Ruckus Raised

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Attendees of CableLabs’ 2008 Winter Conference 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.

Ruckus 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 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.”

The cable technology consortium, whose conferences are open only to members, publicized the results of the nine-vendor Innovation Showcase in a conference call with reporters. The companies participated in a “lightning round” of presentations at the conference last week in Colorado Springs, Colo., given 10 minutes to show their wares in front of the crowd.

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.”

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Ruckus Wireless — whose tagline 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 hot spot service.”

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 6,000 square feet.

“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 this [home wireless networking] might work in a consistent way.”

Lo said the system will be available to operators in March, with commercial units expected to ship in the second half of 2008. 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 Dolby unit, 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 TVs, computers, and mobile devices 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 the Platform, which demonstrated the ability to create a broadband video channel in minutes.