeamFlex and SmartCast to it," said Lo. Although Netgear's RangeMax equipment uses the much-criticised channel bonding technology, this too will be allowed within 802.11n, she said.