The growing popularity of WiFi is not an accidental. It is a cheap networking solution which does away with cabling and other hassles. When it comes to more demanding tasks such as streaming videos, however, WiFi in its current state may be less than ideal. There are several reasons for this. WiFi was developed for delay-tolerant data applications, and it relies on higher level TCP protocols for error correction and packet retransmissions. WiFi is also a shared medium which transmits signals in all directions. Signals are dispersed on multiple paths, hard to control, and they often arrive out of phase. The results are reduced and unpredictable signal strength and temporary dead spots and packet errors. When you add to this the fact that the signal is susceptible to interference, it is easy to see why you would not want to watch a video over WiFi.
Ruckus CEO Selina Lo says the solution is smart WiFi which combines MIMO antenna arrays and sophisticated traffic engineering software. Smart WiFi determines which signal paths are available and the quality of these paths given the location of a specific endpoint and the traffic being transmitted to it. Smart WiFi continuously monitors and ranks the paths on several metrics (signal-to-noise ratio, throughput, packet errors, jitter, signal strength) to determine the quality of any WiFi link. Smart WiFi signals are also focused in a specific direction, minimizing interference and maximizing range and coverage.
If signal quality degrades, the system quickly (that is, in milliseconds) directs the WiFi signals to a better path, thus maintaining consistent high data rates while minimizing packet errors and retransmissions. QoS software automatically classifies different types of IP traffic before transmission over smart antennas to ensure appropriate bandwidth schedule for different classes of traffic. Smart WiFi systems also identify and handle multicast traffic differently: The system sorts incoming traffic into queues as specified by 802.11e, and multicast streams are tuned and prioritized to ensure the same service quality levels equivalent to unicast traffic. There is more, but we can already see why smart WiFi offers what it takes to allow a single home network to service voice, broadcast quality video and data.
For more on smart WiFi:
- see Selina Lo's commentary at Converge