The good news is that Wi-Fi is finally taking its rightful place in the industry. The bad news – not all Wi-Fi is made equal. This is the sentiment of Ruckus Wireless, Inc. (NYSE: RKUS), a global supplier of advanced wireless systems for the rapidly expanding mobile Internet infrastructure market.
“The growing appetite for data consumption is driving the need for more connectivity – across businesses, places of leisure and public venues,” says Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. “In fact, according to research published by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), global public Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are set to grow to 5.8 million by 2015, marking a 350% increase.”
The growth of Wi-Fi hotspots is expected to primarily be in three types of locations: wide-area outdoor hot-zones, such as malls or stadiums; local-area outdoor hot-zones such as popular tourist attractions, and transport hubs, such as airports. “However, if we look at the demand – we need to consider the supply and more importantly, the user experience – which is where carrier-grade Wi-Fi comes in,” adds Fletcher. “Many Wi-Fi deployments, especially those hotspots in the public sphere, run the risk of being dubbed ‘why bother with wireless’ as while the possibilities are great, if there is too much interference and limited capacity, there is bound to be unreliable and slow connections – ones that kill voice and data links – resulting in poor user experiences. It is for this reason, among others, that carrier-grade Wi-Fi becomes so important.”
In essence carrier-grade is about capacity, integration and scalability. It’s about stronger Wi-Fi signals at longer ranges, ones that adapt automatically to environmental changes. It allows for more concurrent users per access point, with stable connections at higher data rates. Ultimately it’s about unmatched performance and scalability. “It’s smarter, faster and more reliable,” adds Fletcher. “And while industry terms are often bandied around, carrier-grade Wi-Fi – and true carrier-grade Wi-Fi at that – is critical to successful deployments that not only meet capacity and scalability needs, but user expectations as well.”
As the term becomes more ‘hyped’ – there are risks however. “We run the risk of the industry/companies using the term loosely and dubbing it carrier-grade when it is in fact not,” says Fletcher. This can have negative affects as not only could it fail to provide the user experience and scalability that carrier-grade truly promises, but in so doing, taints the perception of the general industry quality. As a result, in any Wi-Fi deployment it is becoming more essential to not only look at all aspects of the deployment itself, but the equipment and its grade as well.
“Wi-Fi has become a much more strategic technology today and as such, businesses and organisations across the spectrum need to become more strategic about what type of Wi-Fi is being implemented. As Mark Twain so eloquently put it, ‘it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog,’ – so make sure it’s truly carrier-grade,” concludes Fletcher.