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Beamforming: The Best WiFi You’ve Never Seen


I don’t need to sell you on how the world is moving to being video-centric. If you’ve stuck with us this far, it’s probably because you see the writing on the wall and know that you’re either going to have to string Ethernet cabling through your walls or else find some sort of wireless solution for your present and future video needs. Moreover, CAT5e or CAT6 only get you so far. The day when most of us have more video-oriented devices in our pockets than on our desks and walls can’t be far off. Woe to the hapless consumer who doesn’t have a wireless backbone up to the task of distributing streams wherever needed.

I don’t want you to walk away from this article with the single message: “Ruckus rocks!” That’s not the point. What we’ve seen here is that on-chip beamforming, at least in the way that Cisco has implemented it on the 1142, barely has any effect. No wonder the feature arrives disabled today. However, beamforming in principal can have a tremendous effect. Ruckus clearly shows that all 802.11n up to present has merely been a preface. This is the next level, and so far there’s only one company standing on it.

My hope is that this article will raise some eyebrows and spur the industry to advance. With the 1142, Cisco largely relied on existing designs. The level of innovation was minimal, and it shows. We need more companies like Ruckus willing to invest two or three years into rethinking the problem and taking wireless communications forward in multiples of performance, not single-digit gains. Yes, there will be interoperability wars. Yes, the pricing will be double what you pay for non-beamforming equivalents. But in return, we’ll be able to do and enjoy things with our wireless LANs that simply can’t be done today.