Wednesday Wi-Fi Whispers: Ruckus Goes Narrow with New Directional Antenna

Ruckus Wireless on Tuesday announced a new suite of products and an enhanced overall focus aimed at addressing high-density networking needs like stadiums, including an innovative antenna technology that can focus beams into smaller angles — all the better for servicing tightly packed crowds.

If Wi-Fi networking infrastructure deployments were originally about coverage, they’ve now switched to more concerns about capacity, said Steve Hratko, director of carrier marketing at Ruckus, who met with us at the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s Wi-Fi Global Congress conference in San Francisco Tuesday. And when it comes to deploying antennas and other infrastructure to serve high-density crowds, Hratko said, “all the rules of thumb have changed.”

One of those rules has to do with antennas. Historically antennas were designed to cast as wide a signal as possible, to cover the most airspace with the fewest number of devices. Now, with demand increasing at explosive levels, to serve high-density areas like stadiums takes some different deployment thinking, like antennas that use narrower beams. Ruckus’ new Wi-Fi access points, Hratko said, can shrink their signals into 30-degree slices, making it easier to aim them at a specific sector of seats, or other geographically specific areas, like airport waiting rooms.

“Sometimes, the beams can’t be narrow enough,” said Hratko. “It all ends up being more clever about where you put antennas.”

Ruckus, which is in the midst of preparing for an initial public offering, is also ready to help clients with its deployment smarts, which it is learning as it puts its gear into more high-density places like Time-Warner Cable Arena, where Ruckus gear helped keep the Democratic National Convention wirelessly connected earlier this summer. We’re sure we’ll hear more high-density talk from Ruckus sometime soon.

BT: Olympics Used 6 Terabytes of Wi-Fi Traffic

We’re going to try to track down the presentation — it was loaded with cool networking statistics — but one of the ones we did write down during a BT talk about Olympics network usage at the Wi-Fi conference was the staggering stat that there was 6 Terabytes of Wi-Fi traffic consumed on BT’s London networks during the games this summer — with some 697,383 separate Wi-Fi sessions initiated on the 1,500 access points BT had installed for Olympics use.

Though BT exec Chris Bruce said the network performed without many hitches — we heard some different stories — by all accounts the Wi-Fi networks on the Games sites apparently held up even in the face of record demand. It’s old news to us here at MSR but Bruce said if you didn’t believe it before, believe it now — crowds at big sporting events want to take pictures and video and share them instantly.

“Crowd behavior now is such that everyone wants to capture the moment and share the moment,” Bruce said, meaning that event hosts better have super-sturdy Wi-Fi and cellular or be ready for the inevitable immediate social-media backlash. One funny story he noted was that when planning started for the London Games 10 years out, the idea of having a Wi-Fi network wasn’t even considered. His advice for future big-event network planners?

“Take your demand model and keep revising it,” he said. “You just can’t predict it ahead of time.”

Olympics Wireless Network Gets Overloaded on Day 1: Organizers Ask Fans Not to Tweet

Well, despite lots of planning and press releases, it turns out that the folks behind the wireless networks at the London Olympics weren’t prepared for the smartphone revolution. According to a Reuters story today, fans effectively shut down TV coverage from the men’s cycling road race by overwhelming the wireless network with their communications, leading the games organizers to ask fans not to tweet so much.

(As Gizmodo says, good luck with that.)

Of course we here at Mobile Sports Report have been covering the whole Wi-Fi at events topic pretty closely, but from here it looks like we’re about to get a new failure data point, for what happens when big-event organizers underestimate the connectivity needs of the crowd. (Stay tuned this week for an in-depth report on the subject.)

According to the Reuters story, the men’s cycling road race Saturday didn’t get key broadcast information during the race because the hundreds of thousands of fans lining the course apparently gummed up the wireless network. Sunday, the games asked folks to back off on Twitter use:

An International Olympic Committee spokesman said the network problem had been caused by the messages sent by the hundreds of thousands of fans who lined the streets to cheer on the British team.

“Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going to say ‘Don’t, you can’t do it’, and we would certainly never prevent people,” he said. “It’s just – if it’s not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy.”

We are trying to get a response from networking gear vendor Cisco, which made much about its involvement with service provider BT, formerly known as British Telecom, the main service provider in and around London. While Cisco touted its networking chops before the games, like Michael Phelps the network’s performance so far is something short of gold.

Anyone over there in London have any downtime experiences? Let us know in the comments. More on this as we hear from Cisco.