MeshPlanner Eases Wi-Fi Planning

Nortel has introduced software that helps network managers design municipal mesh networks without an extensive site survey.

Nortel Networks Ltd. last week introduced software that helps network managers design municipal mesh networks without an extensive site survey.

Based on software from Wireless Valley Communications Inc., MeshPlanner for Nortel simulates a prospective wireless mesh network with a computerized model of the deployment area. Wireless Valley, of Austin, Texas, specializes in wireless network design software; this is its first entry into the mesh space.

Mesh networks dynamically route packets from node to node. Only one access point needs to be connected directly to the wired network, with the rest sharing a connection over the air. In large mesh environments, however, several access points may be linked.

Nortels mesh customers include municipalities and universities such as Taipei City, Taiwan, and the University of Arkansas.

"On our campus, the place we wanted to deploy a wireless network was outdoors, and, because of all the trees and buildings, we had issues with getting cabling to places where wed normally deploy an access point," said Craig Brown, an associate director in the department of computing at the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville.

Brown said he plans to test MeshPlanner soon. "If it works, in the future we wont take the time to do the real survey," he said.

To use the software, customers must first import a map of the area to be covered—from the Internet, an Autodesk Inc. AutoCAD drawing or a digital photograph.

MeshPlanner lets the network manager place the virtual access points across the map. Using preset criteria, the software then runs a simulation to test for potential problems such as signal degradation due to obstructions.

The software then helps the network manager establish transit links among the access points to determine which ones are best suited to be directly connected to the network. It determines parameters such as the maximum number of hops an access point can have before reaching a networked access point. On average, there is a 10-1 ratio of connected to nonconnected access points, said officials at Nortel, in Brampton, Ontario.

MeshPlanner is available now.


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