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Ekahau Supports 802.11n in RTLS, Awaits Market

WiFi real-time locating system (RTLS) technology provider Ekahau announced its products can work on 2.4 GHz 802.11n draft-standard networks. Some wireless market analysts predict the 802.11n protocol will surpass Ethernet in enterprise network use. Ekahau is the first RTLS vendor to announce 802.11n support.
Jun 02, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 2, 2008—802.11n WiFi technology is widely expected to be the next big thing in wireless networking. Most enterprises haven't installed 802.11n infrastructures yet, but real-time locating system (RTLS) provider Ekahau will be ready when they do. Last week the Saratoga, California company announced its WiFi RTLS systems can support the draft 802.11n standard protocol, and announced a version of its wireless site survey software for 802.11n networks.

802.11n is a proposed high-speed wireless networking standard that is forecast to capture a major share of wireless LAN installations in coming years. The 802.11n specification supports data transmission speeds up to 30 times faster than 802.11b, currently the leading wireless LAN protocol. The 802.11n specification supports operation at either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency. (For more background see How the New 802.11n WiFi Standard Will Impact RTLS.) Today almost all WiFi-based RTLS systems have been deployed on either 802.11b or 802.11g networks, which operate at 2.4 GHz frequency. The differences in speed, frequency, and other technical features between 802.11n and those legacy protocols raise compatibility questions for legacy WiFi RTLS users. Ekahau is the first RTLS vendor to announce 802.11n support.

"It did not take a rebuild of our systems to support 802.11n. It was incremental engineering," Tuomo Rutanen, Ekahau's vice president of business development told, RFID Update. "We are seeing comparable performance for RTLS on 802.11n as on 802.11b/g networks. 802.11n is not better, and is not worse."

Ekahau is not making 802.11n WiFi tags, but announced its legacy 802.11b/g-based systems will work on 2.45 GHz 802.11n networks. Its n-compatible gear is available now, and the company plans to release an 802.11n version of its site survey software later in the third quarter. Ekahau will install its first RTLS system on a customer's 802.11n wireless backbone in about two weeks, according to Rutanen.

"802.11n is just starting to be deployed, and mostly in select, early-adopter vertical industries," Stan Schatt, wireless connectivity research director at ABI Research, told RFID Update. The Oyster Bay, New York market research firm has predicted nearly half of the WiFi chipsets sold during 2008 will support 802.11n. "Higher education is the leading early adopter market by far. The good news for the RFID industry is that healthcare is second. There are a lot of opportunities to use WiFi RTLS to track medical assets. I think the one vertical market where 802.11n RTLS will really make a difference is, believe it or not, mining. 802.11n antennas have more range, which will enable miners to be tracked much better than they have been in the past."

Schatt and Rutanen both said they have seen little firm demand for RTLS systems that support 802.11n. Ekahau's customers have been asking when and if the company will support 802.11n, and are mulling whether to implement the technology in their enterprises, according to Rutanen. Both expect demand for 802.11n-compatible RTLS technology to grow along with enterprise 802.11n implementations.

Most current 802.11n sales are to the consumer segment. ABI plans to release a major new 802.11n market report by Schatt in the next few weeks. The Wi-Fi Alliance, which certifies interoperability among 802.11n and other WiFi-standard products, cites research that predicts 802.11n will surpass wired Ethernet as the enterprise network backbone. The association released highlights from a separate study that found 802.11n accounted for 9 percent of wireless LAN product shipments in 2007.
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