Ruckus, High Density Wireless

Ruckus, High Density WirelessIn addition to working for a company in IT, I also own a wireless business that specializes in hospitality and High Density Wireless installations.  I’ve been using Ruckus Wireless on several projects with nothing but positive feedback from hotel guests and properties.

There are several demands that come with hospitality wireless:

  1. Hotels are high density and high RF noise environments.  Unfortunately, low-end enterprise access points claim to handle 100+ devices. In reality, they CAN but the wireless network may be virtually unusable.
  2. Hotel guests demand streaming video and low latency Internet which mean access points need to be smart enough to offload devices to the 5ghz band (Band Steering).  The unfortunate limitation on the 5Ghz band is distance so does this mean a costly dense access point deployment?
  3. The hotel guests consider reliable wireless internet high on their list of priorities, almost as important as running water. High availability is an important requirement to build into a wireless deployment because your reasonable time frame to fix an outage is usually not within the guests level of satisfaction.

There are several wireless manufactures tackling these issues but in my opinion, none have done better than Ruckus Wireless.  Six months ago, I found myself needing to upgrade one of the venues I support due to device density issues with my existing access points.  The RF noise floor sometimes dropped to 80dB on busy days with personal access points like GoPros, MiFi cellular access points and even Audi vehicle wifi signals permeating from the parking garage below.

Tackling the High Density Wireless Dilemma

I sampled several major enterprise wireless brands and evaluated each based on several controlled variables.

The Ruckus R500 outperformed all competing devices on all but signal perception.  Let me explain – the Ruckus product actually has a unique feature that only sends signals in the direction of a connected device.  This is by design to cut down in RF interference thereby dropping the noise floor sometimes as much as 5-7dBs.  The unfortunate result is that wireless users initially see a “weak” signal from the SSID broadcast until they actually connect to the access point.  Once connected however, they get full “bars” providing them excellent service.  The initial “perception” is weak internet even though it’s not a big deal.

How do they do this?  Ruckus has patented technology called BeamFlex which uses an array of antennas in their device and only sends RF signals in the direction of a connected device.  Think of this – you are out camping and you come upon a table with a lantern putting out 500 lumens of light.  You flicker your 50 lumen keychain light at the lantern and suddenly a 500 lumen flashlight shines in your direction.  The lantern is like most other access points that spreads its signal in an omni-directional pattern.  The flashlight with the same 500 lumens “power” directs all the light in your direction without blinding other people in the vicinity.  This allows hundreds of devices to communicate around the access point with very little interference because they are only “hearing” what they need, thereby increasing the signal to noise ratio.

Engaging Over-the-Air Bandwidth Challenges

Streaming media content such has NetFlix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have become a hit when it comes to entertainment.  This content, though it has become more streamlined, requires fast and consistent bandwidth delivered to a user’s mobile device.  This creates a challenge when it comes to wireless because there’s a bandwidth limitation based on the frequency and signal to noise ratio.  Generally the 802.11b/g/n, 2.4Ghz band has the greatest compatibility and furthest distance but unfortunately contains the most RF noise and limited bandwidth.  The 802.11a, 5Ghz band however has more than enough bandwidth but due to limitations in physics, the band can have as low as 50% effectiveness in penetrating interior walls.

The solution?

Perform your pre-install site survey for 100% coverage on the 5Ghz band using at least an 802.11ac 2×2 access point.  I know this means upwards of 30% more access points but you are building your network to minimize on support calls over the next 5 years.

Building Redundancy to Minimize Outages

Since you’ve built your wireless infrastructure based on the 5Ghz band, an access point outage means that wireless void will be temporarily filled with the 2.4Ghz band.  The final ingredient to the recipe for success is reliable monitoring and event notification.  The both the Ruckus ZoneDirector an SmartZone controllers have the ability to monitor and alert so you can take action before the 3rd, 4th or 5th access point outage creates that unwanted 2.4Ghz void.


What does covering these three topics mean in your wireless deployment?  The guests are satisfied, which makes your customers (the property management) satisfied, which makes you satisfied.  Shoot me a tweet and let me know what challenges you’ve come across in your wireless deployment.


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