How did Apple get coverage with just a few antennas?

Those at the Apple World Wide Developer's Conference last week had mixed reviews for the wireless access. Although coverage in the facility was excellent as far as signal goes, there were troubles with the volume of users on the system.

Most of the problems were because of the sheer numbers of users with 802.11 (most likely the whole crowd of 4,000+). Because of this, the base stations weren't able to associate with all of the users in the facility at once.

However, if you found a room with a seldom-used base station in it, Apple's T3 gave you enough bandwidth to make you a very happy camper.

One interesting piece of equipment at work in the convention center was a device from Vivato that contains a phased-array antenna and a series of base stations. These relatively-unobtrusive antennas seemed to do a nice job (except for the association problem), but what are they capable of doing?

Well, they're pretty cool. Although they state they can only handle about 100 active users "per switch", they have some extraordinary distance claims:

  • 300m indoors (at 11mbps, up to 600m at 1mbps)
  • 1km outdoors to indoor users (2.5km at 1mbps)
  • 4.2km outdoors to outdoor users (7.2km at 1mbps)
  • and an unbelievable 50km if used between two of their panels Network connections include 2 GBIC and 2 10/100 connections.

They're a bit pricey at about $9,000 each for the indoor version and about $13,000 for the outdoor version, but they have a lot of good administrative features, including SSH and serial administration.