Wavion unveiled its technology for using multiple-in, multiple-out (MIMO) antennas for city-wide architectures today: On the heels of Go Network's announcement at CTIA last month, Wavion's entrance could mark a trend. MIMO makes quite a lot of sense in cities in which dense radio frequency (RF) environments already occasionally make it difficult to operate a single new Wi-Fi access point, much less thousands.
Because MIMO offers greater range and greater discrimination through sorting out signals as they bounce across multiple paths from receiver to transmitter, this effectively--but theoretically until we can see benchmarks--provides more spectrum with less interference than competing technologies. In Go Network's case, they're using multipath to avoid interference; Wavion is focusing on spectrum reuse through beamforming, which focuses signal energy in particular places.
Wavion uses beamforming with six separate radios and antennas in their nodes; they haven't released full hardware specifications yet on their Web site beyond this, although they've developed their own chips. They also use SDMA (Space Division Multiple Access), which allows them to have effectively up to four separate unique beams operating at the same time for four separate users. That's downlink to users only, however; uplink would require proprietary equipment on the user's computer. This SDMA sounds an awful like like Vivato's beamforming system which used multiple radios and multiple beams versus multiple beams on a single channel, and I imagine we'll hear technical explanations as to how it differs in coming weeks and months.
Like Go Networks, Wavion isn't a mesh company. Go has some mesh capability, but Wavion connects directly to backhaul from its nodes. With fewer nodes, you don't need mesh for backhaul because you've already aggregated quite a lot of data. And metro-scale companies like Strix, SkyPilot, and BelAir aren't really using mesh for backhaul but a series of switched or dedicated point-to-point or point-to-multipoint links. Mesh has become the wrong synonym for metro-scale Wi-Fi/wireless.
Unlike Go and other firms, Wavion says their plan is to sell their chips and ideas to metro-scale firms that will benefit. That means that while their Web site has a Product link that says their AP is in trials, their official top-level goal isn't competition but integration.
Wavion claims a huge reduction in the number of nodes needed while providing higher levels of service. They say they can replace three to four nodes with one of their access points, reducing cost by 50 percent. That implies that their nodes would cost twice as much as Tropos's, as it sounds pretty clear that Tropos is the target here--it's the lowest-hanging fruit with which to compare on the RF front, but it's also the cheapest equipment on the market because of their single-radio design.