I came across this new line of access points from zyxel featuring a smart antenna array. After reading the white paper, it appears that it operates the same way beamflex does. Is this a joint venture between ruckus and zyxel, or is it just their own implementation?
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From description I see on Zyxel site (https://www.zyxel.com/uploads/tech-lib/WhitePaper_SmartAntennaTechnology.pdf) it seems to be nothing more than just empty marketing -- it uses standard 802.11ac beamforming (3 antennas for 3x3 AP), which means that it has no additional value.
Idea is that you can use all 3 antennas of 3x3 MIMO AP to transmit same data use with phase shift, to make a bit directed diagram, but it makes only 1 spacial stream with a bit improved reception (not more than 4 db anyway).
This is standard 802.11ac functionality, and may be supported by all 802.11ac APs. Main problem is, that 3 simple omni-directional elements improvement can't provide any serious directional effect, even if signal phases are coordinated perfectly. This functionality is usually disabled, as it provides very small improvement, if coordination is perfect, but will have heavy impact on performance in case coordination is wrong.
Ruckus Beamflex is different, as it uses separate array of antenna elements for each MIMO chain and antenna, so when you have 4x4 AP, you have both 4x spacial streams and beamforming for each of them working in the same time.
Thanks for sharing the document. I can't find beam-forming in this white paper. Instead, it only mentioned switch beam, and from the antenna design, it is not dipole antenna. The antenna is surrounded by black object, but can't tell what it is. I googled zyxel smart antenna 11ax, then it shows the antenna has PCB around it, and looks like the purpose is to change antenna pattern.
APs with embedded antennas never use dipole antennas, they all look similar to what you see there. Most important is that to have smart antenna with additional beamforming (as Beamflex) you need multiple elements for each channel (so 3x element kits for 3x3 AP), processor to manage them and signal switch for each element (for 3x3 AP it would be at least 9 antenna elements for each band, but probably more). Zyxel clearly has just 3 antennas in each band for 3x3 AP, so this is just standard 802.11ac beamforming feature.
Document states for 3x3 AP: "Three (3) antenna elements for 5GHz, and three (3) for 2.4GHz generate more than 700 antenna patterns on each band".
700 patterns is even more meaningless marketing -- it just means that 700 different phase shifts between channels are possible. It is meaningless number of cause, usable only in marketing, as this patterns are not different enough to be used all. What is not actually mentioned, but is a benefit, that Zyxel at least located antennas in a way, that allows 802.11ac standard beamforming at least theoretically to be used (but even so -- don't expect to sense any real improvement from that) .
Anyway, it is not that important, Zyxel is good enough vendor if you look for cheap SOHO devices, and you can't expect it go in higher league. They just made marketing to look, as they had some new technology, instead of doing something new. In the same time, if AP is decently constructed, it may be way better than usual cheapo noname AP, just because of better overall design.