Ruckus Wireless introduces ChannelFly: predictive capacity management technology

Ruckus Wireless has just introduced ChannelFly™, which it claims to be the industry’s first predictive capacity management technology. This is designed to maximize the capacity of Wi-Fi networks and deliver better performance in areas where there are many Wi-Fi networks (for example, in conferences with many vendor booths have their own Wi-Fi networks).

According to Ruckus, ChannelFly leverages the same Ruckus-patented adaptive antenna approach, BeamFlex™, that constantly learns and selects the best signal path for any given Wi-Fi transmission. A statistical adaptive channel selection technique, ChannelFly applies similar principles to automatically determine the best radio operating frequency (RF channel) to be used that will yield the highest client throughput. As more users and devices are connecting to Wi-Fi networks, channel capacity is becoming a scarce and valuable resource. Because the level of interference and activity in the Wi-Fi spectrum varies as function of location, frequency and time, it is critical that client devices use the Wi-Fi channel with the lowest activity level and interference level to assure the best possible performance.

A contention-based medium, Wi-Fi uses the unlicensed 2.4 and 5GHz bands, making it highly susceptible to congestion and interference. A proven key to delivering superior performance within a Wi-Fi environment is the extent to which a wireless system can learn and adapt to constant environmental changes that degrade client performance.

“Historical approaches to Wi-Fi channel selection use spectrum analysis or packet sniffing techniques to basically guess the impact of interference on Wi-Fi capacity,” said Bill Kish, co-founder and chief technology officer at Ruckus Wireless. “But with Wi-Fi, what an AP hears doesn’t necessarily determine capacity. We skip those needless and disruptive steps and just measure the wireless capacity directly.”

Kish noted that traditional approaches to automate channel selection don’t provide a complete view of what is really happening on a given channel. “ChannelFly was conceived to turn the traditional model on its head by using statistical analysis of real-time channel performance to discover the true capacity of any channel at any time,” said Kish, the inventor of ChannelFly.

A Predictive Model to Wi-Fi Channel Selection

Unlike alternative channel optimization approaches that passively listen for packet retries, transmission errors and RF interference on other channels when the Wi-Fi access point (AP) is not sending or receiving data, ChannelFly is based on a predictive model that uses actual channel activity to learn what channels will yield the most capacity to provide the highest client speeds. Armed with this knowledge, ChannelFly quickly avoids interference within congested and noisy environments while maintaining maximum network throughput. ChannelFly assesses all available channels within the 2.4 and 5GHz bands.

Now integrated within every Ruckus ZoneFlex Smart Wi-Fi AP, ChannelFly operates automatically without any human intervention. And because ChannelFly is based on actual channel throughput measurements, no background scanning is required for ongoing channel optimization. This eliminates the need for APs to be out of service when performing off-channel scanning.

ChannelFly operates with or without client activity. During the first several hours of operation, each Ruckus AP determines the channel with the highest capacity even before users begin to associate. This enables Ruckus-APs to offer a high quality user experience without the service disruptions caused by interference or background scanning. With ChannelFly, Ruckus APs can automatically self-tune before any client devices are connected thereby avoiding service disruptions that can often be associated with RF channel changes. Once clients are active, to ensure seamless operation with end devices, ChannelFly uses the IEEE 802.11h protocol to automatically advertise when a change to a better Wi-Fi channel is necessary.

“We see ChannelFly as a truly important step in the evolution of more reliable Wi-Fi networks,” said Arthur Giftakis, VP of Engineering at Towerstream. “Operating a pervasive Wi-Fi network in one of the most exciting locations on the planet, New York City, we’ve found ChannelFly to be instrumental in yielding higher levels of network capacity within this constantly changing environment. Innovations like ChannelFly are essential to making Wi-Fi carrier class.”

Available immediately at no cost within a new release of Ruckus ZoneFlex software (v. 9.3), ChannelFly is a selectable feature that operates automatically on every Ruckus ZoneFlex access point.