CableLabs Techies Cause A ‘Ruckus’

2/11/2008 10:17 AM Eastern

Attendees of CableLabs’ 2008 Winter Conference on Monday voted the Wi-Fi networking system from Ruckus Wireless -- which the company showed streaming three high-definition signals to IPTV set-top boxes -- as the “best product idea” from among a showcase of nine vendors.

RuckusRuckus Wireless’ 802.11n wireless technology automatically steers Wi-Fi signals over the best possible radio-frequency path to minimize packet loss and ensure reliable and predictable performance.

The Ruckus Wireless solution “really focuses on solving the problems of Wi-Fi, by concentrating the beams,” CableLabs president and CEO Dick Green said, on a conference call with reporters. “It’s very exciting… When you put the pieces together you’ve solved problems that have in many cases limited Wi-Fi applications.”

Each of the nine vendors that participated in the Innovation Showcase “lightning round” of presentations, at the CableLabs conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., were given 10 minutes for their presentation in front of attendees.

Ruckus Wireless CEO Selina Lo said the company “did something that is pretty daring: We decided to do a live demonstration of a product that is currently in beta testing.” She said the system will be available to operators in March, with commercial units shipping in the second half of 2008.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Ruckus Wireless -- whose tag line is “learn how to make wireless networks suck less” -- set up its 802.11n system to stream three concurrent MPEG-2 high-definition IPTV streams of 20 megabits per second each to Amino Communications IPTV set-top boxes.

At the same time, Ruckus Wireless showed the system making a voice-over-Wi-Fi phone call, accessing the Web, streaming TV content from a Sling Media Slingbox to a PC, and delivering YouTube videos to an Apple iPhone using its built-in 802.11g capabilities.

The breakthrough, according to Lo, is that the Ruckus Wireless system delivered all those services despite interference in the room of more than 300 attendees.

“I pointed out to the audience that about half were logged on to the CableLabs hotspot service, which probably had five or six other access points serving the audience,” she said. “Being able to pull off what we did, I think that spoke for itself.”

The Ruckus Wireless system provides sustained, “worst-case throughput” of between 60 and 80 Mbps, Lo said. One of its access points provides coverage over up to 6000 sq. ft.

“We get lots of calls with problems that happen with home networks,” Comcast senior vice president of strategic planning Mark Coblitz noted on the call. “What you’re seeing from Ruckus is a way that [home wireless networking] this might work in a consistent way.”

Lo said cable operators are initially looking at the video-capable wireless system to provide services to hotels and other businesses. List pricing for 802.11n units that can support multiple streams of HD video will be between $200 and $500 each, she said.

The eight other companies that delivered presentations at the CableLabs conference were:

* BigBand Networks, which demonstrated the ability to deliver switched digital video and on-demand streams in both variable bit rate (VBR) and constant bit rate (CBR) formats;

* Cinea, a subsidiary of Dolby, which presented forensic content watermarks for cable set-top box outputs;

* Cisco Systems, which showed its Content Delivery System delivering the same video stream to TV, Internet, and mobile domains using the DVS 629 standard;

* DiTech Networks, which demonstrated a product to reduce or eliminate ambient noise from a caller’s phone;

* iControl Networks, which showed a home-security monitoring solution together with GE Security;

* GridNetworks, an early-stage startup that has developed a way to provide “peer-assisted” content delivery of HD-quality video in a managed network;

* Move Networks, which showed its streaming Web video player; and

* Comcast’s thePlatform, which demo’d the ability to create a broadband video channel in minutes.

Last August, attendees of the CableLabs Summer Conference picked an IPTV-over-cable-modem demonstration by Harmonic as the “best new idea.”

At the 2007 Winter Conference, the cable techies’ pick was Simple Star, whose software lets subscribers share photos through cable TV services.


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