Forget Super Wi-Fi! Go with Super Wi-Fi! Wait. What?

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Tom Keating
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Forget Super Wi-Fi! Go with Super Wi-Fi! Wait. What?

Everyone is hyping the new Super Wi-Fi standard which uses lower-frequency white spaces between television channel frequencies. These lower frequencies enable the signal to travel further (miles) and penetrate walls better than the higher frequencies previously used (hundreds of feet). Well, forget about Super Wi-Fi!

altai-super-wifi-3g-tower.jpgI met with Thomas Ngeow from Altai Technologies at ITEXPO, a Hong Kong-based company and he explained they coined Super Wi-Fi for one of their products long before the Super Wi-Fi standard was coined. You're probably wondering who cares who coined it first and you'd be right. It doesn't matter, except for the fact that Altai uses traditional WiFi (2.4, 3.6, 5 Ghz) spectrum frequencies and still gets the same range as the "newer" Super Wi-Fi standard. Put you're head around that for one second. Regular WiFi that can travel miles? Surely this must be some voodoo science. Trust me, it's not.

Their A8 Super WiFi Base Station can enhance outdoor WiFi signal coverage area by 10 times, particularly in non–line–of–sight environment. It has a multiple radio smart antenna platform that supports 360–degree coverage. It supports standard 802.11b/g access and 802.11a backhaul. Thomas Ngeow explained that their product had government backing and called their technology "revolutionary" with several patents that cover their smart antenna, beam forming antennas and the signal processing. Part of their secret sauce is that the can bounce their wireless signal off objects and detect interference and focus the beam elsewhere.

He stressed that their products don't interfere with 3G and can be placed right on the same 3G towers (pictured above). Their products have strict emission controls to ensure no interference with the 3G transmissions. Their outdoor antenna supports 1 mile line of sight and 500-1000 yards for non-line of sight. Importantly, unlike the low-frequency Super Wi-Fi spec, Altai's solution works with your existing WiFi devices - laptop, Android, iPad, iPhone, etc. Embedded Super Wi-Fi chipsets on consumer devices don't exist yet.

With this particular product line they are not focusing on enterprise with their products, but rather large scale WiFi networks, such as cities (municipal Wi-Fi) and carriers (Verizon, AT&T) for 3G offload. Unlike traditional city-wide Wi-Fi deployments, this is not a mesh wireless network, which requires mesh nodes on each lamp post and is costlier to deploy. Though they do offer a USB product called the U1 Super WiFi USB Client (~$100), which you connect to your computer and it can extend your existing WiFi's range to go an impressive 600m (line of sight) or 300m (non-line of sight). Thomas joked you can be half-a-mile away from your local Starbucks and connect using this device. dont-tell-anyone

Essentially, using Altai's technology 3G service providers simply mirror their existing 3G architecture with Altai's Super Wi-Fi products. This results in a fraction of time & cost of traditional WiFi deployments.
Thomas explained their products also work indoors in large buildings such as convention centers. For indoor deployments you simply put their device in the same position where 3G antennas are located. He said it would take him 5 hours to completely Wi-Fi enable the Miami Beach Convention Center.

They support WiFi 802.11 a,b,g, and n. WiFi 802.11a offers shorter range, but larger capacity, so it's often used in backhaul solutions. One competitive advantage they have is that they offer the complete end-to-end solution all the way to back-end. You can use their equipment including authentication. They support EAP authentication and you can use a SIM card for security.

Their solutions are deployed in 60 countries and they've been around since 2006. Some of their customers include China Telecom and China Mobile with thousands of units deployed. While the "other" Super Wi-Fi holds promise for the future, Altai's solutions work today and they solve the huge problem of carrier's 3G networks being overloaded. Thomas claims Altai has done more 3G offload than anyone else.

Thomas said one of their biggest advantages is time to deploy. Traditionally WiFi deployments use lamp posts and telephone poles with a mesh network that can take years to deploy city-wide. If you go to New York's Times Square and connect to the free Wi-Fi, that's Altai's technology. Central Park is also Wi-Fi enabled by Altai. Perhaps more impressive, Jamaica offers paid Wi-Fi country-wide using their technology. It only took 9 months to wire the entire country. It's important to note they offer  bandwidth shaping at AP level, which is more effective - enabling you to even out the user experience if have bandwidth hogs.

Thomas explained that they are, "probably the #1 vendor for Wi-Fi access on rooftops. Not point-to-point but actual Wi-Fi access." He added that their solution is much more cost effective than 4G / LTE. Retail price is $8,000 for the A8 Super Wi-Fi Base Station product. It's the last day of ITEXPO, but there is still time to check out their products in booth 210.

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