MIMO for the Outdoors

Wavion is entering a crowded market, planning to sell equipment for citywide Wi-Fi deployments. It claims it can sell fewer units per square mile by using MIMO to take advantage of multipath interference.

“The focus is on superior coverage and high bandwidth,” says Alan Menezes, the company’s Corporate Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. Wavion employs about 60 people in San Jose, California and Yoqneam, Israel, home of founder Dr. Mati Wax. He did early work in the ’80s on MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) radio technologies.

The company is not ready to reveal product specifics yet, but with $22 million in venture capital funds in the bank, it is ready to trumpet how it plans to tackle the market later this year.

Wavion will use a MIMO array with six antennas and six radios all transmitting on the same channel. “Phase and amplitude on the antennas is different,” says Menezes. “This adds significant gain with several benefits.” The APs use beam-forming technology and space-division multiple-access (SDMA), making it possible to transmit four packets simultaneously to four different clients on the same channel to get four times the capacity. However, no changes are needed on the laptop end, nor any customer premises units (CPEs) in homes (a move the company thinks jeopardizes metro-Wi-Fi business models). The technology is only in the AP.

They pull off the new tech by custom-designing circuits and embedded software, though they are quick to point out that Wavion is not a semiconductor company. They want to sell equipment and license technology, but not manufacture chips.

Menezes says one Wavion AP does the work of up to four conventional APs, which he categorizes as those from companies like Cisco, SkyPilot and Tropos.

That’s fine, but it might be hard to categorize many of the higher-end mesh products available today as “conventional.” Menezes says the company has tested its product against an unnamed “leading mesh vendor” with a presence in San Jose, using a single Wavion AP, and he says his company performed better, providing higher throughput levels close to the AP.

More importantly, Wavion sees itself working with mesh equipment providers. Modular mesh products like those from BelAir Networks or Strix Systems could build in the Wavion MIMO technology to extend range.

“We’re in discussions with leading mesh vendors,” says Menezes. “We can provide them this [tech] as a solution that can go in their form factors.”

While Wavion APs, when they become available, will probably cost more than conventional APs, the company says the reduced number of units needed will result in an overall cost savings. Initial releases will support 802.11b/g, but the plan is to support 802.11a and 4.9GHz, even WiMax if called for.

Expect a formal announcement of products when they have some customer references lined up, probably late in the third quarter of this year.

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