Viva Las Vegas Mesh, Part II

By Eric Griffith

February 11, 2005

The city of Las Vegas will soon have two metro-scale Wi-Fi mesh networks, but they won't be in competition at all. In fact, they're both run by the same WISP.

In August 2004, we reported on the fact that Cheetah Wireless Technologies, Inc. (CWTI) of Las Vegas was going to take Sin City wireless using technology from MeshNetworks —a setup some said might become a model for the entire state of Nevada.

Today comes word that CWTI has "standardized" on using mesh equipment from popular mesh equipment supplier Tropos Networks. In fact, CWTI already uses Tropos equipment in its mesh deployment of metro-scale broadband for residents in the city of Encinitas, Calif. And that's how they'll use Tropos wares in Vegas, too. The MeshNetworks equipment, however, will remain in place for use by the Las Vegas Traffic Engineering Department, along with Metro Police and Fire Services.

"It's confusing," admits Tropos vice president of marketing Bert Williams. He notes that the MeshNetworks equipment—which doesn't work with standard Wi-Fi, but instead uses QDMA (Quadrature Division Multiple Access) to get a full one-mile range—is for more mobile systems. "Our stuff is not [for] mobile [users]. It's more a consumer/small-business access kind of thing."

Since that announcement last year, MeshNetworks has been acquired by Motorola .

Right now, CWTI is rolling out about 30 hotzones in Vegas using the Tropos mesh equipment, and plans to put out 10 more every month in the metro area until they've covered a full 100 square miles. Because of the self-configuring aspect of mesh equipment, adding new nodes simply adds more capacity and range to the network.

By contrast, the network in Encinitas only covers about one square mile at this time.

Tropos has picked up 125 customers at this point, despite the market it targets—metropolitan scaled Wi-Fi networks—being the subject of much debate of late, mainly in who exactly should run such networks: private companies like the telcos and wireless ISPs, or the tax-funded governments. Many municipally-run networks are starting out with support for emergency services, then moving over to supply the residents with Internet access when suitable. Tropos, of course, wins either way—as long as someone buys their equipment, private or publically funded.

Future deployments with CWTI are almost assured, says Williams: "We'll be working with them —they're very technically capable, they have big plans for their business, and we hope to see them grow."



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