Ruckus Wireless – Scaling for service provider Wi-Fi

One of the biggest thing that struck me as the overall theme of the Ruckus Wireless presentation at Wireless Field Day 8 was how they have found a niche in the service provider business and were working hard to expand their footprint there. Although I was aware of their presence in this market before, and that they were one of the major Wi-Fi businesses in it, it wasn’t until this week I saw how much focus their business had in this space. To me Ruckus has always been a vision of a very sharp technically focused firm who excelled in antenna technology with their APs. As I do most of my work in the enterprise, I thought their focus was mainly on SMB customers and so I didn’t run into their technology a lot, as much as I admired it. At this Wireless Field Day, Ruckus presented on their new virtual SmartZone products and the presentation showed just how much they were getting ready to be able to managed at huge scale Wi-Fi deployments and especially to make themselves attractive to managed services businesses. As we see the business become about massive deployments of APs, this kind of thinking is needed to make it easier to manage and provide reliability for end users.


Ruckus presented on their antenna technology and showed off their new ZoneFlex 710 AP running an MU-MIMO stream between two APs. This is the first time I have seen an actual demonstration of MU-MIMO working and saw that although there wasn’t a huge gain (40%), it was still a significant increase in overall throughput. This is one technology I’ve been particularly skeptical about that it would work in the real world and it was good to see that even in a particularly noisy (they had dozens of SSIDs) environment it was able to work. There was much in depth technical discussion (you really should watch the video below) about how different factors will affect MU-MIMO deployments and it seems to be particularly important that the algorithm used to group the APs for a MU-MIMO transmission be able to correctly find clients able to receive the transmission. The antenna technology that Ruckus has, beamflex, is crucial to them being able to properly aim the antennas so that they isolate the clients to form the grouping.

###Ruckus presents on MU-MIMO using ZoneFlex 710


  • MU-MIMO – ZoneFlex 710
  • Allows use of spectrum to transmit to multiple clients
  • Demo of MU-MIMO running compared to client with 4 antennas
  • Differentiation and grouping algorithms will be biggest factor in implementations

Smartzone Virtual Solutions

As more and more businesses move to using the cloud we have seen an upswing in cloud based management of wireless deployments and APs. Having a ‘cloud’ version of your management platform (be it controller based or independent AP based) meets many business requirements and can bring many advantages for certain customer segments. Part of the challenge of this is being able to scale the platform and make it usable in situations where there are thousands of APs. Ruckus presented their Smartzone offerings to Wireless Field Day with it’s take on these platforms and where it saw the pain points as being for companies utilizing Ruckus for their businesses. It was great to hear some of the technical details such as how they had different appliances for managing the control plane and data planes and how they were thinking about the networking integration and how outages would affect customers.

###Ruckus presents on SmartZone and their virtual solutions


  • Virtual Solution Offerings;
    • Virtual Smartzone
    • Virtual Smartzone Data
    • Virtual Networking Integration
  • Smartzone is carrier class platform/appliance
  • Can scale up to 30K APs, redundancy and manageability (RESTful APIs)
  • Distributed deployments, AP survivability
  • Enterprise or Managed services
  • Uses virtual data plane as separate from controller.
  • Can be moved between different environments.
  • Allows for different deployment options

SPoT real time locationing solution

Recently using different methods of finding where people are in a wireless environment has found favor again by various wireless manufacturers and Ruckus presented their particular take on the new developments in this technology. The new developments in this part of the wireless landscape has been to bring more analysis into more traditional location methods and to try to narrow down the range that a particular system could be off on a particular users location but using more advanced wireless methods (either with bluetooth, or some of the later 802.11 standards that gets information directly from clients). The main difference that Ruckus seems to be doing here is to use a cloud based platform to enable their service to be dynamically scalable. Once again this emphasizes to me of the focus Ruckus has in the service provider space, as they would likely be prime customers for this kind of service. This ties in neatly to the SmartZone solutions described previously.

###Ruckus presents on SPoT


  • Dynamically scalable platform to go from small to large deployments
  • No active engagement with clients, just uses whatever data the client is sending
  • You have to do calibration to improve accuracy.

LTE in Unlicensed 5GHz

The last presentation from Ruckus was on recent developments in using LTE in the unlicensed 5GHz band. Ruckus has been doing the industry a service by keeping a close watch on the developments in the 3GPP and have taken the approach that it will happen if we like it or not and we therefore should be involved in shaping what it looks like. This presentation clearly pointed out what the major ‘flavors’ of LTE were that could affect Wi-Fi and what the likelihood for disruption is from them. It’s significant here that the one being talked about most in the press, LTE-U, is also the most likely to cause W-Fi disruption. I would encourage Wi-Fi professionals to become aware of what this could look like in their environments, however I also believe that commercially these types of deployments will be a hard sell in enterprises, especially if they have existing WLANs. It remains to be seen which of these technologies will take hold and become a common feature that needs to be dealt with in wireless deployments. My take on this right now is watch, wait and see.

###Ruckus presents on LTE in unlicensed 5GHz bands


  • LTE-U, LAA, LWA are main programs
  • LTE-U – Significant risk of WiFi disruption, duty cycle approach
  • LAA – More promising for WiFi co-existance, Listen before talk (needs more work to prove)
  • LWA – Most promising WiFi co-existance. Tunnels LTE data within 802.11 frames
  • Linked to indoor small cell deployments of LTE

Cambium Networks – Outdoor PTP & PMP

I had heard a few years ago about Cambium Networks being born out of a split of the company from Motorola 3 years ago. Before this time I worked on an outdoor deployment with the Motorola Canopy division in the 3.6GHz range that utilized the technology shown to Wireless Field Day 8. It was interesting to me to hear more about how it exactly works, especially as I had gained a lot more knowledge of the fundamentals of the Wi-Fi PHY in studying for the CWAP exam. Below are some of my thoughts.

First of all, the market that Cambium targets is primarily outdoor connectivity and they have three solutions they specialize in; Access, where end user connectivity is required in difficult to reach areas for a wired internet provider, such as rural housing, Backhaul, where edge to edge high performance is a must and Transport, where a layer 2 bridge is required to support any type of higher layer traffic. They can use both licensed and unlicensed bands to provide for those solutions. There are many use cases for wireless here and Cambium is very focused on competing in this area strongly with other players.

Technically, the most interesting part of their solutions is the use of GPS sync in the radios to govern when a packet is sent. Although their solution is very similar to the 802.11 PHY, essentially what they have done is removed all contention based access control as the GPS sync feature governs when APs can send and receive data. This allows for a more efficient MAC, but at the cost of potentially interfering with existing users of a band who use contention based access. In addition to this, Cambium products use TPC to control power levels to reduce secondary interference effects from the signal being too strong and hitting other parts of the antenna array. The system as a whole is very deterministic. Some of their AP models are shown below;

The ePMP 1000 AP
5GHz Force 180

It was great to hear from Cambium at Wireless Field Day 8 and I hope they will decide to rejoin us in the future. I must admit to being a bit concerned that their deterministic tech would cause issues for Wi-Fi, however as they are primarily an outdoor company this should mitigate that to an extent.

* Talking about outdoor broadband product line
* Connectivity in Access, Backhaul and Transport networks
* Access is end user connectivity in difficult to reach areas where wired connections won’t work.
* Backhaul is edge to edge where high performance is a must.
* Transport is a layer 2 bridge to support any type of higher layer traffic.
* Can use both licensed and unlicensed bands
* Expanding to products inside the house to integrate connectivity
* Provide Carrier services as alternative to DSL, etc.
* Connectivity for video surveillance devices
* Infrastructure backup connectivity for redundant connectivity for networks.
* Extension of broadband access where it is needed.
* ePMP is SOC chip based and PMP is FPGA proprietary chip
** GPS sync radio and unseen radios, for lower cost modules.
** Higher gain antennas for longer distance connections 25dBM
** Uses different subscriber modules to reach remote structures.
** Service providers usually spread the cost over about 8-9 months
* EPMP Tech differentiation;
** #1 performance degradation is self-interference.
** Is caused by base stations being out of sync before they send the transmission
** EPMP chips do not use contention based scheduling
** GPS sync is the methodology used to make sure that the base stations send signals at the right times.
** Also uses TPC to make sure that the signal from subscribers drop their power to match
** System is deterministic and although similar to the 802.11 MAC is not the same.
** GPS sync allows for frequency reuse
** Unsynchronized solutions can suffer from the hidden node problem
** Synchronization eliminates primary interference.
** Secondary self interference can also happen with certain antennas, needs TPC to control this.
** High front amplification and high back attenuation is require to avoid this.
** Scalability with competitive scheduling can be difficult to achieve due to time constraints.
** Instead of individual propagation delay, the turnaround time for packets is calculated to make the sending more efficient
** Has an Air Fairness scheduler and Interference optimized rate adaptive algorithms
* CnMaestro Demo
** Provides simplified network management from the cloud
** Instant discovery of APs to connect to cloud using https
** Built as multi-tenancy, hosted on Amazon
** Supports copilot, ePMP currently and soon PMP450 and PTP650
** OnBoarding of devices, configuration and monitoring handled via cloud
** Integrates Google Maps for placement of where devices are located

Wireless Field Day 8 – Game of Roams Edition

In the mythical land of San Jose, 12 noble Wi-Fi professionals fight for control of the RF airtime. Technical and marketing intrigue is pervasive. Stephen Foskett, King of Field Days, asks his old friend Tom Hollingsworth to serve as Hand of the King and supervise the assembled Wi-Fi lords. Secretly warned that the previous Hand was assassinated by an out of control wireless drone, Tom accepts in order to investigate further. Meanwhile, Jennifer Huber, the Queen of Wireless Field Days, may be hatching a plot to distribute more I heart Wi-Fi buttons at the event. Across the sea, Peter Paul Engelen, has been scheming to be invited once again to Wireless Field Day and has finally succeeded! He believes that cunningly distributing stroopwafels to attendees will make him one of the favored attendees in the eyes of the King.

Lee Badman has been running in circles to outwit the Hand’s investigations, by having top secret meetings with the black mages called ‘Mark-et-ers’ about new product releases so he can stay as one of the top story tellers of the Wireless Field Days. He runs the orange kingdom in the cold north, which enables him to wield much power for the King and sends regular messages through his blog to his fanatical followers. To the south, Sam Clements attempts to match Lee’s power through the use of the ‘Bour-bon’ which is a magical potion that makes its users drunk with power enough to sit through two hour podcasts. He entrances his victims with a special magical Whiskey and Wireless podcast that encourages the imbibing of the Bour-bon to fully participate and gain the secret information that high level Wi-Fi wizards possess. The coming together of these two powerful lords of Wi-Fi has been a must seen event ever since the King began showing their powers at his Wireless Field Days and has left many a ‘Mark-et-er’ quaking in their boots.

In a remote cold northern location, close to the great Canadian wall, Blake Krone plots the downfall of the other lords by seeking to prove that he knows the mysterious methods of the ‘Eka-hau’ weapon better than anyone else. He has wielded this weapon to fight the beast known as the Cisco and tame its many minions throughout the land. These minions are tricky white beasts that hide in buildings and radiate their power to many in the land. Little does he know, that another, smaller beast is also on the prowl called the Aruba which has co-opted many of the Cisco’s dark places in its fight for RF supremacy. This could challenge Blake’s plan and eventually lead to his downfall, if he doesn’t gain understanding of the Aruba as well. Blake has found favor with the Queen of Wireless Field Days and can be often seen laughing and joking with her during parties at the San Jose Palace of the Double Tree.

The Wi-Fi lord Keith Parsons has been studying the RF magic for much longer than many of the other Wi-Fi wizards and has come to the realization that the battle is not won by fighting the white minions, but by fighting to make sure that the white minions are properly placed to co-operate with each other. He tells all that will listen that Wi-Fi should be free and fast, though he often adds ‘easy’ to the spell to enhance it’s potency. Acting against him are the black mages who use easy spells such as the ‘one AP per classroom’ spell to spread bad white minion placement. If only the other Wi-Fi lords would turn from their own interests and support him in his desire to ban the dragon known as the captive portal, then he would be well on his way to making the world a better place. There are many ‘Mark-et-er’ mages who believe in the power of monetizing through using the captive portal and they hold other wizards in their thrall! Keith, however sees the evil of monetization and fights with Lee to stop it’s spread.

Meanwhile, Jake Snyder has been quietly working on his own plan for RF magic supremacy through the use of his weapon the ‘Pine-apple’. This weapon is so powerful, it’s enabled him to gain secret entry into many other lords WLAN domains without detection and gain much information about their magical intrigues that he can reveal when the time is right to devastating effect. It has already enabled him to win many followers throughout the land who secretly support him, even though they live in other lord’s lands. Jake has also spent countless hours using a device called a ‘3D-Prin-ter’ to create weapons for other Wi-Fi lords. As these weapons help the lords to tame the white minions, he is seen as one of the main weapons suppliers throughout the land. Indeed many a Wi-Fi battle throughout the land has been won by his use of this dark device.

Finally, there is myself, Chris Lyttle, the narrator of this tale, who goes with the other lords to battle the Wi-Fi beasts in their lairs. I use the power of the ‘Kiwi Haka’ to do battle, although many times the other lords cannot understand the words when I use my battlecry to ask tough questions at the Wireless Field Days. I seek to bring security to the Wi-Fi magic of the land and foil those who would use the Wi-Fi magic for evil purposes.

Tune in as all the lords meet in the battle to control RF airtime at Wireless Field Day 8 San Jose on September 30th to October 2nd. We’ll be confronting the daemon ‘Mark-et-ers’ in the lairs of Aruba Networks, Cisco, Cradlepoint and Zebra!

Apologies to those attending that I didn’t write stories for, hopefully I’ll get to know you there well enough to write about you in the future