Firetide Goes for the Triple Play
February 28, 2005
The latest generation of mesh equipment from the company emphasizes better throughput for video, voice and data on its self-healing backhaul.
New for this year from Firetide: better throughput in its new generation of wireless mesh equipment, both indoors and out. These units are "designed for high performance of voice, video and data—the triple play," according to Sunil Dhar, Firetide's director of product management. The new hardware is also accompanied by new mesh management software.
Firetide's HotPoint mesh equipment provides a mesh for the backhaul on a network—the hardware is designed to work with access points from third parties, which provide the direct connection for clients. That way customers can use any AP they like, without having to pull any wires to run them.
The new hardware will be branded HotPort, and consists of the "3000 series"—3100 for indoors, and 3200 for outdoors. Both feature 25Mbps performance and can work in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band, depending on how they're configured by the network admin. 5GHz is the default, in order to cause less interference with 802.11b/g clients in the 2.4GHz spectrum.
"With HotPort, network connections can be established anywhere in the mesh—there's no special location for the backhaul," says Dhar. Previously, only select nodes on the HotPoints could connect back to the wired network.For security, the HotPorts support WEP up to 128-bit plus 256-bit AES encryption.
The $895 HotPort 3103 model has two omni-directional antennas, and comes with four 10/100 Ethernet ports that can be used to hook up not only the external AP for clients, but also items like Internet Protocol cameras, printers, or network attached storage. The unit is plenum rated, and can be mounted on a wall, a ceiling, or even on a cubicle. It does not run off 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE) because, Dhar says, that means you're "pulling cable again. If they're doing that, the mesh doesn't make sense."
The $1,995 3203 Outdoor Mesh Node is in a NEMA 4X weatherproof case that can be mounted to a pole or wall. It comes with either a 6dBi omni-directional antenna or an 8dBi directional. It has two Ethernet ports and can be integrated with a battery backup and powered off an external source, even the optional solar charger. And this unit does support PoE.
New features for these products include a management software interface called HotView which shows use of the network in real time, even for remote users. It can import a layout or plan of an office space and use the software to make a real-time site survey of what's going on. "You can adjust the power on the radio so you don't overpower others, and there are tools and diagnostics so the client can be sure they're optimized for the infrastructure," says Dhar. HotView also adds support for virtual LAN 8021q tagging.
These products will eventually replace the current 1000-model HotPoints that use 200mW radios. Dhar says the new 3000 models use the lower-power 100mW radios to meet international standards, and that increasing range is easier with use of high gain antenna add-ons.
Unlike many other mesh equipment rivals like BelAir and Tropos, Firetide doesn't push its equipment for large-scale metropolitan use, focusing instead on verticals like hospitality, warehouses, and education. Dhar says the increased scalability of the HotPorts (up to 50 nodes), as well as the increased capacity to support voice and video along with data, will "continue to drive mesh beyond just the municipalities."