Wireless Mesh Networks Take Hold

As wireless mesh networking gains acceptance with municipalities and cost-conscious enterprises alike, companies such as Motorola and Nortel Networks are readying more-advanced wares to support the technology.

As wireless mesh networking gains increasing acceptance with municipalities and cost-conscious enterprises alike, companies such as Motorola Inc. and Nortel Networks Ltd. are readying more-advanced wares to support the technology.

Motorola last week, in a bid to better integrate Wi-Fi into broadband wireless offerings, announced the acquisition of software maker MeshNetworks Inc., whose customer base comprises mainly small municipalities. Motorolas initial focus will be on outdoor deployments, officials said.


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That effort mirrors work by Nortel, which last week announced a massive mesh network deployment in Taipei, Taiwan, with 10,000 wireless access points covering 170 square miles.

Mesh networks dynamically route packets from node to node. Only one access point needs to be connected to the wired network, with the rest sharing a connection over the air. The resulting network is less expensive than a traditional WLAN (wireless LAN).

"It costs me $500 every time I have to wire an access point," said Brad Noblet, director of technical services at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., which is running a mesh networking trial with Intel Corp. "Mesh networking holds the promise of deploying wireless without having to worry about architecture planning."

Nortel officials said their next mesh product rollout will be "more on the enterprise model than the carrier model." Nortel is also working on integrating WiMax into its mesh strategy, said officials at the Brampton, Ontario, company.

The IEEE designates the working wireless mesh networking protocol as 802.11s. The Federal Communications Commission and others see mesh as mainly for public-safety communications, but vendors are targeting corporate users as well.

"There has been quite a bit of interest in the municipalities," said Todd Etchieson, director of business management for wireless mesh networking at Nortel, in Richardson, Texas. "But theres other interest—things like mining that have areas they want to cover without running wires."

Audian Paxson, the director of product management at Strix Systems Inc., in Calabasas, Calif., agreed. "It really cuts down on the site survey and the installation time," Paxson said.

Strix will unveil a line of outdoor mesh products next month, officials said.

No meshing around

Acquiring MeshNetworks

Deploying large mesh network in Taipei, readying next release of products

Releasing an outdoor product line


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