Network congestion is a problem…Ruckus Wireless has a compelling offering….Offload to WiFi will solve the problem temporarily!

27 Feb

A common problem facing wireless operators today is network congestion, especially in areas that have high densities of population. Mobile customers have experienced poor voice/data quality in some of these locations:

  • Convention Centers
  • Downtown Business districts
  • Fairgrounds
  • Shopping Malls
  • Sports arenas and stadia
  • Transit

Wireline network operators faced similar challenges 12-14 years ago, as internet services like dial-up access, cable modems and DSL were experiencing hyper growth.

Most of us have experienced slower Internet speeds while using our smart phones, tablets and laptops. One solution to this problem is off-loading some of the traffic from the 3G/4G wireless networks  to a Wi-Fi network.

I did not realize the severity of the problem that wireless carriers were facing with data congestion until I spoke  with Dr. Andrew Odlyzko, Professor at the University of Minnesota and formerly the Director of its Digital Technology Center. “Carriers will have to embrace WiFi as spectrum is scarce and there is a limit to the number of cells that can be added” said Dr. Odlyzko.  In 1998, as a researcher at AT&T, Dr. Odlyzko was the first person to challenge UUNET’s (part of Verizon now) overly optimistic forecast that Internet traffic was doubling every 3-4 months. Dr Odlyzko published a memorable paper estimating that Internet traffic was at best doubling every 12 months. He proved to be right.

Ruckus Wireless has developed a compelling carrier grade WiFi product by using its experience in the following products:
  • Residential and enterprise wireless access products.
  • iPTV carrier products
  • Wi-Fi carrier products
I have not  examined either Ruckus’ or its competitors offerings in detail. However, the demand for Ruckus’ Wireless products and those offered by its competitors like Alcatel-Lucent, Belair Networks (acquisition pending by Ericsson), Cisco Systems, Nokia Siemens and others will be strong. It will be interesting to see how Ruckus competes with larger rivals in a market that not only has a limited number of customers per country but also competing with established competitors that have a broader portfolio offering. My experience tells me the company will succeed in selling its carrier product as  as carriers typically have two sources for a network element.

According to Steven Glapa, Senior Director, Ruckus Wireless, “Ruckus wireless offers unparalleled adaptive antenna technology which combined with the intelligence of its gateway make its offering the best in the market.”  An exuberant  Mr. Glapa, added by saying.”We have the possibility of being the next generation Ericsson.”

Ruckus’ customers include:
  • An Australian operator
  • KDDI (Japan)
  • PCCW (Hong Kong)
  • Cloud, a division of BskyB
I  will not be surprised in the coming months if the  company announces a large operator in North America like Comcast that will enable Comcast it to offer WiFi services in high density locations that I mentioned earlier in the post.
To date, Ruckus has raised about $70 million in capital. Revenues were $100 million last year and are expected to double this year. The company was  founded by Ms. Selina Lo in 2004. Previously, Ms. Lo was a founder of Centillion and AlteonWeb Systems which were  acquired by Bay Networks and Nortel respectively. Coincidentally, Bay Networks was acquired by Nortel in the late nineties.
Finally, history has shown us that whether it is bits or bytes – the increased capacity in networking and computing generally gets consumed rather quickly.

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