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Wi-Fi deployment gains momentum

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Growing number of people with advanced smartphones and wanting to stay connected facilitating rapid adoption

free high-speed public Wi-Fi service was unveiled at Mumbai Central Station by RailTel in partnership with Google in January. In Karnataka, BSNL set up a high-speed Wi-Fi service at 20 popular spots last week. In November last year, Facebook said it was partnering with BSNL to create 100 Wi-Fi hotspots in rural India.

Not surprising, considering the increasing number of connected devices and clogging of airwaves.

In September 2014, 3G data consumption surpassed 2G in India. Between January and December 2014, there was a 114 per cent increase in 3G data traffic, says Nokia Networks’ MBit Index study 2015. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the number of mobile internet users in India is expected to be 314 million by next year, up from 173 million in December 2014.

Among the players in this emerging domain is an 11-year-old Sunnyvale, California-headquartered company, Ruckus Wireless. Riding on cutting-edge technologies and burgeoning business opportunities, the company has seen rapid growth. In the most recent quarter, its operating income grew 46 per cent Q/Q and revenue by 16.4 per cent Y/Y.

An enabling medium

“Wi-Fi is the story. Already it’s the indoor data technology,” says CEO of Ruckus Wireless Selina Lo, who was recently in Bengaluru, where it has an R&D Centre. “LTE and Wi-Fi will converge. We also have VoLTE. Many operators, especially in the US, are adopting Wi-Fi calling,” she says. Long-Term Evolution, marketed as 4G, is a standard for wireless communication of high speed data for mobile phones and data terminals.

Ruckus Wireless, besides ramping up operations, also plans to manufacture in India. “In villages, capacity is not as important as coverage. We are designing something on those lines for India,” said Ms. Lo, who is known for innovation, identifying new markets and building products for them.

Mini Vasudevan, who was formerly with Nortel and Ericsson and has played an active role in development of wireless standards, says the rapid growth of Wi-Fi is inevitable since providing wireless to a growing number of people is a challenge. “In the emerging Internet of Things scenario, anything that can be connected is connected, and Wi-Fi is enabling that,” she says. While 3G and 4G aren’t able to handle mass volume of bandwidth, Wi-Fi provides it, says Ajay Srivastava, Head, Information Technology, Spice Retail Ltd (Devices). “It’s a solution not only for mobile devices but also for multiple services in smart city projects.”

Interference and security

One of the challenges networks face is ‘interference', caused by radio frequency signals from devices nearby. A way to get around it is BeamFlex, says Selina Lo. “It’s a first of its kind adaptive antenna technology that fights interference and maximises signal coverage throughput and network capacity. It can steer every packet to a path that has the least interference in real time.”

Security is another issue. Ms. Lo says Cloudpath is more secure as it is encrypted and not password-based.

“When a device signs on, we do a one-time authentication. After that, the network will push a certificate on to the device. It can be managed by the company that runs the Wi-Fi. They can revoke it or specify the duration of the contract.”

Ms. Lo is confident of being in a space that has players like Cisco, HP, Aruba, Ericsson and Motorola. “When we moved from residential to enterprise segment in 2008, we were aware of the big challenges. We selected the mid-tier market as our focus. Everyone was focusing on Fortune 500 so we said we are going to address the unfortunate 50,000.” The company has over 70 per cent market share among four and five star hotels, besides a number of clients in the educational and medical care segments, she says.

A rapidly growing market like India is wide open for adoption, says Mini Vasudevan. “What is important is product differentiation and effective solutions.” Ajay Srivastava says Ruckus, one among the top Wi-Fi companies, has made investments in India and is a key partner in large projects initiated by telecom firms.

Karthik Ayyar, who has experience in setting up Wi-Fi networks, says public hotspots is in early stages in India. “We will see more people getting involved, especially the mobile service providers, since our population density is high and everyone wants to stay connected.” He says pure play companies like Ruckus have a role in the emerging scenario. “Ruckus has been in this industry for a long time, they have experience, and they have developed some tools to deal with issues that affect connectivity.

They have also positioned themselves well in the space.”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 12:07:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/wifi-deployment-gains-momentum/article8175741.ece

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