Wi-Fi Crowd's Must-Have: Mesh HotZones

By Sean Michael Kerner

March 19, 2004

Mesh vendors tout new architecture at Wi-Fi Planet show.

T0RONTO -- If the future of Wi-Fi is complete ubiquity and pervasiveness than it's likely that Mesh architecture for wireless LANs will play a pivotal role.

At least that's what industry players in mesh technology say, especially as more municipalities and wireless groups move from Wi-Fi coverage in hot spots to deploying mesh-enabled Hot Zones, which refers to a broad municipal area with blanket Wi-Fi coverage.

The goal of mesh networks is to help bring disparate, wireless local area networks into a kind of self-forming network with self-healing capacities. In the process, access nodes turn into self-sustaining nodes and relay data to each other.

As internetnews.com has reported, such a peer-to-peer network uses multi-hopping to eliminate the need to dot the landscape with hundreds of thousands of [network] access points (APs), since every device would form the kernel of a potential network.

But Lyn Lucas of Proxim Corporation, a WLAN switch maker that does not generally benefit from mesh deployment, questioned whether mesh architecture is an option for customers looking to leverage their existing wireline infrastructure.

During a panel discussion at the Wi Fi Planet Expo and Conference here, Lucas's comments were countered by mesh tech vendors who call it a disruptive, yet enabling technology that significantly reduces the cost of a WLAN deployment.

Attendees said the self-healing, self-configuring aspect of mesh wireless networks is gaining in popularity.

During a discussion entitled "From HotSpots to HotZones: Taking WiFi Metro Wide," Bernard Herscovitch, president and CEO of BelAir networks, called mesh the best technology for enabling a Municipal Wi-Fi Network.

The BelAir CEO specifically dwelled on the Government enterprise vertical as a key market for a municipal Wi-Fi deployment. He noted it could be used for emergency services, police applications and traffic control. Herscovitch pointed out a cost comparison case study that found a mesh-deployed WLAN could cost 40 percent less for a 200-room hotel with Wi-Fi, and up to 70 percent less for a larger area such as a university campus.

According to Herscovitch, mesh uses less power and it aggregates bandwidth, unlike traditional WLAN star-based networking topologies.

He said BelAir's flavor of mesh uses multiple point-to-point mesh that is formed by using dedicated radios with multiple channels and directional antennas that provide overlapping coverage for backhaul connections.

The Wi-Fi Planet Expo and Conference is produced by Jupitermedia, parent company of this Web site.

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