Nokia Siemens targets carrier Wi-Fi with Ruckus
Challenges Ericsson's BelAir purchase with deal to resell Ruckus kit, while new partner gains Time Warner Cable win
Published: 10 May, 2012
Operators are moving beyond simple data offload to integrate Wi-Fi closely into their networks, managing the access points from the same core as their 3G/4G infrastructure, and even combining both in the same base station. Ericsson stole a march on rivals earlier this year when it acquired carrier Wi-Fi specialist BelAir, and now Nokia Siemens has formed an alliance with BelAir's arch-rival Ruckus Wireless.
The two firms have signed a global reseller agreement which will target cellcos and cablecos. NSN will gain confidence from Ruckus's new deal to supply access points to Time Warner Cable in the US, a contract which steps into the heart of BelAir's territory (TWC had previously bought only from the now-Ericsson unit). While Ruckus has moved into carrier WLans in recent years from beginnings in home video Wi-Fi networks, BelAir came from the Wi-Fi metrozone space and carved out a strong position with the cablecos as well as AT&T.
US cable operators have largely pulled back on plans to build out their owm mobile networks, with TWC, among others, aiming to sell their spectrum to Verizon Wireless. Instead they will rely on extensive Wi-Fi hotspot networks to provide a wireless roaming element to their cable triple play deals, an approach pioneered in the New York area by Cablevision.
In this context, TWC is a flagship win for Ruckus. The cableco will use Ruckus equipment in indoor public venues such as stadiums and in some outdoor areas, using cable lines strung on poles for backhaul.
The broader NSN deal will see the OEM offer the Ruckus products, under the smaller firm's brand, to service providers round the world. They will be delivered via NSN's networks consulting and systems integration business unit, which also provides deployment, management and maintenance services. And it will sell the Ruckus SmartCell Gateway 200, which can manage 'heterogeneous networkss' including Wi-Fi access points and cellular base stations in multiple spectrum bands. The deal, however, is not exclusive.
Like Alcatel-Lucent, which is integrating Wi-Fi into its lightRadio architecture, NSN is pursuing a two-pronged approach to incorporating WLans into the carrier networks. It will work with established Wi-Fi equipment partners, but will also develop products which merge Wi-Fi and cellular in one unit. At Mobile World Congress in February, it announced the Flexi Zone portfolio which includes small cells and common gateways and targets cellcos' metrozone projects. The Ruckus technology may push forward Flexi Zone's capabilities, harnessing the firm's MIMO antenna arrays and supporting deep integration of Wi-Fi and 3G/4G.
At CTIA, Ruckus also launched two 802.11n access points, one for high capacity applications and the other for low cost enterprise use, particularly in emerging economies, with a tag of $349. The high end ZoneFlex 7982 uses three spatial streams of data and two types of beamforming to deliver high capacity for dense environments such as stadiums and hotspots. Ruckus claims it can perform as much as four times faster than other three-stream access points, partly because it can send and receive signals at different angles, depending on how the client device is being held.