Rucktionary

802.11ac vs. 802.11n

General Wireless Technologies

What it means:

802.11 is a family of wireless standards created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). 802.11n is the older version of Wi-Fi, launched in 2009. It improved over previous versions of Wi-Fi with multiple radios, advanced transmit and receive techniques, and the option to use 5 GHz spectrum—all of which translate to a data rate of up to 600 Mbps.

802.11ac, introduced in 2014, is the latest generation. It adds wider channels and the ability to utilize up to eight data streams (“spatial streams”) with downlink using multi-user multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) techniques for simultaneous transmission on up to four devices. These are changes over the previous standard that yield a maximum data rate of more than 3 Gbps, and even higher in the future. It also operates exclusively in the cleaner, capacity-rich 5 GHz frequency band.

Why you should care:

Older 802.11n technology is now widely deployed, and still does a good job for many applications. But if you’re deploying wireless infrastructure today, especially in a new, “green field” deployment, 802.11ac is the way to go. You might have heard some grumbling about real-world 802.11ac throughput gains not living up to expectations. And that was sometimes true for early products. But the second generation of 802.11ac—known as “Wave 2”—delivers major advantages over 802.11n, with room to grow. To get the most from 802.11ac, however, you need solutions built with solid wireless fundamentals, thoughtful radio design and very good antennas.

802.11ac Wave 2

What it means:

802.11ac Wave 2 is the newest version of the newest Wi-Fi standard. It builds on first-generation 802.11ac technology by delivering faster data rates and the ability to communicate with four different clients simultaneously, instead of one at a time.

Why you should care:

Since rolling out in 2015, 802.11ac Wave 2 has become the Wi-Fi technology of choice, seeing double-digit growth in its first two years after launch. With wireless speeds as fast or faster than wired networks, many businesses now use it as the primary way to connect to the LAN.

Ruckus got in early on the 802.11ac game, offering one of the leading Wave 2 access points and the industry’s first commercially available Wave 2 outdoor access point. Today, we offer one of the largest Wave 2 portfolios on the market. By combining Wave 2 capacity with our technology breakthroughs in Smart Wi-Fi intelligence and antenna design, we’re making the dream of super-fast 802.11ac a reality in thousands of locations worldwide.

Airtime Fairness

Performance Optimization

What it means:

Airtime fairness is a feature on Ruckus APs that ensures all connected clients get the same amount of airtime, regardless of each device’s theoretical data rate.

Why you should care:

Ever been in a conference room and noticed your wireless device isn’t performing as it should? This happens in mixed environments where some devices are using older wireless technologies, or when some clients are much farther away than others. Like a teacher doling out snacks, access points share their capacity equally, giving each device its turn to download the same number of packets. If your colleague’s ancient laptop, or a tablet connected down the hall, takes a lot longer to download them, you’ll feel that delay—and so will everyone else connected to that AP. Instead, airtime fairness gives every device the same transmission time, no matter how many packets they receive. So older or more distant clients don’t slow everyone else down, and your network gains capacity.

Asset Tracking

Location and Analytics

What it means:

Asset Tracking is a way to keep track of a device’s location using Wi-Fi, radio frequency ID (RFID) tags, or a combination of both.

Why you should care:

Many organizations—especially schools, hospitals, and others with large campuses—have lots of expensive equipment that moves around all the time. Whether it’s tablets or laptops used by students and teachers, audiovisual equipment, lab or clinical equipment, organizations want to be able to know where their assets are located. Modern wireless technologies offer two ways to do this. For devices connected to the Wi-Fi network, you can use Wi-Fi location and positioning tools to see their location. For assets with an RFID tag attached, you can use similar tools that use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to track them. If you’re using a Ruckus Smart Positioning Technology (SPoT), you can do both. Just open up the Locator feature in the SPoT Analytics Dashboard, enter in the device’s unique MAC address, and you can:

  • Instantly pinpoint any device’s real-time location
  • View historical heat maps of where devices have been and how long they spent there
  • Configure alerts for when devices enter or leave a location to reduce theft and loss
  • Support location-based advertising, navigation, and other services
  • Better identify users’ locations during an emergency

 

Band Steering

Performance Optimization

What it means:

Band steering is a technology that encourages WLAN clients to connect over one frequency band versus another.

Why you should care:

Most modern wireless networks can use both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. But 2.4 GHz is much more congested—both with older wireless clients, and things like cordless phones and Bluetooth devices that generate interference. For devices with “dual-band” capability, connecting over 5 GHz is usually the better choice.

With band steering, the wireless system monitors all clients in the environment, keeping track of whether they’re single-band or dual-band, and which types of APs are in their proximity. When a dual-band device tries to connect over 2.4 GHz, the AP steers it towards the cleaner, higher-capacity 5 GHz frequency band instead. Users on the 2.4 GHz band win too, because they’re now sharing that spectrum with fewer devices.

BeamFlex Adaptive Antenna Technology

Performance Optimization

What it means:

Smart, compact adaptive antenna systems containing multiple elements that electrically manipulate antenna properties so as to create optimal antenna patterns for each device with which they communicate.

Why you should care:

Traditional wireless antennas are either “omnidirectional” (radiating signals in all directions) or “directional” (radiating signals in one direction). Ruckus BeamFlex Adaptive Antenna Technology takes a more adaptable approach. BeamFlex technology enables the antenna system within a Ruckus AP to continually sense and optimize for its environment.

This antenna system mitigates radio interference, noise and network performance issues, and improves application flows. The results:

  • Increased performance and range
  • Crystal clear video and voice communications
  • Maximized power efficiency

BeamFlex+ is an enhancement to Ruckus BeamFlex adaptive antenna technology by providing adaptive support to mobile devices. BeamFlex+ enables antennas to adapt to client device orientation in addition to client device location.

Beamforming

Performance Optimization

What it means:

Beamforming is a technique APs use to focus their radio signals in the direction of the clients they’re communicating with to gain better capacity and throughput. And while “beamforming” and Ruckus’ “Beamflex” technology sound similar, they’re not the same thing!

When most technology vendors talk about beamforming, they mean “transmit beamforming,” (TxBF), which is achieved through signal processing built into the AP’s chip. In contrast, Ruckus’ Beamflex+ technology focuses radio signals using smart adaptive antennas. Beamflex+ is not part of the industry-standard chip. We add this capability—which works at the antenna-level—and we’re the only vendor that has successfully implemented it.

 

Why you should care:

When APs target their signals directly to clients, the signal is stronger (better throughput), and the overall airspace is cleaner (less interference from signals bouncing all over the place). So we can all agree that beamforming is a good thing. But some vendors claim TxBF is all you need. That’s not quite true.

Transmit beamforming requires feedback from the client—which means devices have to support the TxBF protocol to benefit from it, and many don’t. Transmitters using TxBF also can’t use spatial multiplexing at the same time (another technique that’s widely used to get more capacity in the same airspace).

With Ruckus’ revolutionary BeamFlex and BeamFlex+ Adaptive Antenna technology, you can provide benefits for all clients. So your RF spectrum stays much cleaner, and your network delivers better throughput and reliability. Want to use both? You can: BeamFlex and BeamFlex+ technologies add benefit on top of whatever beamforming technology may be implemented in the chip.

Certificate management

Certificate Management is the process of managing digital security certificates. This includes processes such as creation, storage, distribution, suspension and revocation. Certificate authorities (CA) are responsible for certificate management and serve as a registration authority for subscriber certificates.

The use of certificates has traditionally been hindered by the challenges of distributing certificates and the overhead of managing the life cycle of certificates. Cloudpath solves both of these issues, providing a zero-touch approach to distributing and managing certificates.

ChannelFly Advanced Channel Selection

Performance Optimization

What it means:

The ChannelFly dynamic channel management technology in Ruckus APs improves wireless performance by dynamically switching a client to a better channel when the one it’s using starts to degrade.

Why you should care:

Most modern WLAN products can change a client’s channel when the one it’s using gets clogged with interference or too many devices. But there’s no point in switching channels unless you know the new one will actually provide more capacity. And most channel management strategies don’t do a great job of predicting. ChannelFly technology assesses all available channels to measure the real-world capacity improvement each one can provide before it directs the AP to switch channels.

ChannelFly technology was originally developed for use in carrier Wi-Fi environments, where channels are highly congested. Even in these dense public settings, it delivers multi-fold improvements in AP and network capacity—within seconds, automatically.

Client Load Balancing

Performance Optimization

What it means:

With client load balancing, a WLAN distributes new connections across multiple APs in order to make the best use of the network and radio spectrum.

Why you should care:

When too many clients connect to a single AP, there’s less capacity available for each device, and poorer performance. But in many environments, a client can connect to any of several APs. Ruckus ZoneFlex APs and ZoneDirector software track every client in the environment and distribute connections more evenly, while making sure that each device has a strong signal. So your WLANs make better use of their capacity, and users get better throughput and quality.

Client Roaming and SmartRoam+

Performance Optimization

What it means:

Client roaming allows wireless devices to switch from one AP to another more quickly and intelligently as they move through a space. This is especially important for latency- and quality-of-service (QoS)-sensitive applications like voice and video, where sticking too long with an AP as you move away from it will degrade performance.

Why you should care:

If you’re using a mobile device, you’re likely to be, well, mobile. Which means your experience will suffer if your device doesn’t know when to switch from the AP you connected with when you walked in the door to the one across the convention hall where you are now. Unfortunately, many devices get “stuck” to their previous AP for too long. This is especially problematic for voice and video applications, and a major source of frustration in high-density environments.

With Ruckus SmartRoam+ technology, you can force clients to switch to a new AP when their signal gets too weak. Your users get better roaming. And, even more important in dense public venues, you won’t waste network capacity communicating with too many devices over slower, weaker connections.

Footfall Analytics

Location and Analytics

What it means:

Footfall analytics is a way to use the wireless network in a public venue (especially a retail store) to gain deep insight into how customers behave in a physical space.

Why you should care:

While online is a big part of modern retail business, physical stores still play a huge role in the shopping experience. Now, retailers around the world are using location analytics to bring the same kind of personalized, highly targeted shopping intelligence you see online to their brick-and-mortar stores. Location analytics solutions like Ruckus Smart Positioning Technology (SPoT) can show retailers exactly how customers are using a space. They can see in-store traffic patterns, identify the best locations for products down to the shelf level, optimize store layouts to increase sales and time spent in the venue, and much more.

Guest Access

Security and Onboarding

What it means:

Guest access is about allowing visitors (e.g., guests, shoppers, consultants) a way to access the Internet and/or local network services over a public-facing Wi-Fi network. Ideally, guest access should be secure, easy for both users and the business offering it, and should deliver value to the venue.

Why you should care:

When done right, guest access is a win for both the end-user and the venue providing it. Users appreciate having a good Internet connection, whether to find product information, stay connected to social media, or do anything else they normally do online. For businesses, it offers a way to better understand customers, influence decision-making at the point of decision, and keep them more engaged in the venue—ideally, motivating them to stay longer. Smart businesses are building on basic Internet access capabilities, and providing rich branded services for location-based information and advertising, navigating the venue, and much more. Modern guest access solutions from Ruckus and our partners include customizable captive portals where users log on, and support multiple authentication methods (open, social media, credit card, etc.). Whether businesses charge for access, run advertising, or offer the service as an amenity, these solutions can add significant value to public-facing venues, without adding headaches for the venue’s IT staff.

Hotspot 2.0

Security and Onboarding

What it means:

Hotspot 2.0 makes Wi-Fi roaming as seamless as cell phone roaming. Just as your cell phone automatically finds a roaming partner network and securely connects no matter where you travel, users can get the same experience over Wi-Fi.

Why you should care:

Most wireless users prefer to connect to Wi-Fi whenever they can, either to avoid cellular data overages, or because they’re using a Wi-Fi-only device. But they have to work for it—finding and selecting the right network, entering a password, logging on through a portal. With Hotspot 2.0 and the 802.11u standard, all that goes away. Here’s how it works:

Wireless providers—cable or mobile providers, enterprises, and others—join roaming partnerships with other providers. Users’ devices are loaded with the right credentials and security certificates. Then, anytime a user is away from her home network provider, her device automatically checks for Hotspot 2.0-capable APs with participating roaming partners. If one is available, she can connect automatically, without doing a thing.

Mesh Networking and SmartMesh

Performance Optimization

What it means:

You’re not crazy if you think that wireless networks should be… wireless. But in traditional WLANs, you still have to run cables to each AP. In mesh networks, individual APs connect with each other wirelessly.

Why you should care:

Who wouldn’t want to eliminate the need for expensive Ethernet cabling across their facilities? But making mesh networks work in enterprises is easier said than done. Traditionally, it’s required a lot of complex configuration, and it’s been hard to assure consistent, reliable connectivity.

With Ruckus SmartMesh Networking technology, we’ve made mesh networks enterprise-grade. Instead of navigating complex configurations for each AP, just check a box. The mesh forms automatically. And with our BeamFlex technology, APs can dynamically change antenna patterns on a packet-by-packet basis to adapt to conditions and ensure a solid connection. Enterprises get self-forming, self-healing mesh networks at half the time and cost of traditional wireless deployments.

OpenG

What it means:

OpenG is a Ruckus technology innovation that improves mobile coverage and capacity inside buildings, where connecting with conventional macro networks is a challenge. It combines new coordinated shared spectrum (CSS) capabilities with small cell technologies to bring licensed mobile connectivity indoors. In the United States, OpenG solutions use 3.5GHz spectrum under the Citizens Broadcast Radio Service (CBRS) rules defined by the Federal Communications Commission. Ruckus is an active participant in a group of wireless industry leaders working to develop, market and promote solutions utilizing CBRS.

Why you should care:

Mobile service has traditionally been an either/or proposition: users connect to mobile macro networks outside, and rely on Wi-Fi indoors where mobile signals are poorer. If you’ve ever been on a mobile call and walked into an office building or parking structure, you know why that’s a big problem. In many buildings, especially new construction, mobile services that operate over licensed radio spectrum just can’t penetrate everywhere users want them. Especially deep inside buildings, you end up with mobile “dead zones”, dropped calls and frustrated subscribers.

With the emergence of LTE-WiFi convergence and CSS, that’s all changing. Solutions like Ruckus’ OpenG let service providers and enterprises deploy “neutral host” small cell solutions inside buildings to extend mobile connectivity to places it wouldn’t otherwise reach. The result: better indoor coverage, happier users and new business opportunities for managed wireless services.

Secure Device Onboarding and Cloudpath

Security and Onboarding

What it means:

It’s not 2005 anymore; there’s no reason that onboarding wireless devices shouldn’t be highly secure and simple. Ruckus Cloudpath software makes secure onboarding easy for enterprises, government agencies, and educational institutions.

Why you should care:

With billions of wireless devices and new ones hitting the market all the time, it can feel like the Wild West out there. Cloudpath lets you onboard both IT-owned and BYOD devices in a fast, automated way. Cloudpath invented self-service Wi-Fi onboarding in 2006, and onboards millions of devices each year. It uses standards-based security, strong encryption, and flexible policy controls to extend enterprise-grade security to every device coming onto your network.

Secure Guest Access

Security and Onboarding

What it means:

Secure guest access lets visitors use public Wi-Fi networks without compromising security for themselves or for the network.

Why you should care:

Public Wi-Fi hotspots are a great way to keep people in your venue longer and to improve guest satisfaction. But most of the time, public hotspots offer no security protection whatsoever, not even encryption. More and more users understand the security risk inherent to unprotected hotspots and, so, are more hesitant to use them. If they do, it’s likely to be only for a limited set of activities. This means you’re not getting all the direct or indirect revenues that motivated you to deploy public Wi-Fi in the first place.

Secure onboarding using Cloudpath software enables guests to securely and effortlessly connect to public hotspots. Guests onboard once and roam to any hotpot that is set up under the same roaming consortium. As soon as guests associate with the WLAN, they’re directed to a branded web portal, where they can choose secure or open access. With proprietary Automated Device Enablement (ADE), the device is secured in seconds.

SmartCast

Performance Optimization

What it means:

SmartCast is a sophisticated quality of service (QoS) engine speci! cally developed to maximize the reliability and performance of delay-sensitive applications, such as IP-based voice and video over 802.11 networks. Based on patented technology, SmartCast delivers a collection of unique capabilities — such as packet inspection, automatic traf! c classi! cation, advanced queuing and scheduling.

Why you should care:

With per-client queuing, SmartCast is ideal for video and voice over Wi-Fi applications because it ensures disruptive clients don’t negatively effect the performance of others clients on the network (no head-of-line blocking).

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