LONDON Smart antenna start-up Video54 has changed its name to Ruckus Wireless and also announced a $9 million injection of venture capital funding as well as a deal to supply its devices to Hong Kong based carrier PCCW.
The moves, announced Monday (Sept. 19) also see a change of direction for the company away from just supplying its multiple input - multiple output (MIMO) based antenna technology for Wi-Fi gear to build its parts into customer premises equipment that handle multimedia services.
It is now using its MIMO technology for IP routing diversity along with spatial diversity, achieving the ability to distribute reliable multicast IPTV for in-home broadband systems. Its first customer, PCCW, will bundle the technology with its broadband IP service called Netvigator.
Earlier this year, when Video54 unveiled its BeamFlex smart MIMO antenna, the company said NetGear would be the first to integrate its technology that "ensures picture perfect transmission of video over wireless Wi-Fi.”
Ruckus (Mountain View, Calif.) has also lured in famed serial entrepreneur Selina Lo as its chief executive.
Lo, who has served in founding and marketing roles at Alteon Websystems, Centillion Networks, and Nortel Networks, wasn’t even planning to return to corporate life at this time last fall. She was enjoying retirement and trying to think of more effective ways to link TiVo and HDTV units in her home.
“Sequoia Capital had been putting together a company to establish a unique play in WiFi, and they found two guys with an interesting idea for applying least-cost routing to antenna diversity. Victor Shtrom had developed OFDM chip sets at Iospan Wireless, and Bill Kish had all this IP routing expertise from Fore Systems and Ciena and LightEra,” Lo said.
“I told Sequoia I was interested in investing in broadband WiFi, just to see if anyone had any workable ideas for this TV networking problem. But as Victor and Bill started talking about the layering of IP services on top of MIMO, my interest started turning more and more into a full-time job.”
On the surface, Ruckus’ strategy is obvious. It has developed a small wireless router that interfaces to a residential gateway, just like a traditional 802.11 router, and it also manufactures adapters that link directly to IPTV set-top boxes or personal video recorders. Lo said her biggest problem is indicating who she doesn’t compete with in MIMO or 802.11n spaces.
Last week, Airgo Networks announced similar, very high bit rate silicon for the emerging 802.11n Wireless LAN standard.
Airgo's MIMO , whose multiple aerials make a virtue of interference, is already used in routers by companies such as Linksys, Belkin and others and its latest chips will start shipping early next year.
“We don’t compete directly with Airgo, because we could layer our technology on top of Airgo chips,” Lo said. “We could work with a WiMax physical layer, if WiMax catches on. When 802.11n is standardized, we could overlay traditional spatial multiplexing techniques.”
The Ruckus proprietary play is twofold. The beam-forming algorithms use MIMO diversity over a standard 802.11b/g chip set (Ruckus currently uses Atheros) to adaptively tune signals for in-building reliability. The algorithms minimize multipath interference, and selectively turn off antenna elements that run into active interferers like Bluetooth devices and microwave ovens.
The internal antenna array of six high-gain elements in Ruckus routers and adapters can self-configure to 63 unique patterns.
SmartCast algorithms use traditional traffic-management algorithms for Internet Protocol network layers, take advantage of the system’s antenna diversity, and provide four priority-queue levels for each client station. The traffic-management methods treat IP multicast in particular as a high-priority channel, to insure IPTV continuity over WiFi.
“We force a multicast prioritization in the network, while the 802.11 standard treats multicast as a best-effort flow,” Lo said.
Because Ruckus is trying to improve in-building distribution of mixed traffic types, Lo said she thinks her technology can serve as a complement to coaxial-based MoCa standards as well as HomePlug Broadband-over-Powerline, though many UWB system implementations could become direct competitors.
Ruckus is structuring its marketing to appeal to service providers in different regions, with Japan and China favoring IPTV on set-tops while North America looks to replacement of traditional WiFi routers. But in the majority of cases in all regions, routers or adapters would be provided by broadband carriers, she said.
Ruckus’ competition most likely will come from agile residential gateway developers like 2Wire, Belkin, and Netopia, than from MIMO or UWB specialists, Lo predicted.