Proxim Wireless’s corporate history gets a little complicated, but follow along if you can… YDI Wireless was created in April of 2003 as a result of the merger of the millimeter-wave wireless company Telaxis Communications and the microwave wireless company Young Design, Inc. In May of 2004, the new company acquired the wireless software provider KarlNet, Inc., and in June of the same year, YDI acquired the broadband wireless company Terabeam Corporation—after which YDI adopted the name Terabeam Wireless.
And the acquisitions continued.
In June of 2004, the company purchased the struggling WISP Ricochet Networks, and in July of 2005, it acquired the operations of the bankrupt wireless equipment provider Proxim Corporation. Proxim, which was created back in 1984, had been a founding member of both the Wireless LAN Interoperability Forum and the HomeRF Working Group. The company had made its own series of acquisitions as well, including Western Multiplex in January of 2002 and Agere Systems’ WLAN business in June of the same year.
More recently, in September of 2007, Terabeam changed its name to Proxim Wireless.
A complete offering
Today, Proxim’s product portfolio covers three technology segments: WLAN (both indoor and outdoor), point-to-multipoint (primarily WiMAX), and point-to-point. Company director of product and channel marketing Milind Bhise says the end-to-end nature of the offering is a key differentiator for the company. “If you look at a typical broadband wireless network, you have the access piece, which is predominantly Wi-Fi; you have the distribution or aggregation piece, which is some type of point-to-multipoint technology, whether it’s WiMAX or WiMAX-like; and then you have point-to-point high-bandwidth fat pipes for core networks… and we have offerings that span across all of those segments,” he says.
According to company CEO Pankaj Manglik, about half of Proxim’s business today is in the U.S., and the other half is international. In emerging economies, Manglik says, providers turn to wireless for both backhaul (WiMAX) and last mile (WLAN) connectivity, largely because thieves and/or competitors will often cut any wired connections—”It’s a little bit of a Wild West situation,” he says.
Wireless equipment can more easily be protected. “They basically lock the equipment up and they do these wireless shots, and then things work perfectly well,” Manglik says.
In developed countries, Manglik says he’s seeing particular growth in wireless deployments for security, video surveillance, and public safety. “It’s fire trucks and ambulances, it’s monitoring subways, it’s monitoring bridges—the range of applications is huge,” he says. That also includes everything from wireless cameras to monitor for drivers running through red lights, to wireless synchronization of traffic lights—and for those applications, Manglik says, WiMAX and point-to-point technologies are key.
For all of those product segments, Manglik says, the company’s ProximVision Network Management System gives any provider a single, centralized management platform for all equipment. “If they buy the wireless LAN piece from us and then they buy the WiMAX from us, they don’t want us to sell them two different management platforms… we have one management platform that manages our entire product line,” he says. “When customers buy products across segments, they like to buy them from the same vendor, because it makes the management and maintenance and servicing of that network easier… and there are very few vendors in the world that have the entire product portfolio that Proxim does.”
WISP products (point-to-multipoint)
The company’s flagship point-to-multipoint product, Bhise says, is the Tsunami MP.11. “The Tsunami has been around for a few years,” he says. “It’s currently in its fourth generation, and we have sold over 100,000 systems…we sell it to WISPs, and it’s also sold as a backhaul mechanism to enterprises, to educational institutions, to the government, to the military—so it’s a product that has been well received and established in the marketplace.”
The MP.11 is available in 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 5.3 GHz, 5.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz frequency bands, as well as the 4.9 GHz public safety band. “At the end of the day, frequency in critical,” Bhise says. “Depending on the choice of the WISP or the end customer, many times you have to go with that frequency, or go with someone else… so we definitely have a product that has the right feature set for the WISP.”
The Tsunami MP.11 5012 CPE is available in both indoor and outdoor form factors. It is the latest addition to Proxim’s point-to-multipoint Tsunami MP product line. “It’s very easy and quick to deploy,” Bhise says. “The indoor unit is bundled with a 15 dBi window antenna, and the outdoor unit is integrated with an 18 dBi antenna—and it’s compatible with all of our MP.11 base stations.”
“The Tsunami has been around for a few years,” he says. “It’s currently in its fourth generation, and we have sold over 100,000 systems…we sell it to WISPs, and it’s also sold as a backhaul mechanism to enterprises, to educational institutions, to the government, to the military—so it’s a product that has been well received and established in the marketplace.”
Over time, Bhise says, Proxim has focused on making the equipment easier and easier to deploy. “We have taken away a lot of the complexity, so the deployment time is reduced significantly…it’s not plug-and-play—I don’t believe that I’ve seen any in the marketplace today that are plug-and-play, given the complexity of point-to-multipoint systems—but hopefully we’ll get there,” he says.
Performance and security
The ProximVision Network Management System, Bhise says, enables WISPs to configure and provision systems remotely, and to support advanced network monitoring, as well as software and firmware updates. “You can manage multiple nodes—whether they’re 100, 200, 300, or in the thousands, you can manage all of them from a single location,” he says.
Among the advantages that come with ProximVision, Bhise says, is the ability to diagnose a problem from a central location. “If one of the access points blows, you want to make sure you understand which one has gone, and then go out there and fix it—or, even better, if you can do some diagnosis remotely, then you can make sure that whoever goes there has the proper tools to do it,” he says.
Similarly, Bhise says Proxim’s Wireless Outdoor Routing Protocol (WORP) is key to optimizing both performance and security. “That’s another reason why you would want to go with a Proxim product, because you have an added layer of security… and at the same time, we do support AES and other forms of security that are more in the public domain,” he says.
Earlier this year, the company announced that it had supplied MP.11 radios for a wireless network offering service to more than 32 million residents as well as businesses in a 2,500 square kilometer region for the Russian internet service provider MSS Povolzhie, a subsidiary of MegaFon. “The MP.11 is being used significantly across all applications that a WISP can provide… and it’s very attractively priced,” Bhise says.
Proxim’s newest product is the Lynx G5, which is the latest addition to the Lynx GX point-to-point product series (which came from Proxim’s Western Multiplex acquisition in 2002). “Historically, Lynx has been sold into the cellular backhaul space,” Manglik says. “We sell to all of the major service providers… and basically, it sits on the towers, we take all of the cellular traffic, and then backhaul it using the Lynx product line. It’s carrier class, highly reliable, very high speed, and very long range.”
The G5 adds Ethernet interfaces (in addition to T-1 and E-1), 128-bit AES encryption, and a single radio that supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. “The combination of the interfaces that allow them to future-proof their investment, the high security, as well as the frequencies…makes this box very unique from almost anything that is out there in the market today,” Manglik says.
Proxim’s other point-to-point offering is the GigaLink series, which focuses on performance—while the GX products can covers 30 miles at 200 Mbps, Manglik says, the GigaLink can do 1 Gbps over one kilometer. “It’s a wire replacement product,” he says. “It could be something as simple as a shot across a road—or it’s campus connectivity, and they want 1 Gbps.”
The company’s ORiNOCO WLAN product line (a result of Proxim’s 2002 acquisition of Agere’s WLAN business) includes both indoor and outdoor products, as well as single radio and dual radio options. Dual-radio mesh products are also available, as are Wi-Fi client cards. In addition, the MeshMax product series includes three radios—one for WiMAX backhaul, one mesh radio, and one WLAN radio—making it essentially an enhanced ORiNOCO mesh product, with an added Tsunami radio for backhaul.
From the beginning, Manglik says, ORiNOCO’s greatest strength has always been its ease of use. “As an IT manager, if you decided to deploy a wireless LAN for, let’s say, a 100-person deployment, the most difficult piece that you will have isn’t setting up the wireless LAN: it’s getting the configuration exactly right on each of the laptops that the 100 people have, so that all 100 laptops don’t have a problem… and what ORiNOCO always did for people is you could just plug it in and it would work, because it had been pre-tested, even in those early days, across all of the different access points and vendors,” he says. “It just worked—and it worked well, because we spent a lot of time testing our cards and our access points with other vendors’ cards and other vendors’ access points.”
And that continues to be a priority. “North of a billion dollars has been spent on R&D across all of our products over the past few years,” Manglik says.
As a result, Manglik says, the company’s recent announcements of new products like the MP.11 HS and the Lynx G5 are just the first of many. “Our plan is to basically inject very high performance systems, along with very high security and end-to-end management … and you will see all of this come out within the next six months,” he says.
Looking to the future, Manglik says it’s only going to become more and more important to be able to offer a complete range of products as wireless deployments become increasingly pervasive. “You’re going to end up with networks that are completely wireless: the access is wireless, the aggregation part of it is wireless, and then the last connection to the Internet, the high speed connections, are also wireless,” he says.
At that point, Manglik says, capacity will become key. “We’re going to start announcing products relating to performance over the next six months, probably one every two months or so, and it’s all going to relate to providing very high-performance access and backhaul products from Proxim—because we think that, at the end of the day, backhaul is going to have to do anywhere from 100 to 400 Mbps to provide a reasonable experience in an all-wireless network. And it just isn’t there today.”
For more on WiMAX, visit our WiMAX section.
For more stories by Jeff Goldman, read “Wireless Equipment Manufacturer Directory: E-ZY.net,” “UWB Brings Greater Precision to RTLS,” and “Meraki in Tiers.”
Article adapted from ISP-Planet.