Ruckus Cuts 802.11n Wi-Fi Cost

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Ruckus Wireless is offering enterprise 802.11n Wi-Fi access points for around £400

Ruckus Wireless has brought out an enterprise-grade 802.11n Wi-Fi access point for £357 ($500), and one with two radios for £428 ($600), in a bid to bring down the price of Wi-Fi for businesses.

The ZoneFlex 7300 access points, launched a year after Ruckus entered the enterprise Wi-Fi market, are priced to undercut other vendors, and also outperform the competition, Ruckus claims, as they include the company’s smart antenna system – albeit physically smaller version, in order to make the access points less physically obtrusive.

Low end device “outperforms” Cisco

Follow this link to our review of the new Ruckus AP

To bolster the APs’ claim to be enterprise quality, they include three Ethernet ports – a Gigabit uplink to the wired network, which can also power the access point using the 802.3af power over Ethernet (PoE) standard, and two other Ethernet ports which can be used to connect local Ethernet devices, for instance in hotel rooms or small offices.

Although the IEEE 802.11n standard has been ratified, it is only replacing earlier versions of Wi-Fi slowly, according to James Calderbank, director of enterprise sales EMEA at Ruckus, because of higher prices and unspectacular performance: “In 2009, three quarters of enterprise Wi-Fi access points sold were 802.11abg, according to Gartner.”

The Ruckus kit should get round that, by using the Ruckus’ smart antenna system which supports beam-forming, so Wi-Fi signals can be directed where they are required. The Ruckus 7962, launched last year still has the best performance, using Ruckus’ older and bulkier antenna set-up, but the new low-profile antennas still provide 156Mbps throughput, said Calderbank.

The 7343, costing £357 ($499) has one radio, which deliveres 802.11n Wi-Fi in the 2.4GHz radio band used by traditional 802.11abg products. The 7363 costs £428 ($599), and has two radios, so it can support 2.4GHz clients at the same time as offering clearer communications in the less-crowded 5GHz radio wave band.

Other vendors have also pushed the 802.11n price down this year, including Aruba, which brought its 802.11n price down to £654 in September, and Zyxel, which has launched a product range which does not need a central controller.

The more expensive 7900 series access points will continue, as they offer better support for voice and more intelligent beam-forming, said Calderbank: “They still have the best performance.”

The 7300 series also meets a need for sites where access points have to be small to fit with decor, or to fit into enclosures, said Calderbank. That concern is also reflected at rival Meru Networks, which this month launched a “luxury” access point for “aesthetically demanding environments”. Meru’s AP320i is not aiming to slash prices however, costing $1495.

Ruckus is also selling equipment to provide wireless broadband and to reduce the load on 3G networks, mostly in developing markets.

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