Tales from the Towers Chapter 52: Ubiquiti vs. Cambium vs. Mimosa, the Final Chapter

I need to wrap up the Cambium and Ubiquiti comparison so this is the end, at least for a while. Part of the reason is that a third player is now in the game, Mimosa, so things are changing. I know there are other companies out there like Bitlomat, Proxim, and Radwin, but they are a very small part of the WISP market and I doubt that is going to change. They are all also proprietary and I’m not going in that direction with my philosophy although Proxim is working hard on integrating other GPS systems. Not sure about the other vendors.

Chapter 49 got just too long to cover the nuances of all the announcements from Ubiquiti and Cambium so filling in a few holes might be in order. Migration, industry compatibility, new technologies, and how to integrate those technologies into new business decisions needed to be explored with all the announcements at WISPA. Each one of these areas could take a thesis to cover but since my wife gave me a Honey-Do list as long as an Obama speech without a teleprompter, I’ll try to keep mine short.

I’ll start with what was bugging me after re-reading Chapter 49 (Ubiquiti versus Cambium, Round 2). I thought clarification was seriously needed on my thought process about preparing for 802.11ac. One of the main problems for Cambium users who started with Motorola Canopy was an upgrade path. From the really clever PMP100 FSK product line, Motorola went to the PMP430 product line and then jumped on the WiMax bandwidth with the PMP320 product. No compatibility with anything previously released. When the PMP450 was announced, Canopy users were told that it was going to be compatible. Then they found out it wasn’t going to be compatible before it was compatible but then it became compatible, at least with the 430 and by sticking a second head on the shoulder of the 430, compatible with 100 series. Although all of those operators stayed Cambium, many operators went looking for additional options, a la Ubiquiti. The PMP450 also ran into the pesky physics issues of OFDM not going as far as FSK since it was about 6 times faster. The old adage, speed, distance, quality, pick two, still makes a good motto to fly by if you are changing modulation schemes. 802.11ac and/or 256QAM won’t be any different.

Cambium operators who tried Ubiquiti not only ran into the same thing, they also found out that GPS on Ubiquiti was kind of like a blind date your friend set you up with. The reality just didn’t match the hype and the results were as close as Mondale’s campaign against Ronald Reagan. It just didn’t really work very well or much at all, depending on who you ask. Cambium users used to a functional GPS were highly disappointed, as was pretty much anyone who never even used GPS and expected results based on Robert Pera’s presentation discussing it.

The ePMP product line was a coup for Cambium to get it out to market since it was their first foray into a standard chipset. As good engineers are wont to do, sometimes at the cost of market share, they fixed one of the problems with Atheros and 802.11 that Ubiquiti still hasn’t figured out – GPS. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, that made it incompatible with anything else. Recently, they just announced that the ePMP CPE units will have 802.11, which is huge. How huge is it? Glad you asked. It’s so huge, that I had to delete 2 paragraphs and rewrite this one during football Sunday which didn’t make me happy (and there were the ribs I was planning to cook). Cambium makes a high quality, well-engineered product that has unique features like heaters in case you live in any area that I will never move to for that reason (Phoenix is so SUNNY!!!). My thesis, which I promised not to write, was based on the fact that if Cambium took a few years to come out with 802.11ac, you would be kind of stuck.

With this announcement, Cambium is finally assuring their customers that they don’t have to forklift an entire network to move to future technologies if Cambium moves at Motorola speeds. With 802.11ac knocking on the door (based on FCC filings, Ubiquiti’s Rocket 5M AC, WISPAPALOOZA announcements by Mimosa and the full listing of their product line on their website, www.mimosa.co) , and past experience with Ubiquiti firmware, 802.11ac is not going to make an impact for several more months in the PTMP market and that’s a comforting thing to know. And with Ubiquiti, you know they are going to be 802.11 compatible since they married Atheros a few years ago and are now having an affair with Broadcom for 802.11ac. For rural operators, it won’t make a difference. For the model I put forth in Chapter 43 and future articles where we try to keep clients at less than 1 mile from an AP, 256QAM isn’t an option, it’s a matter of survival.

Hopefully Cambium has something up their sleeve or what happened to Motorola when Ubiquiti came out is going to happen to them. Ubiquiti created a whole new market at the low end that Motorola never tapped that resulted in massive growth in the industry. Now that they have something to compete with, albeit 2-3 years too late, they not only have to compete with Ubiquiti’s new products and what they are already shipping, but Mimosa announced features nobody else even imagined in next generation products. What’s worse for Cambium (and Ubiquiti) is that those features are so out of the box, they were never even discussed in house, let alone a possible product. And the mechanics of the Mimosa omnidirectional APs which are at minimum 5dBi better than anything else from any vendor, rely on a chipset that is already ahead of what Broadcom or Atheros are shipping, so duplicating it isn’t going to happen easily. Even if they get started tomorrow, it will take them another 2-3 years to get product to market based on their track record. When Cambium split off, I thought it was going to be a new kind of company, but when the ePMP came out and the parabolic dish a year later (seriously), it was evident that the old engineering mindset never changed. It’s better than Motorola, but Mimosa just dropped a dime on them and they are going to have trouble picking up.

In the case of Triad Wireless and our new sister company, Cat Mountain Wireless, the sole reason for staying with 802.11 compatibility is so that we didn’t have to change the entire network to take advantage of 802.11ac or 256QAM. Also, based on what the world now knows, Mimosa is showing products that can support up to 1Gbps on an AP along with MU-MIMO late next year (with a 4×4 system, MU-MIMO will at least double the throughput in a PTMP system by talking to different 2×2 clients on different streams). Our system can live without GPS or polling as the network was designed around that idea, although polling has some attraction. I believe it’s more important to make sure that I have an upgrade path with multiple vendors. Ubiquiti has also already released an 802.11ac Rocket that works in PTP mode (now I’m interested to see who gets their PTMP AP working well first, Ubiquiti or Mimosa).

After having Vivato, SkyPilot, and Ricochet leave me at the prom, I’m not taking any chances. Most WISPs try to get more than one supplier for their bandwidth but don’t’ consider multiple hardware vendors an issue. Just to make sure to keep this in the back of your mind, Alvarion filed for bankruptcy protection last year. And although my paranoia is limited to the efforts by Major League owners to prevent the Cubs from ever winning the Pennant (they still say the person who interfered with the fly ball during the playoffs was just an overzealous fan who made a mistake. Yeah, I believe that!), I’m not taking any chances. Another story to keep in mind is that when Chevron-Texaco bought the rights to the Nickel-Metal Hydride Oshvinsky battery, they pretty much killed the electric car industry for 8 years and then had the gall to sue Toyota for using it. This one really is true. This is a competitive industry with let’s just say, some aggressive attitudes that have been made rather public and billions of dollars at stake. I suggest having a backup plan for any single supplier is probably a good idea.

Designing a network that can compete against wireline is a challenge. Vivint is pouring boatloads of money using APs that Huawei is helping develop (probably not Vivint’s best idea from a public relations standpoint since Huawei has been banned from the cell phone industry in the United States due to their funding and ties with the Chinese military). Their model is based on building their own proprietary APs to deliver 50Mbps for $50. They use houses as relay points which I think is a pretty good idea since we’ve been doing it for about 7 years. It’s really the best financial and logistical option in many suburbs for wireline competitive speeds unless your brother-in-law is the City Manager and your last name is Daley.

Vivint is guessing though, that for every rooftop they get, they can connect a certain number of indoor clients. Vivint doesn’t want every customer to require a truck roll which is a good theoretical strategy but not very practical from a financial or technical position. My guess is that they thought they could get 10-15 clients to 1 roof mount antenna based on the performance of the Quantenna chipset. I’m also thinking that in reality they are lucky to get 5 to 1 in some areas or worse. Our network has a ratio of 4 houses for every fixed commercial asset (towers, buildings, etc. which feed the houses with backhaul) for example and although we are up to about 30 users per house/AP, that’s just all we have sold to so far. Currently the model could easily support up to 50 clients per house with a single Rocket AP. However, aesthetics and home-owners associations come into play here so multiple APs with sectors (and totally forget shields here) aren’t a viable option. This is where I think the new Mimosa AS-360 products will have their best application. Theoretically, not only will it handle a plethora (Three Amigos – hilarious) of users and capacity, it won’t look like I have to get NASA clearance to install.

To that end and to expand the foundation for taking out wireline providers, we have started a full upgrade of our core network to improve speeds to be more competitive with wireline at a better price. For example, we had 10MHz channels on our 5GHz APS and have changed them to 20MHz. At the same time, the client APs are being set to 20/40MHz for future expansion when stable and tested 802.11ac APs are available. The original reasons for 10Mhz channels were:

1. We don’t run more than 50 users per AP since we have lots of APs (with the Barracuda Web Filter and blocking of certain applications, we never saw the problem at 30-35 users others reported).

2. Rocket 5M’s never got a functional GPS so channel spacing was an issue. The general rule is double the channel width as a guard if you don’t have GPS or get RF Armor shields.

3. The Ubiquiti processors on the Rocket 5M were limited to about 22-25Kbps and less with AirMax. This could be almost achieved with 10MHz channels and a lot of small packets.

4. We only needed to deliver about 35Mbps per AP which was sufficient up until last year.

5. Smaller channels, less guard space, and we were still dealing with a lot of Legacy Pre-N Ubiquiti and other 802.11 equipment that didn’t support DFS which limited the bands.

When the upgrade is completed over the next couple of days, users should see peak speeds of 50Mbps which isn’t bad for 802.11n. Some of my customers are already reporting a doubling of speeds to 40Mbps from 15Mbps and we haven’t finished all the backhauls yet or upgraded the tower.

Part of this upgrade is replacing the PowerBridges with PowerBeams set to 40MHz. Although I’m kind of ticked that the PowerBridge never got DFS or the 5150-5250MHz band, I’m replacing them with PowerBeam 400’s anyway for the speed. This is very sad since I’ve never had a single PowerBridge ever fail all the way back to the original PowerBridge 2’s. The PowerBeam 400s are so much better and faster for less than half the price; it’s time to retire the PowerBridges. Although the Rocket ACs are sort of out, waiting for some future firmware upgrades is probably not a bad idea. It seems that manufacturers today are releasing beta firmware with hardware more often and being an early adopter is probably better left to the lab than the field. Timing hardware release and stable software release seems to be harder than the Cubs winning the Pennant. The battle with cable/DSL/NetFlix is never-ending and in anticipation of a future with 802.11ac this is a great time to prepare if that’s the direction of your network.

A few side notes:

I’m pretty impressed by some of Ubiquiti’s new equipment. I really like the innovative design behind the AirGateway- LR’s. Although they need a sensitivity level setting like the AirRouters in the firmware, they not only added to our bottom line, they have so far shown a far lower failure rate than the AirRouters. Our profitability per install went up $6-$18 (we offer an optional longer range antenna) each with these little gems. I think we have about 200 or so AirGateways deployed now. $20-$30 for a managed AP opens up a lot of ideas although the standard AirGateway without the antenna has the range of a strand of spaghetti. In some homes though, we have had to put 2 of them in to cover all of it, even with bigger antennas. Bartender, AirGateway-LRs for all my men!

The new NanoBeams have been almost perfect (perfection comes with DFS frequencies which aren’t there yet). In PTP modes, especially shots through trees, we are not only seeing big improvements in the connection quality over PowerBridges and NanoBridges, the faster processors are testing out well over 100Mbps as we expand channel sizes. They aren’t hitting the full speed of 802.11N with 40MHz channels, but it’s much closer now to the ePMP. 802.11ac though, will be a whole new ballgame. Expect at least 250Mbps of real world throughput with 40MHz channels. Along those same lines, the new NanoBeams also look great. The mount options may save $10-$25 per house in some areas and labor time while the faster processors mean at least 80Mbps or more.

For you Cambium fans, Cambium has finally released a CPE that doesn’t look like a SETI experiment for longer range. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of reflector dishes? It’s an old tired design that adds nothing to the bottom line that an integrated parabolic could do better and it needs bigger mounts and more bolts into the roof. Cambium finally agreed with me after 3 years and built the ePMP100 at a cost of only $15 more than their standard dish. Then they topped it off with a PTP ePMP Force 110 which uses GPS synched radios as a higher-end competitor to a pair of PowerBeams. It fits in price wise between the PowerBeams and the AF5 or the Mimosa B5 Integrated. I might have to do a speed test someday and see how they compare.

For the fastest unlicensed backhaul though, the real battle is about to begin between the AF5 and the B5 Integrated (Cambium has a new 2Gbps 820 radio also). After Robert Pera threw down the gauntlet and said this,

“So Mimosa’s radio is coming in at a price point similar to airFiber5, but it’s really a hack-together Wi-Fi radio. And it’s not even 4×4, it’s 2 bonded 2×2 radios each 80 megahertz channel, size of channel. And then you need 200 megahertz of continuous spectrum to reach those speeds. And not only that, but only one of the chains is doing DSS radar detection, so it’s impossible for them to be compliant to anywhere in the world and have that contiguous 200-megahertz spectrum channel. So I see them pretty much as an alternative to our AirMax AC point-to-point solution, but the AirMax AC point-to-point solution is essentially 1/4 the cost. So again, I think they’re very good at branding, they’re very good at hype. But at the end of the day, they put lipstick on a Wi-Fi tape.”

The “hack-together” comment was more like a glove to the face so I will be testing those radios when I can get my hands on a B5 to find out the truth. I don’t see them as competitors though, I see them as complimentary. The Rocket AC has more speed than a Titanium but I don’t see it handling noise as well as the B5. It also has to deal with the inherent differences between 64QAM and 256QAM. The AF5 has more throughput than either radio with its 1024QAM modulation scheme and FDD but the same problem in a high noise environment and tears up most of the 5.730-5.850 band if you want long range and 1Gbps. The B5 will handle noise with different techniques so the tradeoff here of speed versus a high-noise environment will be interesting.

FTTH or at least 300Mbps cable is coming or is here. There is no way around it. If a politician is willing to spend $14,000,000 per customer for Obamacare, $10K to the home probably sounds like a bargain to them and it pays off their donors. It doesn’t matter that the return on investment will take longer than the house will stand but we have politicians who still think that’s a good “investment” of taxpayer’s money. I’m sure they could find a whole lot of people in Detroit and other economically depressed areas who really want to pay $100 per month for these high-speed circuits. Apparently the need to run vaporware is endemic in the psyche (my tongue is so far planted in my cheek on this one, I’m using it as neck scratcher). I will bet anyone that 50% of the market or more would be happy to pay lower prices as long as they can watch NetFlix without buffering in HD, regardless of advertised speeds. However, most users are going to eventually expect massive capacity for reasons they don’t have a clue about. If their neighbors have it, they will want it. Not everybody of course as we are targeting the 50% who just want good service for the best price. We are also noticing that although bragging about speeds is a great advertising gimmick, bragging to your neighbor that you are saving $100 a month is an even better sales tool.

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Previous article: Tales from the Towers, Chapter 51 – Once a lobbyist, always a lobbyist — the Tom Wheeler Story

About Rory Conaway

Rory Conaway has been in the IT and Wireless Industries for the past 25 years as an author and consultant. He currently operates a growing WISP operation in Southern Arizona. He consults with investors, manufacturers, and WISPs, and develops financial business models for startups. In addition to writing articles in industry publications such as Mission Critical Magazine, Mr. Conaway also writes the series “Tales from the Towers” that can be found on various such as www.triadwireless.net and www.muniwireless.com. He has also engineered several wireless designs such as S.P.I.R.I.T. and Guerilla Wireless as well as building integrated wireless and video surveillance for airport security, municipal and critical infrastructure, SCADA systems, and hotel/MDU deployments.


  1. Mike Hammett says

    I believe the Force 110 is still using non-GPS radios. The price on the GPS radios is $500, so radio plus antenna for $130 doesn’t seem likely.

    The time from ePMP announcement to Force 110 was a year. The Force 100 came out somewhere in the middle. Compare that to Ubiquiti’s timeframe of what, five years between NanoBridge and NanoBeam?

    I also hate reflectors. Stupid idea when you try to say you’re not satellite… by putting a satellite dish looking object on their house.

    Radwin is a commercial play. No way can they compete in the residential area, and I’m not sure that they’re trying to. They likely enjoy healthy margins with their commercial and non-access plays. Still N, though.

    Trango’s PtMP is a joke.

    Proxim… maybe. It’s not as cheap as the other stuff out there, but it does have a respectable CPE price given that it is the only non-Cambium PMP platform to sync with Cambium PMP… only with more throughput. Still N, though.

    I had thought it was great that Bitlomat was in the industry, but it didn’t offer enough to persuade me to move. However, now that you can put Bitlotmat firmware on Ubiquiti (and soon others) hardware, it’s more interesting. GPS sync being field tested is interesting.Great for migration from one platform to theirs. AC in in the spring is interesting. They do have superior antennas compared to Ubiquiti. I’m hoping that they’ll be the first GPS AC system and likely at a lower AP cost than Mimosa.

    Mimosa will be the hands-down performance winner for the foreseeable future. I spent some time with Jamie to further understand the product and Kelly to further understand the company. The APs are reasonably priced, especially given their huge potential. Did you know that they have a Broadcom Network Processor in them, which they hope to do Barracuda\Procera-lite features with? A lot was revealed to me at the show. I assume since it was in public that it’s public knowledge, so I’ll save some of the gems for another time.

    I don’t share Rory’s affection for continuously upgradability. Give me the best of what’s out there. Customer adds in older sections can be done with gear that I’ve forklifted when going to a new platform elsewhere. All parts continuously moving while I make sure I’m using the best that I can.

    Where’s that quote of Robert’s from?

    A lot of Chicago references. Do you have any ties here?

  2. I’m from Chicago so hence, the references but everyone knows how the Cubs were robbed of winning the Pennant :).

    If the Force 110 isn’t using GPS, then the PowerBeam 400 is a much better value at $200. I will check on that.

    Good information on the other vendors. Too many companies but really, it’s down to 2 companies. A year from now, it will be down to 2 major players but one of them probably won’t be Cambium. They had their chance when they split off from Motorola but the Motorola mindset never really left. Solid, boring engineering with incremental increases and safe choices but nothing that captures the imagination and nothing that will address the massive market growth in urban America. Mimosa just jumped the shark and assuming they deliver, which I don’t doubt they will, now it will take 3 years, a huge change in mindset, and more money than most companies are willing to gamble. Cambium wasted 3 years and the result was the ePMP, better firmware on the 450, and a new 2Gbps PTP radio. Hopefully that works for them but in reality, they won’t change since it’s not what they do. Mimosa is coming hard, and I’m sure that Robert and Chuck are texting faster than teenage girls meeting the Kardashians. I’m also sure Ubiquiti still has something up their sleeves we haven’t seen yet and they have Chuck (who is an out of the box thinker), a broad product line, a lot of money, resources, attitude, and a methodology that isn’t Cambium’s. That’s both good and bad. Cambium has engineers and worldwide resources, but this industry is moving faster than 2003 and new technologies are being tested and pushed. I’ve worked with a lot of companies and it’s getting easier to pick the winners and losers.

    As for your comment on the Procera/Barracuda feature set. I was involved with that and promoting it in several articles. Mimosa listened. Others apparently were more tone deaf. I thought it was so important that I even tried to get Xirrus to enhance their firmware on their outdoor radios to become a player in this market since they were the first with this idea. Outdoor WISPs are not their market though and they are comfortable where there are. Comfort breeds complacency, complacency breeds stagnation. Motorola was a perfect example of this and Ubiquiti ate their lunch. It’s amazing to me how many people know that past but never learn from it. The Mimosa announcement was a wake up call that was a long time coming. Hopefully people are listening now and that will drive more innovation in our industry.

    Compatibility in the remote areas, not so important. When density increased to the level I expect to see, hundreds of radios per square mile, it’s a huge issue. Investors need to know their business can’t be wiped out by acquisitions, bankruptcies, or slow development processes. I remember the screaming when Motorola WISPs with FSK products couldn’t wait for the 450 product line and were looking elsewhere. How many people bought Ubiquiti 900 radios? This isn’t limited to Cambium though, Ubiquiti did the same thing when the Titanium sudden death occurred and there wasn’t a better upgrade path for 2 more years for an AP. that was an opening nobody exploited. I’m still not convinced there is an option today since I’ve eaten Rocket GPS radios and haven’t seen enough on the stability of the new Titaniums or PTMP rocket ACs. Now they are doing it with AirControl and the lack of a real management tool.

    Wow, this is another article. I have to stop and get some work done.

  3. Mike Hammett says

    I can’t believe I didn’t know you were from here. No more Daleys in the mayor’s office, just a tiny dancer.

    The Force 110 will list for about the same price as the Force 100, per Cambium when I was at their offices a month ago.

    That PTP radio is just a Ceragon, I believe. Not much time needed to rebadge.

    I was really excited when Phil Bolt spoke at the WISPA show near the time of the split. I thought Cambium was going to have all of these crazy technologies out by now.

    UBNT does have a lot of resources, but they have gotten just like Motorola did… complacent.

    As Bitlotmat may be shipping this spring, I’ll likely be deploying that. We’ll see how its performance works out to see when mimosa gets a seat at the table.

    UBNT’s AC line… it’s been over a year now and they only have a couple of PtP radios out now. I’m not excited.

  4. Good discussion Mike. I see that John Butler cleared up the issue with the PTP Force 110.

    I agree with you, I was excited too that maybe Cambium would put some of that engineering talent to work but I fear the loss of Chuck and the boys was too much in terms of innovative ideas. Cambium had many options during that transition. The ones they took were all from Motorola’s playbook. One thing I’m learning the hard way is that people and corporations don’t change no matter how much you try. I’ve also learned not to bet against Silicon Valley against the Midwestern teams. Silicon Valley is willing to throw out the playbook and start over. The Midwest wants to keep running plays that worked for Knute Rockne because that’s all they know. Some people never learn.

    I haven’t checked out the 820 so I didn’t know it was a Ceragon. That’s even worse unless they just have a need for it with some larger clients.

    802.11ac got held up for a few reasons, mostly the manufacturers chipsets. Ubiquiti was forced to go elsewhere as Atheros can’t make their mind up on who their customer base is. That meant a whole new learning curve for development teams. Just following chipset manufacturers and their customer base fascinates me. Seeing how input from customers is creating all sorts of new and weird things is even more amazing. I wish I had more time to spend on that. The products I’d love to take a crack at…..

    For example, the Qualcomm/LTE/WiFi chip idea is unique if they can sell it but there are weirder ideas that would have great application for us coming someday. What’s also interesting is how products that are designed one way morph to other ideas. I have to imagine nobody even thought of some of the ideas that Mimosa is now discussing for example. The AS-360, which is highly innovative, started off from looking at a SkyPilot antenna and the morphing it with the Quantenna chipset. From there, other ideas came into play, the circular polarity antennas, further features that are chipset dependent, etc…. This is the type of innovation our industry needed and we thought might have been forthcoming from Cambium after Phil’s speech but it was just more talk, no action. I have to imagine there is some serious shock still lingering from the show which will hopefully prod them into action which should benefit all of us. They will be fine for another year since we don’t know what Ubiquiti is still sitting on and Mimosa won’t be shipping for at least that long. I’ve laid out my plan and it doesn’t include proprietary anything at this point. That one year is now very critical to both Ubiquiti and Mimosa so it will be interesting to see how they respond. I know how Robert responded and there is a whole story behind the statement which was in my article.

    The Barracuda/Procera thing is another. I’ve been beating the Barracuda Web Filter drum for years, even got WISPA members a special discount. I think only 1 company took me up on it. It was even in my presentation on Firewalls and Security this year. Mimosa listened where others weren’t and then something was leaked at the show. It’s good to see these ideas get put into practice by someone to benefit our industry. At this point, we won’t install anywhere without it and I believe we have put 7 in place this year alone with more coming.


  5. One thing I missed in the article is that the PTP650 from Cambium is already shipping. It uses a lot of advanced techniques, many of them similar to the B5, to achieve up to 450Mbps in a 45Mhz channel and is a very high quality product. The only reason I didn’t mention it in the article is the cost and the cost/benefit. I believe that the full blown version with no limits is about $10K. That puts it at a price 5 times the cost of a either the AF5 or the B5. It’s not a price that’s cost effective for WISPs and the cost/benefit isn’t there against licensed radios.

  6. Mike Hammett says

    If the 820 is a Ceragon IP20 for only $10k… that is big news.

  7. Rory Conaway says

    Big news would also be announcing a price drop on the PTP650 to $2995 for a pair of connectorized radios without the stupid licensing for higher speeds. Right now they cost $5000 for 125Mbps and another $5000 for 450Mbps. I still haven’t figured out how business development made the case for that as a replacement for the PTP600. I get part of it, half the price, 50% more throughput than the PTP600 but seriously, after 8 years of selling the PTP600, they needed to two tier that product, WISP and commercial. The product they built was for commercial which is about to get made irrelevant in a couple months. They needed a WISP version at 30% of the cost without the 125Mbps Lite version. At this point though, it won’t matter.

  8. Cambium has now removed the proprietary factor from the subscriber module using the latest software. Which i say is a big plus for the WISP industry

  9. George, thank you for commenting. I would suggest re-reading the article as that fact was emphasized over several paragraphs and I discussed it’s impact on the industry. I do agree it’s huge for Cambium and gives me piece of mind if use the product.

  10. I’ve been following Mimosa for awhile now, and while their proposed PtMP offerings look amazing on paper, it’s just that… specs on paper. Writing a coherent, outdoor hardened PtMP MAC on top of an off the shelf 802.11-based PHY is no easy task. Many have tried, and none (IMHO) have succeeded with producing anything that works as well as PHY-MAC platforms built from the ground up.. e.g PMP100/PMP450/802.16d or e/LTE. The closest thing I’ve seen succeed is ePMP, and they still have more to do. (FYI… they do have 802.11AC on the road map!!)

    I would LOVE to see Mimosa succeed, but I really do think they’re biting off more then they can chew. Many of the features that Mimosa is trying to bring about are features that LTE has accomplished or is currently tackling. There’s a reason why LTE has an entire working group (3GPP) and the backing of dozens of other sub-groups and equipment vendors alike from around the globe dedicated to bringing about advancements like MU-MIMO, 256QAM, beam-forming, next-gen GPS sync e.g eICIC, multi-channel bonding, etc. this kind of RF tech is a massive R&D money pit. Once Mimosa realizes they’re in over their heads, and it will be another year or more (or never) before they can actually accomplish their claimed specifications… I would wager that they’ll release a half-baked interim product (sound like anyone we know?… ahem UBNT) just to get something out the door before they run out of working capital. Seasoned RF engineers, advanced MAC programmers, and the various ‘tricks of the trade’ that come with years (In the case of Cambium, over a decade) of experience, along with patents to make these products sing… just don’t materialize overnight, or in a month, or a year or ever for some companies.

    I need solutions today. I can’t wait for Mimosa, and I refuse to continue to drink UBNT cool-aid and be a guinea pig and wait for them to figure it out. That leaves TWO COMPANIES (IMHO)… Cambium and… surprise surprise… Telrad. Yes, I said it Telrad!!! They have the only LTE base station accessible to WISP’s at this time. Pretty amazing technology. I’d highly encourage you to check it out. I’ve dreamed of LTE-level tech at prices that a mid to large sized WISP could capitalize on… and now it’s here.

    All that aside… what I am optimistic about though…. competition between manufacturers to spur progress, drive equipment prices down, and hopefully… ultimately… all WISP’s and in turn consumers can benefit from this tech race. There’s never been a better time to be a WISP 🙂

  11. Mike Hammett says

    Eric sounds either extremely jaded or works for an LTE vendor.

    Mimosa was started by the guy that started Polycom and 2-Wire. He seems rather capable.

    Standards and working groups… you mean bureaucracy that’s not actually focused on what’s good for you?

    I think one of Mimosa’s gems is working with the chipmaker (Quantenna) to get tech that Mimosa needs built into the chips so they A) Can and B) Don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

    For LTE to be optimized enough for WISPs, you lose the scale, interoperability, etc. that you went to LTE for in the first place.

    Last paragraph… BAM… complete agreeance.

  12. Rory Conaway says

    Eric, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I think history will prove out that not only wasn’t Mimosa in over there head, the really will deliver everything the stated at WISPA. Mimosa isn’t a startup that was just given a few million dollars of seed money. It’s a company run by proven successful Silicon Valley professionals with extensive engineering and technology successes. They have take 3 companies public. And since they are back by NEA, funding isn’t really a big issue.

    If you review the core chipset, Quantenna, you will find many of these features are part of it. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make it work. The did have to do quite a bit of engineering to get some of the features out of it that other chipsets were incapable of doing though. They aren’t out of their league on the engineering of this, believe me.

    Nobody said for you to wait for them. They are just setting you up for what’s coming and very soon for PTP in in the future for PTMP to give you time to plan if you are an 802.11 based operation. The hardware is already sitting in warehouses right now and they are simply tweaking the software before release. It won’t be half-baked under any conditions. They won’t release until it does exactly what they say it will do. That’s not how real engineering teams work.

    Telrad is the first company that is actively trying to push LTE into the WISP market. That takes a lot of courage that other companies didn’t have. However, LTE is nowhere near ready to operate in high-interference environments and I have a pretty good idea what’s involved in taking it there. It does have a great physical layer and in one MATLAB simulation, we estimated about 4 times the range of 802.11 in a NLOS environment with some of the design modifications we were considering as part of the product. The interference is another issue with LTE that had to be addressed at the PHY layer but again, we laid out the basic premise and believe we had a reasonable roadmap. Unfortunately, it never materialized.

    I’ve always said that Cambium rules the towers and Ubiquiti rules the rooftops. My Ubiquiti based network is delivering between 40-60Mbps right now to customers and I’m on 802.11n. Imagine what they are going to look like when 802.11ac comes. I’m a big believer in the urban market and that’s where my articles are driving. If you are in the middle of rural nowhere with customers several miles out, then buy not only a product that is designed for that environment, non 802.11, but buy something that will probably outlast the family dog, Cambium. But if your in a dynamic environment, short ranges to high-density customers, then I believe my path is better and more profitable while simultaneously allowing me to cost-effectively update my network and customers when I need to. In that environment, and a more temperate climate, failure of the equipment in 4 years isn’t my biggest issue. I was probably going to upgrade them anyway.

  13. No I don’t work for an LTE vendor nor am I being paid by one, and you can find out who I am and my company by clicking on my name. I wouldn’t call it jaded so much as experienced. I’ve been operating a WISP since 2004 and have deployed many different types of outdoor PtMP wireless technology over the years in an environment where I have to compete with 3 other WISP’s for tower space and spectrum. I’ve done many head to head tests between Airmax, ePMP, PMP450, WiMAX etc. I have quite a bit of RF experience regarding what works and what doesn’t. So yeah, I guess we can agree to disagree and see where the chip(sets) fall.

  14. Mike:

    “Mimosa was started by the guy that started Polycom and 2-Wire. He seems rather capable.”

    I will agree with you that Brian Hinman is a very accomplished entrepreneur and venture capitalist, but he lacks a background in wireless communications. This is, correct me if I’m wrong, his first venture into the world of bleeding edge advanced wireless technology? Robert Pera actually has a degree and background in RF engineering since the mid 2000’s, along with an established, publicly traded company with a 3 billion dollar market cap. Has he succeeded in bringing about a fraction of what’s on Mimosa’s spec sheets? The answer is indisputably “No”. Hinman has done a great job schlepping enterprise IP phones and home DSL routers using standards based off the shelf xDSL chipsets, and it’s made him rich in the process, but from a technical engineering standpoint, those industries are not even close in terms of the battle that he’s taken on with his new venture at Mimosa. Again, I re-iterate, what he’s trying to accomplish is a massive time and money sink, and I’d have a lot more faith in him/Mimosa if he came from an RF background.

    “Standards and working groups… you mean bureaucracy that’s not actually focused on what’s good for you?”

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at. The LTE/3GPP group is designing the next generation of outdoor wireless standards in a very predictable, scheduled manner, all while staying mostly backwards compatible. How is this different then what IEEE is doing with 802.11? Again, two different working groups (how do you put it… “bureaucracy”?), with similar goals and specifications, but set in different arenas. One’s primarily for indoor/home/enterprise use, one for large-scale outdoor use. So yeah, I’m a fan of large, international organizations working together to bring standards based technology to the planet… bureaucracy is a small price to pay for such incredible advances that you and I take for granted.

    “I think one of Mimosa’s gems is working with the chipmaker (Quantenna) to get tech that Mimosa needs built into the chips so they A) Can and B) Don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

    I’m curious why they’ve tapped Quantenna when Ubiquiti and Cambium have tapped Broadcom and Atheros? In any case with all three chipset providers, the same hurdles still apply adapting a product to do what it was never designed to do. Why not use a standard that’s built from the ground up for large-scale outdoor use? When you try to use a tool that’s not designed for the job at hand, you either A) end up breaking it, or B) re-engineering it to be the tool that you should have used in the first place.

    As you mention, I agree with… A) YES! They can get some cheap off the shelf chips that pack a lot of cool features right off the bat… but I disagree with your B) “Don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” because in many ways, they do have to reinvent the wheel for WISP/Outdoor PtMP use… they have to reinvent TDMA/TDD (something that no one has gotten right on an 802.11 platform except for Cambium). They have to reinvent GPS synchronization and timing mechanisms. They have to reinvent advanced ARQ/HARQ techniques to deal with outdoor interference. They have to reinvent smaller channel widths and channel bonding and get them certified by the FCC. They have to reinvent intelligent QoS that works at the MAC level (because they’re not going probably be able to do this in PHY). They have to reinvent DFS back-off mechanisms. They’re going to have to reinvent specialized dynamic filters and A/D converters that can handle noise in outdoor environments. So yeah, many of the gains you get by taking on off the shelf PHY are negated by the fact you have to design you own MAC from the ground up with all the aforementioned ‘reinventions’ that I outlined. LOTS of Time… TONS of money… YEARS of experience… does Mimosa have the steam to see this through? I’m not saying that it’s not possible… I’m just thinking it will take way longer then a year or two or three.

    “For LTE to be optimized enough for WISPs, you lose the scale, interoperability, etc. that you went to LTE for in the first place.”

    I don’t even understand this statement. Maybe you can clarify? Have you read up on LTE or have a background working with LTE or WiMAX? In many ways LTE is ideal for WISP use, but due to the pricing has never been available until now. Again, what the IEEE did for indoor 802.11 standards, compatibility and a road map for the future is what the LTE/3GPP forum is doing today for outdoor deployments. Totally optimized for WISP use, massive scalability, and a very bright future for interoperability… basically everything that WiMAX promised, but was never realized due to lack of widespread adoption. If LTE is releasing today what Mimosa is trying to release tomorrow… imagine what LTE will be like if/when Mimosa actually releases their product.


    “The interference is another issue with LTE that had to be addressed at the PHY layer but again, we laid out the basic premise and believe we had a reasonable roadmap. Unfortunately, it never materialized.”

    What never materialized? From what I understand LTE address interference issues at the PHY level, in terms of HARQ, dynamic MIMOA/B, GPS sync, and eICIC. These are all techniques utilized today. That being said, there’s no magic interference mitigation fairy out there that I know of. When it comes to interference mitigation, there are two paths … processing horsepower… e.g. how many streams can you process at once and how quickly can you re-transmit and re-combine mangled frames at the PHY. Second… RF hardening… e.g good filters, clean RF design, shielding, good antennas w/spacial diversity.

    That being said, if you’re trying to deploy 256QAM capable radios in a highly congested, urban RF landscape and you’re expecting to see huge performance gains… keep dreaming. Do you know what kind of SnR you need in order to get a usable link with 256QAM on a 20/40/80MHz channel width? Let’s see, with 20MHz it’s about 35dB, and with a 40MHz channel width it’s going to be 38dB, and with 80MHz you’ll need just over 40dB. Assuming you can find some spectrum in UNII-1 or 2, you’re power output will be severely limited. At those channel widths, if 256QAM is the goal in an urban environment, then you’re looking at deploying maybe a mile away or less? If that’s in your game plan, cool… otherwise, maybe go back to the drawing board with your business plans.

  15. Eric, you are part of the cycle of rural WISPs that are basically “bouncing rubble”. 4 WISPs in the same area is 3 too many. It’s silly to me, unless you live there, to compete against other WISPs. There is enough market out there in areas that don’t have other options. I compete in the middle of DSL/Cable and in the future, fiber environments that are in the 84% of the market that WISPs generally aren’t in.

  16. Eric, as someone who had the opportunity to work with Mimosa in the beginning, I can tell you that you are incorrect on several points.

    1) Brian Hinman has RF background and actually worked as a representative with the FCC. In addition, he and Jaime did an extensive analysis of the FCC rules before the product line was even considered. That is why Mimosa filed for the 10GHz and did a lot of groundwork to determine it’s viability and other things to be announced. You have seen the feature set of the products that are posted and you really think that with the advancements in the products that the RF development teams lead by Brian and Jaime don’t know what they are doing? Some of your other points may have some validity and I’ll let Mike handle them but really, this premise that you have is wrong on so many levels, that you probably should argue different issues. I could write 5 articles on nothing more than what was covered in the brief time I was involved and you aren’t even close.

    The PHY layer of LTE was never designed to work in a high-interference environment. In many ways, it’s years behind 802.11. It’s too late to go into this tonight but I might take a shot next week.

    The reason they and Vivint tapped Quantenna is because it’s a generation past what Broadcom and Atheros have. The amount of processing power and advanced features it has weren’t even on Atheros/Broadcom’s or Ubiquiti’s roadmap and Cambium hasn’t reproduced them every even though they write their PHY layer on their 450 or 650. Ask them what it would take to have dynamic channel sizes and to scan real-time for interference to move channels around. Ubiquiti doesn’t even have automatic power control yet and I have to believe it’s not that hard.

    You are also misunderstanding the “reinvent the wheel” thing. I’m referencing the PHY layer, not the rest of it. Again, you really need to do your research on the actual chipset. It doesn’t directly support GPS which required additional hardware, but the processor is so much faster than what Cambium and Atheros had that it won’t be as hard as you think. Mimosa is based in Silicon Valley and has at least 2 huge VC funds behind it. Money isn’t the biggest problem and they have been working on this for quite a while. Basically on this point, you are wrong and that will become evident in the future.

    LTE does not have WiFi based chipsets that lend themselves to inexpensive CPE’s. The ones in our phones are very limited and to implement even part of what you are suggesting in the PHY layer is years away. Basically, LTE based PTMP systems like Telrad are going to be expensive and limited in functionality for quite a while. For LTE to do even part of what’s in the Quantenna chipset and other custom features developed at Mimosa, you are talking about $40-$60M and 24-36 months of time from a single company. LTE has a future because of it’s NLOS capability but right now Telrad is your best option and the jury is still out on how well it works. They are still only shipping it with WiMax but I would suggest contacting Patrick Leahy to get more information. I’m planning on doing more research with them next week.

    As for your last state about deploying 256QAM in an urban environment, I do not believe you are analyzing the situation accurately. All my deployments are less than a mile and my target is 1/2 mile. As for going back to the drawing board, I think you will be surprised how much interest there is in that model and the fact the Mimosa product line was directly designed for that market. I point to the AS-360 as evidence.


  17. Mike Hammett says

    Four is too many? over my 20*50 miles I touch… 12 other WISPs?

    What does LTE get you? An expensive system with small channels and high latency. If you’re having to do major overhauls to the chipset and ecosystem, why start with something as bloated as LTE?

    There are other manufacturers basing their platforms off of Quantenna as well. They worked with Quantenna at 2-Wire, so there’s a prior relationship there. UBNT and Cambium (as well as many others) are working with Atheros, but none of them have this level of technology either. Perhaps Quantenna was more open to the level of design changes needed than Atheros was.

    Many of the things you point out as things that need reinventing to make WiFi work outdoors are also required to be changed to make LTE work in an unlicensed world. LTE assumes no external interference. LTE has better latency than its predecessors, but has dreadful latency when compared to WISP platforms. The requirements for a core are completely unneeded in a WISP environment. There is no mobility, so no need for a million bucks for a useless device. The chipsets that are in wide use simply aren’t going to be the ones optimized for WISP use. The scale of LTE is gone when you need to start using something else.

    Patrick Leahy or Patrick Leary?

    I think those kinds of SNRs are definitely achievable with beam and null forming and antennas of real size. Mu-MIMO also negates some of the need for fatter and fatter channels with more and more complex modulations. Sure, those things increase capacity, but so do simultaneous connections to multiple clients. A lot of people have hardons for these little NanoStations and SMs. Give me something with 25 dB.

  18. Although I want, hope and if needed pray that Mimosa is successful, I believe Eric has some points that may be true. Here it is December and the PTP product is still not shipping, which leads me to believe they are having trouble getting it right.

    I have been working in the high tech world since 1981, before the IBM PC. One thing I have learned; Many Times, Trail Blazers Get Arrows in their Backs. I worked in the early 80s with Digital (DEC) and the late 80s with CompuServe, both great companies that are no longer with us.

    Since UBNT has not delivered on AirMax ver. 2.0 yet (900 customers on UBNT), I have started deploying Cambium ePMP in parts of my network where I need more capacity and have been happy with the performance. I have had Mimosa PTP links on order and waiting impatiently for them to arrive, woking in a Cambium, not UBNT kind of way.

    Rory, as far as providing 45Mb multipoint using UBNT, I have not been successful. I can provide 15Mb with 20 subs on 20mhz channels or 35Mb shared on AP and I have a Procera box deployed.

    My investment this year has been on network infrastructure enhancements; full duplex backhauls on all towers with half duplex backups, the Procera box, backup APs on all towers in case of a failure. Unlike you, Verizon deployed fiber to my area starting in 2005 (Murrieta, CA) and Time Warner provides service as well. Between them, they can cover 90% of my coverage area, so I need to be cost and service level competitive, although there is enough people that hate these companies to keep me busy.

    In closing, I am hopeful that there is a healthy competition between manufacturers. I just do not know which one will be dominant in the next few years. If I had crystal ball, I would not be working this hard.

  19. Tom, it sounds like you are making all the right moves. We are going to see Cox fiber moving into Phoenix starting January so I understand competition. Our entire model is designed to take on cable/DSL/fiber companies. The one advantage we have as WISPs is that even with fiber costs, aren’t coming down. For example, I just got a call from a woman who is looking for an alternative because the cheapest plan available from her cable provider is $71. That leaves a lot of room for profit for a WISP.

    We just did some market testing last week fine-tuning the marketing strategy specifically for that environment. We have more work to do but our average was about 3 customers per day with 1 sales person and various contracts. Our estimate is that we could get 4-5 customers a day with the strategy completely fleshed out and will be starting that in about a week.

    Mimosa is going to be a competitor, have no doubt there. It’s another Silicon Valley startup using some next generation technology and if you follow the AFMUG forum, have several beta links running now with beta testers. I think Chuck Hogg has said he has at least 4 links that are in operation. However, being next generation as are any of the 802.11ac products that are out, there is going to be some time to get all the nuances and issues with the chipsets worked out. I worked with them early on sharing some ideas and the stuff they ended up with was beyond some of my expectations. They jumped the shark although I see some of the other vendors coming behind them but it’s going to be hard to overcome that Quantenna 4×4 chipset. It’s pretty powerful and that’s just the starting point. It already has MU-MIMO built in also.

    On the Ubiquiti model, I keep all my clients at 1/2 mile or less. If it wasn’t for trees, I’d be using all NS5M Locos also so all my modulation rates are very high. We also block all torrents because in addition to the bandwidth sucking they do, the route tables created at the AP level are huge when these programs running and they really crush the AP processors/memory. Blocking them stops that and makes the APs a lot more efficient. When I start changing APs over to 802.11ac this year, that problem is less of an issue.

    Cambium ePMP’s are a great interim product, no doubt. They just came out too close to 802.11ac for me to make that switch. However, I’m not tower based but if I was, I would be using them. The good part is they now have the ability to use 802.11 standard so you have more options on the upgrade issue if they take a long time on 802.11ac. As Mimosa and Ubiquiti are demonstrating, it’s not as easy as it looks.

  20. Hi Rory,

    This is Iratxo, from Albentia Systems. We are a wireless (mainly PtMP) device manufacturer, based on 802.16-2012 physical and MAC layers, focused on very interference resilient and high QoS delivery. Would you be interested in testing our Spain-made devices?