Zhone: Line-driven “N” MuniFi  

Zhone Technologies today introduced SkyZhone, a “802.11n” network platform for the metro Wi-Fi space. SkyZhone is designed to serve both licensed public-safety (4.9 GHz) and unlicensed (2.4 GHz) bands.

Zhone’s unique features include;

  • Draft 802.11n with an all-MIMO antenna architecture
  • Integrated DSL backhaul and line powering.
  • Increased capacity and reliability for municipal and commercial Wi-Fi networks.

Telcos may find SkyZhone’s built-in DSL backhaul and integrated line powering an attractive alternative. Instead of nodes inter-connecting through a mesh network, SkyZhone features a star configuration. Telcos can run multiple DSL lines directly to SkyZhone nodes. Each SkyZhone uses at least 2 phone lines and up to 4 phone lines.

The biggest advantage of the SkyZhone solution is probably the amount of backhaul available. Each Access Point has its own backhaul to the wired network. Typically 10 Mbps of backhaul is available.

Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers (DSLAM), in many neighborhoods, connect DSLs to the Central Office. DSLAMs can power and supply SkyZhones with more bandwidth than other alternatives. With the added range of MIMO and “N”, Zhone claims fewer nodes will be required for large scale WiFi networks. They use Broadcom chips in the design.

Zhone also has a complete line of DSLAMs enabling the deployment of services to a range of locations.

Zhone says ACD.net, mid-Michigan’s largest independent Phone and Internet Provider, is using SkyZhone in Lansing and Springfield, Michigan. In Lansing, ACD.net has deployed a public safety 4.9GHz network with a consumer Wi-Fi network for video, voice and data in the 2.4GHz band. In neighboring Springfield, ACD.net is utilizing the system to deliver Internet access at subsidized rates for residents in a 6 square mile portion of the city.

Zhone says their “N” basestation “listens” better, extending the effective range. But without 802.11n on both sides, the effect is likely to be minimal. Still, for nodes that need high capacity, such as serving video, the SkyZhone approach may be an answer.

Other approaches using MIMO include Wavion, a Metro and Rural Wi-Fi vendor promoting beamforming, which recently announced the release of a new SW version supporting self-backhaul.

Wavion’s spatially adaptive base stations have been extended to provide self-backhaul to neighboring base stations using their beamforming technology that leverages six radios and antennas.

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