Cable's increasing interest in using WiFi to stretch their broadband offerings outside the home has drawn the attention of a pair of WiFi equipment vendors: BelAir Networks and Ruckus Wireless.
BelAir has introduced what it calls a "strand picocell" that is, essentially, a wireless basestation that can be strand-mounted on existing cable plant and take advantage of both power and backhaul on that plant. At the same time, Ruckus Wireless claims to have upped the stakes a bit with an 802.11n version of a strand-mounted "smart" WiFi access point.
BelAir is already providing equipment to potentially the largest cable WiFi deployment--Cablevision Systems' (NYSE: CVC) New York Metro Area cloud--with a product that currently supports a "range of licensed 3G radios with a migration to LTE . Ruckus said it's in the 802.11n arena with a "first of its kind" product, but a BelAir spokeswoman said that the Canadian vendor also has an 802.11n product.
Both companies are chasing a cable opportunity that is expected to grow quickly as MSOs expand their offerings into the wider area network and work to hold subscribers already equipped with WiFi-enabled devices such as smart pads, notebooks, netbooks and smartphones.
"Cable companies might offer a cable modem service to the home of a subscriber but that subscriber is now nomadic ... and they want that branded broadband service to follow that user whether they're in a park or a retail location," David Callisch, vice president of marketing at Ruckus Wireless told FierceCable. "It just so happens the MSOs have strands all over the place and they want to leverage the power and data communications of that strand with WiFi services."
Both companies' products can also be mounted in non-strand locations.
The expanded use of WiFi is not just a U.S. phenomenon. Reports from the U.K. are that there has been a surge in WiFi usage "across holiday and leisure parks" as people apparently refuse to leave work--or at least always-on connectivity--behind when they vacation.
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