Ruckus Raises Metro Wi-Fi Strategy

Ruckus Wireless is aiming to provide cable operators and telcos tools to build out Wi-Fi-based wireless broadband network services -- for what the company claims is 20% of the cost of newer technologies like WiMax.

The company's wireless broadband access (WBA) solution includes outdoor mesh access points, customer premises equipment as well as a new line of Wi-Fi backhaul systems. Ruckus claims its proprietary antenna designs are able to overcome interference problems that have beset other outdoor Wi-Fi networks, to deliver greater range and stability.

The cost to roll a municipal Wi-Fi network is about $97,000 per square kilometer for 180 Mbps of capacity per site, compared with $485,000 for WiMax with 120 Mbps per site, according to Ruckus' estimates. In addition, most laptops and mobile devices such as iPhones already include built-in Wi-Fi support, whereas WiMax requires an additional client-side modem.

"It's a build-as-you-grow model," said Steven Glapa, Ruckus' director of business development. "It's not ‘let's put a bunch of expensive access points on poles around the city' and hope people log on."

Ruckus' Wi-Fi solution will compete with other vendors in the municipal Wi-Fi marketing include BelAir Networks, Cisco Systems and Proxim Wireless. In the cable space, for example, Cablevision Systems has been deploying access infrastructure from BelAir and Cisco as part of its New York-metro Wi-Fi rollout.

With the launch of the Ruckus solution, the company is introducing the ZoneFlex 7731, a high-gain point-to-point 802.11n (5 GHz) access point that extends Wi-Fi signals over several kilometers at data rates of up to 300 Mbps. The ZoneFlex 7731 is priced at $2,398 per pair.

Ruckus cited Malaysian service provider WiNet Broadband, which plans to deploy 4,000 Wi-Fi nodes by the end of 2010 and expects to invest more than $280 million in wireless broadband services over the next 10 years.

Ruckus has previously pitched cable operators and telcos on its wireless routers for in-home networking. At a CableLabs conference in February 2008, attendees voted the Ruckus 802.11n wireless router the best new product idea.

Privately held Ruckus has raised $51 million to date from investors including Motorola, T-Ventures, Telus, Sutter Hill Ventures, Mitsui and Sequoia Capital. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has about 225 employees and brought in $32.7 million in revenue in 2008. According to Ruckus, it's on track to double sales this year.