Wi-Fi Switching Bravado from Vivato

By Patricia Fusco

November 05, 2002

If Vivato's Wi-Fi switching technology promises to dramatically alter the economic scale and physical delivery capabilities of conventional 802.11-based systems, why haven't you heard of them?

Vivato has been operating in quiet mode, at least until this week. Venture capital firms have certainly heard of Vivato. The company completed its second round of funding early in March, picking up $20 million from U.S. Venture Partners and Walden International. Leapfrog Ventures, who led the company's first round of financing of $2.5 million also participated. Now, the company wants everyone to know that its breakthrough in Wi-Fi switching technology is ready for prime time.

Founded in December 2000 as Mabuhay Networks, the company changed its name to Vivato in September 2002. From its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, Vivato's executive leadership looks like a Silicon Valley dream team, logging around 140 cumulative years of experience with top high-tech firms such as Xircom, AirTouch/Vodaphone, Hewlett-Packard, Agilent, Texas Instruments, Intel, Aironet/Cisco, and Alcatel.

Ken Biba, Vivato chairman and chief executive officer, has worked for more than 30 years in network information systems. He began his career with the Mitre Corporation in computer security and networking research and development and later served as an executive vice president and chief operating officer of Xircom. It was at Xircom that Biba pioneered the company's efforts in wireless local area network (WLAN) technology. It was also at Xircom that Phil Belanger, Vivato vice president of marketing, first worked with Biba.

Some of you might recall Belanger from his days promoting WLAN technologies as a founder of the Wi-Fi Alliance, formerly known as the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance (WECA). In addition to serving as the group's chairman, Belanger has served as Wayport's vice president of wireless business development back in 2000. Prior to his work with Wayport, Belanger worked with Aironet, before its acquisition by Cisco Systems, and was vice president of wireless development at Xircom. Belanger said that the core of Vivato is a highly skilled and experienced business and technical team.

"The team brings together a unique combination of expertise in the disciplines of high-performance packet switching, local and wide area network deployment, RF and antenna design, and integrated circuit design and development," Belanger said.

Indeed, Vivato's technical team is rounded out by wireless expert Siavash Alamouti, who led a team of scientists that designed AT&T's local loop system, formerly known as "Project Angel." But it is Vivato's Chief Technology Officer, Skip Crilly, who is credited with inventing the architecture behind Vivato's Packet-Steering technology.

How it works

Vivato's planar phased array antenna goes beyond putting an Ethernet switch behind a wireless access point (AP), like Symbol Technologies' Mobius Wireless System. The secret behind Vivato's system is its smart antenna system, which is capable of simultaneously transmitting data to and from multiple Wi-Fi connections. As a result of achieving parallel operational capabilities, Belanger said Vivato is changing the economics of future WLAN deployments.

"We're doing something that's supposed to be impossible," Belanger said. "It's like RADAR technology applied to Wi-Fi. Our standard unit of measurement is a single beam. On a per packet basis, beams are transporting data to and from active users only. Because these high gain beams are very narrowall around the beam is quiet, so we're increasing range and capacity while reducing interference. We're changing the physics and economics of Wi-Fi technology."

Vivato Interior DeploymentA single Vivato Wi-Fi switch can be deployed over the entire floor of an office building using a single indoor antenna (left), or it can be deployed to an entire office building using a single outdoor antenna that is contained in an environmentally stable box. According to Belanger, an indoor system (that would likely be a three-beam system) will be available for about $10,000 early in 2003. If it costs about $1,000 per AP to deploy a six AP office setup, Vivato's offering could be compelling, since customer premise equipment (CPE) is under $50 per connection.

Vivato Campus DeploymentSimilarly, a single outdoor Vivato Wi-Fi switch can be deployed in a campus setting to deliver wireless broadband access to multiple buildings or multiple antennas can be set up to achieve a scaled deployment of wireless hotspots or WISP services (right). Once again, the economics of future WLAN deployments are altered, only this time it's because the Vivato switching system extends the range of Wi-Fi connections from meters to kilometers.

Vivato's Wi-Fi switching technology integrates 802.11-based wireless systems with gigabit Ethernet switching through its revolutionary antenna design that is capable of scaling both Wi-Fi capacity and coverage. To give you an idea of the scale, a single Vivato switch enables secure, wireless broadband Internet access with transfer rates of up to 800 Mbps over a four-mile square area. This means, that a typical office setup that would require five or six conventional wireless APs in order to deliver network connectivity to employees dispersed around a single floor of an office building, could be replaced by one Vivato Wi-Fi switch with a single antenna mounted in the corner of the office area.

While both systems would require nearly the same capital expenditure, Belanger said that Vivato's streamlined system management would win over Wi-Fi wary network administrators.

"Administrators manage one network element instead of many elements, like that of a typical multiple AP setup. Our command line interface is based on Linux, so it's familiar to most sysadmins ," Belanger said. "And enterprise level security is built into the system, but it's flexible. You can use 802.1x with WEP or TKIP. And the system supports PEAP, EAP-TLS, EAP-TTLS, as well as pass-through or termination security inherent to VPNs and IPsec. "

Additional features of Vivato's Wi-Fi switching system include:

  • Planar phased array antenna: Enables multiple shaped packet beams with space, time and channel multiplexing for increased capacity.
  • Narrow packet beams: Transmit and receive with high EIRP transmission over a large aperture for increased sensitivity reception while reducing co-channel interference, since power is beamed only where it is needed.
  • Standards agnostic: Supports standard IEEE 802.11 b/a/g client network interfaces
  • Expands range: Up to 7 kilometers outdoors with a conventional Wi-Fi client. Up to 2 kilometers to an indoor Wi-Fi client.

Vivato Metro DeploymentWhen it comes to WISP deployments, Vivato Wi-Fi switches extend the reach of wireless APs beyond mesh networks (below). Service providers benefit from reducing the cost of incremental deployments, as well as an efficient way to setup and manage wireless hotspots. Belanger estimates that the cost for an ISP deployment would run around $50,000 to achieve 100 Mbps of throughput over a 360-degree area under 4-square miles, and remember that CPE costs run only $50 per setup because all that's required is a Wi-Fi client. There's no need for a truck roll or antenna cabling, as with typical customer installations.

Availability

The company anticipates releasing its first products, operating in the 2.4 GHz band, sometime in the first quarter of 2003. Products operating in the 5 GHz band are to follow. Belanger is confident about Vivato's ability to change the nature of WLAN deployments in the enterprise, if not hotspots and last-mile WISP operations.

"We turn hotspots into hot zones," Belanger said. "We scale Wi-Fi to the enterprise and beyond while delivering a low cost of ownership with enterprise-class security and management."

Only time will tell if the industry buys into Vivato's intelligent Wi-Fi switching technology. But if businesses, Internet service providers, and hotspot builders switch gears as quickly as Vivato switches beams, this could be the start of something big.

Patricia Fusco is the managing editor of ISP-Planet.

Reprinted from ISP-Planet.



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