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Better, Cheaper Workplace Wi-Fi

Rucks Wireless expands its existing product, which means bigger businesses can benefit.
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Up until now, when businesses wanted to deploy Wi-Fi in their offices they would install a system made by Cisco (CSCO) or Aruba (ARUN) . Those systems use wired, Ethernet connections to each wireless box in your office.

Starting today, there's a better and cheaper way to get wireless signals to everyone in the workplace.

Ruckus Wireless has announced what it terms SmartMesh -- the first Smart Wi-Fi meshing technology -- that enables companies to deploy extensive wireless LANs (WLANs) in half the time, at half the cost and get three times the performance of typical WLANs.

For those who don't know Ruckus Wireless products -- you should! In my experience (echoed by many readers), Ruckus makes the best wireless routers on the market. Its patented technology allows a single wireless access point to outperform any other wireless router on the market.

I was able to replace my old wireless router and its special, optional

high-gain antenna

with one Ruckus 2825 box -- and, for the first time, have Wi-Fi throughout my entire home.

That simple system is OK for a very small office setup. Larger businesses need something more sophisticated.

So now Ruckus is taking that "beam steering" Smart Wi-Fi technology up a notch. It's beginning to tackle big spaces.

This new system allows medium and larger-sized companies to have a Wi-Fi system with only one wired connection -- going from your Internet provider to the Ruckus controller box. Older systems require large runs of cabling to each wireless box installed in your office.

From there, all the wireless access point boxes are configured and controlled wirelessly. The remote boxes actually speak with each other -- and with the controller box via a smart, wireless

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"mesh" network. They automatically determine where the signals should go and the best way to route them.

The most amazing part of this is that because you are eliminating all those Ethernet wire runs, and because Ruckus routers provide better coverage than any other brand, this entire set-up will cost less.

A lot less.

In a typical 500-user setup, for instance, deploying a system with a Cisco 4402 WLAN controller ($14,395) and 25 Cisco 1131 802.11g access points ($699 each), as well as installing 25 Ethernet drops ($150 each, including labor), comes to $35,620.

Using Ruckus' new SmartMesh set-up, the ZD1025 WLAN controller retails for $3,500; adding five ZoneFlex 802.11n wired access points ($699 each), 10 ZF7942 mesh access points (also $699 each) and five Ethernet drops (also at $150 each) comes to $14,735 for the same wireless coverage.

As one of the first major rollouts announced this morning,



is retrofitting its 180-room Buckhead Courtyard Marriott hotel in Atlanta with the Ruckus SmartMesh system.

Expect to hear a lot more about 802.11n and mesh networking in the near future.

Gary Krakow is's senior technology correspondent.