In an interaction with IDG Media, Pramod Badjate - Senior Vice President, Global Engineering at Ruckus Networks, shares his views on the current and future trends in WiFi technology and Ruckus' role in the enterprise WiFi space.
What is Ruckus Networks’ strategy for WiFi?
Ruckus plays a big role in enterprise WiFi, and has seen rapid growth in the last three years. The purpose of WiFi is that end customer should be able to onboard as many devices as possible with different data traffic needs - in extremely challenging external and internal environments.
The networks themselves are getting more complex both in terms of density, types of devices, types of applications, and their demands and latency. The interference and the RF environment itself is getting very challenging.
We want to build access points that can be deployed in the easiest way. We have the experience of deploying tens of thousands of access points in an extremely simple way because of the architecture of our high scale controller. We are also deploying machine learning based algorithms in the cloud to be able to connect data from the network and proactively alert users if something goes wrong.
What are Ruckus’ unique selling points compared to competition?
“In all the leading hotels where Ruckus technology is already deployed, we are enabling an IoT sensor module right in the access point, which allows collection of information and IoT devices to communicate with the backend.”
With sensors enabled in IoT devices, it is complicated to deploy additional hardware to communicate with the back-end systems, and nobody turns on this functionality for WiFi products. Ruckus’ WiFi throughput capability, the ability to handle different clients, density and type of data, and the scalabe architecture are some its unique features.
When there are large deployments and clients want to integrate their systems and operations with the WiFi (be it city wide or state wide), then we offer open APIs through which they can manage and control the networks systematically.
This type of integration on Ruckus products makes it very easy to integrate WiFi for service providers. We have also done integration with several technology stacks, which sit very closely with the WiFi.
How can businesses integrate IoT devices with your products? Are you working with IoT vendors?
In all the leading hotels where Ruckus technology is already deployed, we are enabling an IoT sensor module right in the access point, which allows collection of information and IoT devices to communicate with the backend.
We are also partnering with other vendors in this space. But our strategy is that we are working around open standards, as long as companies are implementing such standards (for instance, Zigbee) they will be able to onboard devices via our IoT module.
What is the dynamics between WiFi vendors and telecom players today?
We work with telecom players all round the world and there is obviously the WiFi offload angle, which resonates well with most of the service providers. There’s an obvious economic advantage of offering data services to end users through WiFi. Many of our telecom partners are offering managed services to enterprises.
In the Indian telecom industry, when the first 3G spectrum auction took place, we started talking with all telcos on 3G offload. We saw some early adopters like Airtel, Idea, and TATA actually rolling out professional carrier grade WiFi networks. There have not been very large networks but they have been rolling out thousands of access points to cater to their customers. We deployed 50,000 WiFi access points across 40 cities for our partners. Telecom operators realized that access to real estate is the key thing. We saw them rolling out hotspots in the public venues like IPL stadiums, malls and hotels.
How will the upcoming WiFi 6 be an improvement over the current WiFi standard?
“With WiFi 6, the service provider will be able offer better services in extremely challenging environments, like high density venues, when you have lot of clients trying to connect at the same time.”
A couple of months back we launched industry’s first WiFi 6 ready access point for enterprises. The main advantage is that WiFi 6 or 802.11ax is using encoding standards, which is a jump over 11ac where you get much better data throughput.
We have R730 access points, which are based on the latest Wi-Fi standard, and bridges the performance gap to support the insatiable demand for better and faster Wi-Fi. Also with WiFi 6, the service provider will be able offer better services in extremely challenging environments, like high density venues, when you have lot of clients trying to connect at the same time.
What are the key trends you foresee in the public WiFi ecosystem?
In addition to offering offloading and hotspots, IoT sensors will be increasingly leveraged for outdoor access point deployments.
In the US, there is real estate available in dense cities that is transitioning very quickly. For example, in New York, Ruckus gear was used in telephone booths as kiosks for advertising and embedding WiFi access points to offer services. Offering free services and monetizing through collecting data about end users and rolling out advertisements is a very unique way of capitalizing. This is happening in New York and Paris and will be rolled out in London too. I see this coming to India as well.
What is the role of data offloading for the telecom industry? How is it evolving?
From an India perspective, the carrier grade WiFi networks deployed by telcos were not at par with user expectations. It was more of an after-thought. The throughput and the actual data offloaded was limited. Also, the standards from the handset perspective to automatically offload to a WiFi network was lagging.
“We were the first ones to certify our access points as WBA compliant. We are also GDPR compliant for the Europe market. If by any chance, we save any customer data - we have the facility for the customer to say ‘clean my data’.”
These were the issues with 3G but with 4G, this issue did improve with the improvement in standards and deployments.
In terms of data security, what is Ruckus' strategy?
Security of data is a top priority for us. We have cross functional teams who are waiting to troubleshoot any vulnerability which is detected. We have deep penetration testing, which is done directly or through working with consulting companies that specialize in it.
Talking in particular about WiFi, we comply with the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). We were the first ones to certify our access points as WBA compliant. We are also GDPR compliant for the Europe market. If by any chance, we save any customer data - we have the facility for the customer to say ‘clean my data’.
Can you talk about Ruckus' partnerships in the public WiFi space?
Ruckus technology will be used in Google Station WiFi hotspots in India, Indonesia and Mexico. Under the terms of the deal, Ruckus will provide devices and technologies enabling carrier-grade networks at Google Station hotspots. These hotspots deliver high-performance Wi-Fi using Ruckus’ patented adaptive antenna BeamFlex technology for increased connectivity performance and range, better signals and maximized power efficiency.
Additionally, Ruckus Networks has joined Facebook’s Express WiFi Technology Partner Program—a program that allows access point manufacturers to build Wi-Fi hardware compatible with Express WiFi. Operators participating in Facebook’s Express WiFi initiative will deploy the Ruckus virtual SmartZone controllers and certified indoor/outdoor WiFi access points in high-traffic public areas in Africa, India, and Indonesia.