Airgo Networks announced a new partner to deliver IPTV using its latest third generation MIMO technology. Having watched the MIMO space for some time and being a big fan of Airgo's first generation technology, I'm sorry to say that I can't agree with Airgo on IPTV. It's not that I dislike Airgo's second or third generation technology which is by far the best general purpose MIMO solution on the market according to all of the independent benchmarks, just that IPTV is a specialty that needs the best worst-case throughput and not average throughput.
A competitor of Airgo Networks is Ruckus Wireless has already been in the specialty business of delivering IPTV solutions for nearly a year with their smart antenna technology, but Dave Borison of Airgo Networks says that "Ruckus uses old Wi-Fi technology to improve performance". I would point out that the criticism is only partially correct because Ruckus focuses on antenna enhancement while Airgo focuses on radio multiplexing. Ruckus' smart antennas don't deliver any additional speeds but it does deliver on range and stability. Airgo's solution delivers the by far the best average throughput performance and equal range using radio wave multiplexing but its worst case throughput and stability isn't as good as Ruckus smart antennas. For the purpose of video, stability reins supreme over extreme throughput because contrary to popular believe, high definition video is NOT that bandwidth intensive.
Most broadcast standard definition video requires between 2 and 5 mbps while high definition video typically requires a stable 8 to 16 mbps and Ruckus' solution will happily deliver a smooth 16 mbps barring severe interference. The smart antenna technology from Ruckus is the most resilient against interference because it can change its antenna array to a more suitable configuration on the fly whereas non smart antenna solutions cannot. Airgo on the other hand delivers greater-than 100 mbps of sustained average throughput but the consistency just isn't there. If we look at this benchmark from Tim Higgins, we can see that Ruckus is one of the slowest solutions overall but it's the only one with consistent throughput in all 5 test zones and dominates in the two worst test locations. That isn't great for copying files over a wireless connection but it's exactly what's required for smooth video delivery.
The problem for Ruckus is that it isn't easy to market the concept of "worst case" performance and they will continue to suffer in the consumer space because of it. The consumer Wi-Fi space is obsessed with exaggerated best-case performance claims and larger numbers sell while smaller numbers don't. This was evident in Netgear's decision to switch from Ruckus' smart antenna solution to Airgo's third generation product. What I really wanted was a product that used a Ruckus smart antenna for increased stability, Airgo's MIMO technology to deliver superior throughput, and the wide and open 5 GHz band instead of the congested 2.4 GHz band. Instead we're left with a tough choice between the slow but steady tortoise and the inconsistent hare.