Wavion Introduces Alternative to Mesh

By Naomi Graychase

July 27, 2007

New multi-radio/multi-antenna technology from Israel is almost 'too good to be true.'

The world of municipal Wi-Fi has a new player on the block. The privately-funded, multinational startup, Wavion, which has offices in Yoqne'am, Israel and Silicon Valley, has released what it calls "a new category of access point," which has the potential to significantly outperform mesh networks in municipal deployments for half the cost.


The company, which recently announced a partnership with ADC, first deployed its spatially adaptive access points in alpha and beta tests last year in the Alleghany County Network (AllCoNet) in Cumberland, Maryland. CONXX, which manages AllCoNet,  deployed 120 WS410 APs from Wavion. The units were designed to increase speed on the network, which blankets a roughly ten-square-mile area and is utilized for residential, government, and business broadbandas well as for wireless meter reading. Each WS410 has six radio transceivers and six antennas and uses advance beam-forming to extend its signal.


"Our technology provides much bigger and better coverage—two to three times better—than any other access point," says Benny Zilberstein, Corporate Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Wavion. "We developed our own chipset. Using six antennas, we transmit on the same antenna to create a spatial signal, which allows us to transmit at a higher power that is digitally formed to different directions based on the location of the client. We can provide significant range and throughput, which is very difficult to achieve. It took 50 engineers over three years. We just started shipping."


After eight months of testing in the AllCoNet network, the product is ready for market.


"We got rid of bugs; it's mature and working very well," says Zilberstein. "We validated that we achieved two to three times better coverage than regular access points. We went in bucket trucks on street corners in many environments and measured this gain. Our customers have given us very positive feedback."

CONXX was very pleased with the Wavion deployment.


"Our network runs every school, government, federal building, fire department, hundreds of individual users and companies as a telco infrastructure at a fraction of the cost," says Todd Tanner, Executive Vice President at CONXX.


"The system is owned by Alleghany county and the city of Cumberland and covers about nine square miles. It does a terrific job of bringing services. They wanted a way of providing Wi-Fi to the community for social inclusion. Our CTO and Board of Education people brought in almost every conceivable access point for Wi-Fi and we've been doing the backbone testing for many companies for many years. We've tried all APs, but almost all had the same performance. They were all using the same radio chipset. With Wavion, we found it's too good to be true. The throughput it maintains is far more than 1MB. It works off Palms, off multi-radio cell phones, even your laptop. The little, weak Wi-Fi radios built into those, can receive better service," says Tanner.


Among the potential advantages to Wavion's approach is a dramatic cost savings without sacrificing bandwidth or coverage.


"What we see is that our pricing is competitive per unit and per square mile," says Zilberstein. "[Our customers can] save about 50 percent of costs per square mile in operational and deployment costs. Our architecture is open, which allows us to do a lot of things in much easier ways to manage the network."


Cost savings can accrue in a variety of ways, depending on the circumstances of each municipality. For instance, in cities and towns with streetlights that only have power at night, mounting mesh APs atop these lightposts can mean pricey retrofits to supply a constant power source.


"It costs $1,000 to add power to a pole. We require one-third as many nodes, so the additional cost-saving is over 60 percent per square mile," says Zilberstein.


Other cost-savings come from municipal functions, such as automatic meter reading.


"We have a new method that can self-finance itself," says Zilberstein.


The AllCoNet deployment is an example of how this self-financing is possible.


"We can layer on the Wavion and get coverage cost-effectively," says Tanner. "The throughput is cost-effective, the cost of deploying citywide is less than half of what it would cost us to do with any other vendors, and we get much higher throughput, a much lower capital expenditure, and the whole thing is paid for by implementing automatic meter reading. The savings in one year pay for all of the Wi-Fi."


The open architecture, which is the result of a collaboration between Wavion and ADC, allows customers to seamlessly combine other vendors' products into their networks.


"The integration of the WS410 spatially adaptive access point and the [ADC] SG-1 Service Gateway provides the service provider an architecture that will not only give a comprehensive set of networking and subscriber management features, but also enable to seamlessly integrate other metro Wi-Fi products in the same deployment," says Joseph Lehmann, ADC VP.


"Providers can mix APs from different vendors without any special effort. Not only does this capability avoid vendor lock-in but it also enables the use of the best products for specific environmental or user demands," says Zilberstein.


Wavion's next step is to rapidly expand its customer base with an eye toward revolutionizing the way metro Wi-Fi is financed. The company is currently in conversations with more than a dozen municipalities and several major vendors interested in adding Wavion's access points to their muni wireless deployments.

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