Press Release

Ruckus Wireless Applauds Cisco for Jumping on the Beamforming Bandwagon

Outlines Necessary Advances to Make Beamforming Deliver the Performance That Enterprises Expect from Next Generation 802.11n Wi-Fi Technology

SUNNYVALE, CA, January 21, 2009 – Ruckus Wireless today (loudly) applauded Cisco Systems for validating the value of beamforming in improving Wi-Fi performance and outlined further technical advances (beyond implementing beamforming in chips) essential to delivering the high-performance and reliability expected from next generation 802.11n technology.

Chip-level beamforming, using digital signal processors, is an optional performance enhancement technique within the 802.11n standard and as such, is not yet implemented by client chip vendors. Beamforming performed at the physical layer using smart antennas provides additional controls over the actual Wi-Fi signals emanating from access points heretofore not possible.

“Achieving adequate signal gain and coverage from transmit beamforming using only chips requires a number of systems-level enhancements, not the least of which is feedback from the client and agile control of the beams over real time interference,” said Steve Martin, VP of Engineering at Ruckus Wireless. “Simply implementing a beamforming chipset without systems level optimization is like having a sports car driven by a robot – it works until another car swerves in front of you.”

Compatible with, but without having to rely on, silicon vendors for client feedback, the Ruckus-patented BeamFlex, Smart Wi-Fi beamforming antenna system, is the first-of-its-kind to use real time client feedback inherent to the 802.11a/b/g/n media acess control (MAC) layer protocol to continuously optimize performance.

In addition, the use of agile beamforming antenna arrays give Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi access points complete control over the direction and form of Wi-Fi signals along with the ability to actively avoid and reject interference. With these controls, Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi access points can deliver three times the signal coverage while ensuring more consistent performance over conventional access points based on identical chipsets.

What is Beamforming and How Does It Work?

Beamforming is a general signal processing technique used to control the directionality of the transmission and reception of radio signals. An optional part of the Wi-Fi 802.11n standard, beamforming is defined in two basic types: implicit and explicit.

Implicit beamforming is designed to improve the transmission performance of a Wi-Fi access point by relying on mathematical calculations to determine how best to form Wi-Fi signals or beams toward receiving clients. But without explicit client feedback, access points have no way of knowing if the beams are optimum or if they are even working properly.

Explicit beamforming uses detailed channel matrix feedback from the client. However today’s Wi-Fi clients don’t support this 802.11n optional feature.

Beamforming Using Chips Isn’t Enough

“What vendors neglect to mention is the either-or nature of all the 802.11n techniques that boost performance at the chip level. Using only two Wi-Fi radios to transmit, vendors can perform only one of 802.11n’s advanced techniques such as spatial multiplexing, transmit diversity or beamforming at any given time,” said Martin. “The limitation severely degrades potential system gains.”

Martin noted that with only two antennas used to transmit Wi-Fi signals, as with Cisco’s newly announced 802.11n access point, the theoretical signal gain with beamforming is limited to 3dB.  This is the same theoretical gain achieved by the currently available transmit diversity technique. “Ruckus doesn’t have this limitation because we implement beamforming at the physical layer using smart antenna arrays on top of whatever 802.11 chipset is being used.”

Furthermore, beamforming using omni-directional antennas waste RF energy, cause additional interference and provide less than optimal control over Wi-Fi transmissions because signals are sent and received in all directions at all times. And since chip-based beamforming only works when transmitting, it does nothing to help APs reject interference when receiving data; forcing APs to lower the data rate when interference is experienced.

While chip-based beamforming provides some performance benefits to clients within an AP’s range, it does nothing to increase the Wi-Fi “cell size” or coverage area. Without being able to fully focus RF energy in any specific direction, the range of the AP will always be limited by the output power of the radio and signal gain of that antenna.

Many fail to realize that beamforming using only chips actually works against 802.11n which is predicated on spatial multiplexing. Spatial multiplexing calls for deploying antennas far away to gain as much diversity as possible. But with beamforming, antennas need to be close together to avoid poor performance and weak signals. Ruckus has solved this problem by adding an adaptive, software-controlled antenna array that compliments 802.11n silicon by providing complete control over the form and direction of Wi-Fi signals.

Patented BeamFlex Technology Combines Antenna Beamforming with Standard 802.11 Chips to Deliver Unmatched Performance Gains and Reliability

In stark contrast to chip-based beamforming, Ruckus Wireless has developed a patented, pattern-agile antenna technology called BeamFlex. BeamFlex combines beamforming at the physical layer, using smart antennas, with sophisticated client feedback mechanisms without requiring any modification to clients. This ensures the highest performance levels while extending signal range and rejecting interference by allowing Wi-Fi signals to be directed, on a per packet basis, over the best possible signal path for any given client.

With BeamFlex, physical antenna elements are combined in real time to form thousands of antenna patterns. For every packet, antenna control software learns and selects the optimum combinations as clients roam. This allows for unprecedented reliability by providing complete control over Wi-Fi signals and focusing RF energy only where it’s needed while not creating additional interference.

BeamFlex was specifically designed to take advantage of multipath environments. By controlling the form and direction of the transmission and reception of multiple Wi-Fi signals, higher data rates are achieved because interference and packet loss are avoided. Wi-Fi systems not employing automatically-controlled directional antennas are forced to lower their data rate when interference and packet loss is experienced thereby negatively affecting performance for all clients using that system.

BeamFlex cost effectively adds value on top of standard 802.11n chips, unlike any other Wi-Fi technology available today that purports to use beamforming. Ruckus BeamFlex (Smart Wi-Fi):

  • Continuously calculates and tracks the best signal path for all clients based on explicit performance feedback from each client,
  • Adds a software-controlled intelligent antenna array on top of any standard 802.11 chipset,
  • Automatically optimizes for both beamforming and spatial multiplexing ,
  • Offers over 4,000 different antenna combinations that can be used to form and direct Wi-Fi signals on a per packet basis to any client for ultra-reliability and performance,
  • Provides system-level signal gain of up to 10dB and interference rejection up to 17dB
  • Delivers a two-to-four fold extension of signal range,
  • Was designed and optimized for multipath environments to create different patterns which reduces multipath fading and mitigates interference,
  • Simultaneously uses advanced 802.11n features including spatial multiplexing, transmit diversity, beamforming and maximal ratio combining for greater reliability and performance.