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What’s the Big Deal About Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is a hot topic these days, which is somewhat ironic. For years, we’ve been trumpeting how cellular can keep us connected everywhere. Now, companies ranging from Google to Comcast want to build wireless services that rely partially on technologies that are tethered to one spot. 

This could be a boon for companies like Cisco Systems or Hewlett-Packard, which said Monday it was buying Wi-Fi equipment maker Aruba Networks for $2.7 billion.

Also in the mix: Ruckus Wireless, which sells Wi-Fi equipment to cable operators and wireless carriers and also powers public Wi-Fi networks in cities across the U.S., including in San Francisco and San Jose. About half of its customers are outside the U.S., in South Africa, India, China and elsewhere.

The company was founded in 2004 during a time when public Wi-Fi was a backwater, as many city-wide Wi-Fi projects across the U.S. had failed. Growth remains patchy across the industry: Cisco, for instance, reported a couple of weak quarters in this part of its business last year. Ruckus, meanwhile, has reported 20 percent-plus revenue growth in the past two years but profits remain slim. It has a market capitalization of about $1 billion.

The Information recently spoke with Ruckus’s CEO, Selina Lo, a Hong Kong-born entrepreneur who spent several years at H-P in the 1980s. After co-founding and working at Ethernet companies, she hooked up with two Wi-Fi tech experts through Sequoia Capital to launch and lead Ruckus.

The 55-year-old Ms. Lo discussed Wi-Fi’s recent resurgence in the news, what she calls the upcoming “revenge” of cable companies like Comcast against wireless carriers, and why companies like Ruckus have struggled in the public markets of late.

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There’s a survey that says Americans would rather give up coffee than Wi-Fi.