Motorola's New Mesh

By Eric Griffith

March 16, 2005

The company that bought MeshNetworks is now combining the original technology with radios that use 802.11, to make (what else?) MotoMesh.

The old MeshNetworks and its Mesh Enabled Architecture (MEA) were always interesting, but one thing its equipment was not was 802.11-based. However, the company is now a part of Motorola, and 802.11 is soon to be part of the program.

This week at the CTIA Wireless 2005 show in New Orleans, Motorola announced the upcoming MotoMesh, its brand name for a new multi-radio architecture that combines the proprietary MEA radios (running in the recently-licensed 4.9GHz band for public safety use) with standards-based 2.4GHz 802.11 radios. One of each will be used for end-user access, while the others will handle the actual backhaul using a self-configuring mesh topology.

According to the company, using the architecture's Multi-Hopping ability, each four-radio node on the network becomes a router/repeater, allowing "users to hop through other users to reach MotoMesh access points."

By having both licensed and unlicensed radio bands in a MotoMesh AP, the company says it can address the needs of commercial users as well as security-conscious government agencies. Motorola's statement says that unlike the competition it will not be reliant on "virtual networking" (using VLANs and multiple SSIDs, for example) to segment traffic like first responders from consumers that are vying for the same bandwidth.

This move puts Motorola in more direct competition with other Wi-Fi mesh vendors like BelAir Networks and Tropos Networks. The latter have battled for hearts and minds in deployments of large hotzones and municipal wireless networks that would allow end users to take advantage of existing Wi-Fi equipment. Motorola's MEA platform was relatively limited to, and marketed toward, government and first responders.

Motorola also offers centralized control of the MotoMesh equipment via the MeshManager system. The hardware is still in beta testing, and won't ship until later this year. At that time, it will be joined by other mesh products including the software-based PacketHop, a hardware-agnostic product that will also be geared toward public safety. Competitor BelAir is itself working on hardware it calls Multi-service, which would build in Wi-Fi, WiMax, and 3G cellular.



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