Ruckus Releases 802.11n HD IPTV System

Ruckus Wireless announced Monday the availability of its new MediaFlex 7000 series, a commercial 802.11n system developed for operators wishing to wirelessly distribute multiple streams of high-definition (HD) IPTV content throughout their subscribers’ homes.

Ruckus also announced that Belgian provider, Belgacom, is the first service provider to select the MediaFlex 7000, for use with its BelgacomTV service. According to Ruckus, Belgacom selected the MediaFlex 7000 after putting several competitive 802.11n products through a series of “stringent lab and home trials, including a test to deliver 20 hours of non-stop HD IPTV streams at 20Mbps aggregate, to six different locations throughout a simulated home environment with injected interference,” during which, Ruckus says, it experienced zero packet loss.

Thus far, Ruckus says nearly a million MediaFlex 802.11a/g systems have been installed around the world by over 140 broadband providers including Deutsche Telekom, Telekom Austria, Swisscom, TeliaSonera, Telenora, Fastweb, Telefonica Del Sur, PCCW, SingTel, Elion, Belgacom, and many others.

“We’ve had success,” says David Callisch, Ruckus Wireless VP of Marketing. “We are arguably the only Wi-Fi guys who have solved this problem for carriers. Now the carriers are looking to move to high definition. We’ve sold 500,000 systems private-labeled to carriers like Deutsche Telekom, and those are 802.11g systems—the 54 Mbps systems. We guarantee 20 Mbps of predictable performance.”  

Predictable performance matters, says Callisch, because it translates into dollars (or Euros, as the case may be). “Carriers care about actual capacity, what can they actually charge for,” he says.

As the demand for high-definition IPTV increases, operators are faced with a much greater need for capacity. “Carriers are moving to high-def, which is much more intense, in terms of capacity,” says Callisch. “Our [802.11]g product just won’t scale. We started looking at 11n about a year ago. We started building a unique and purpose-built system to address the migration to HD. It’s already in production. It uses our smart antenna technology, the same as in enterprise wireless LANs.”

The key to Ruckus’s success, says Callisch, is its smart antenna technology along with its strategy of designing products for one specific purpose—in this case, distributing HD IPTV in homes. The focus on delivering one specific capability also reduces costs for carriers, says Callisch.

“Carriers are really looking to make more money [by providing HD IPTV to their subscribers],” says Callisch. “One problem is that as carriers move to HD, they are gonna require a new system in the house to distribute that. They want that same system at the same price, but the underlying chipsets for 802.11n are four times the cost of a commoditized g system. There’s an issue there—a challenge to deliver an 802.11n system that will meet the carriers’ requirements for cost.

“We’ve done that. We’re a bit different in the 802.11 world because we’re looking—not at Wi-Fi as a next step bringing together Wi-Fi end-solutions for the general market—we are building 802.11n devices for specific applications. In the carrier case, it’s for multimedia distribution or IPTV distribution. [MediaFlex] is built and designed just to do that one thing.”

Proliferation of IPTV

In a press release issued Monday, Ruckus quotes Infonetics Research numbers which put worldwide IPTV service revenue at over $44 billion in 2009. Currently, DSL providers account for the bulk of service revenue, but cable broadband providers are expected to migrate to all-IP triple-play services in the next few years, resulting in a boom in IPTV subscribers, whose numbers are expected to top 97 million worldwide by 2011.

Despite being a California-based company, Ruckus has aggressively pursued the international carrier market.

“Most of our carrier clients are outside the U.S.,” says Callisch. “IPTV hasn’t penetrated the U.S. market for a number of reasons. It has been an afterthought for carriers, and also carriers have a much larger physical geographic area to cover here. In Europe, it’s like a state, in terms of physical geography. They have a lot of users, but not the kind that AT&T or Verizon have. It’s not easy for a carrier like AT&T and to get a million subscribers up and running. They need to build up their infrastructure and footprint. The North American carriers have taken an aggressive approach to bringing IPTV to market, but they want to bring a whole-home DVR solution…They are going to enter the market with high-definition, whereas [international] carriers have offered standard definition and are now just upgrading. North American carriers want to leapfrog by coming to market with high-definition services.”

Pricing and availability

The Ruckus MediaFlex 7000 series is available now for carriers. The series includes the MediaFlex 7811 (US$199) multimedia 802.11n one-port access point and MediaFlex 7111 (US$139) one-port multimedia adapter.  Subscribers can deploy and set up the plug-and-play MediaFlex access point and adapter themselves.

The Ruckus MediaFlex 7111 adapter also provides video-grade 802.11n connectivity to any Ethernet-equipped video server, including set-top-boxes, personal video recorders, media centers, and media center extenders. The MediaFlex adapter can receive Wi-Fi signals down to -96 dBm.

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet.

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