Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's all about that base station. WFD8, Day 1


If there is one theme that could sum up the first day of Wireless Field Day 8 for me, I think it has to do with nontraditional connectivity. We focus so much on wireless services and wireless communication, which for the most part now seems to be a given. Everyone knows that you can get your data and connectivity delivered to you wirelessly, wherever you are, whenever you are, and however you want it. That seems to lend itself to this being a truly mobile world and showing us the power of not just wireless communications, but true mobility overall.

Don't forget, we're streaming day 2 of #WFD8 tomorrow. Click here to tune in and please join the conversation on Twitter.

Introducing Cambium Networks


We started the day talking with Cambium Networks and getting a fantastic presentation of what their products could do to connect us to the world without wires or any traditional infrastructure. From high-speed point to point links, to cost effective point to multipoint solutions using their ePMP line, the entire wireless broadband eco-system was on display for us. We saw how we could have a single pane of glass to manage network infrastructure from top to bottom and build a completely wireless environment, all the way down to a wireless client device.



That type of connectivity allows us to be a truly mobile society, taking our digital lives with us wherever we choose to be. We're no longer tethered to any traditional form of communication. The products and services that are offered by Cambium give us that capability as users, and as operators the show us a fantastic way to manage it all so that we can embrace the way we communicate, without having to cobble together ways to ensure that it works.

It's a pretty exciting thing to see something like this technology, which I have been following for years, through the eyes of someone who's just getting to see it for the first time. I guess I take for granted the ability to get wireless whenever you want, wherever you want on a platform that just works. I remember a time not too long ago when it didn't all magically just work.
The other delegates sitting around the table don't have to put up with something that's half-baked or that is getting into the spotlight for the first time. It's a technology that has been deployed with some pretty hefty numbers to back it up and all at a price point that is insanely low compared to where it all fist started.

The Cradle Point


For the second act of the day we had an amazing presentation by Cradlepoint which really drove home the thought that disparate networks mean more than just finding a way to get your data to the cloud. From highly sensitive data traversing a separate network provided by a separate solution provider, to being able to open a pop up shop at the blink of an eye using LTE, their devices tie the world together at any point in time and at almost at any location. Obviously in order to take advantage of their hardware and solutions you needed a thick data plan, but with $35 unlimited service for public safety offered by some carriers, as well as the price drops making their way around the industry for unlimited 4G, I don't see that being an issue for much longer.



When you couple this with the fact that all of their gear is cloud managed and accessible to network admins from just about anywhere, it makes for a feature set that lends itself to easily on-boarding clients and getting them connected in the easiest way possible.

Having the right technology to allow you and your customers the ability to tap into this mobile world means the difference between them embracing new technology providing a seamless way to connect, versus having to work within the limitations of the traditional environment. The products that Cradlepoint put on display showed a GUI that was built for people who don't want any nerd knobs to turn, but are more interested in a solution that just works. 



With integrated or modular GPS, the ability to support 3G/4G/WiFi, a ruggedized version for vehicles, and all combined with a highly secure and thorough solution (which even offers some high-security Cloud-to-Cloud functionality through ZScaler) the Cradlepoint package seems to absolutely own the space their in. 

Causing a Ruckus in the Wireless Industry

We ended the day today at Ruckus Wireless. I was fully ready to lob questions at them about new protocols, 802.11ax, location service integration, and drill them on their roadmap. What we got instead was a breath of fresh air.



We started with a live demonstration of MU-MIMO on the r710 802.11ac Wave 2 platform (complete with humbling data rates that were lower than anticipated due to the 700 SSIDs that we saw from their adjacent R&D lab.)

While not too close to the 2.4x data rates seen on their bench, with Ixia Chariot fired up live and pumping data to 2 laptop clients, we saw a 40% increase in capacity just by enabling MU-MIMO on the basestation.

As mentioned by the presenter, you can't just flip any switch on an existing AP and see that kind of performance increase. It was pretty awesome.



What followed was an in-depth explanation of how they're moving all of their software into distributed formats across multiple virtualization techniques. Throughout the presentation it was obvious that the moves being made by Ruckus were to embrace distributed architecture while offering next-generation services. These were not moves aimed at small and medium sized businesses, there's definitely something larger going on here.

So how'd they wrap up their session? By taking a pretty controversial subject in mobility head-on: LTE in unlicensed spectrum. Again, the overall theme that was being mentioned throughout the day was about mobile connectivity and mobility. Not about Wi-Fi, but about how you can be constantly connected regardless of what standard, protocol, network, or infrastructure that is avaialble.

Through one of the most acronym-filled 30 minutes I have ever experienced, @WifiDave walked us through whats happening in the space, what it means to all of us, and what the industry, or at least Ruckus in this case, is doing about it. We had an in-depth conversation about LAA LTE, LTE-U, LWA, and what their differences and impacts would be.


This wasn't just some deep technical dive into protocols, it was absolutely informative session that shows the true commitment to the industry Ruckus has above and beyond what products they currently offer.

Since we're talking about products... I will say that I was totally peeved as a Ruckus partner that they didn't share one iota of what was discussed on a partner webinar last week. There are so many great things that are about to be released by the company that for them to just not talk about them was a bummer, especially since they're less than a week away from unleashing a few announcements.  Anyhow, I digress.

So, to wrap this up..


Overall, the break away from traditional services that each of the vendors showed us today really drives home the point that it's not necessarily about which technology is in use to get you connected, but getting you connected overall.

Whether it's LTE to Wi-Fi, our world has a huge demand for being constantly available and connected to each other. It's no longer about wired or wireless, it's about connectivity. Wifi or LTE? Those just seem to be the means to an end of true mobility. The mobility I am talking about is not just being able to walk around and use high-speed data wherever you want, but to have the flexibility that comes with not having to rely on someone else or some service to tell you when you can and can't be connected.

Through the vendors that we had the chance to meet with today it was really apparent there is something much bigger going on in this industry than just wireless and Wi-Fi.

I hope we're about to pick up even more about this tomorrow from everyone we meet with at Wireless Field Day 8, day 2!

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