Mesh in the Wireless Valley

By Eric Griffith

October 07, 2005

The site survey software company is going to offer a tool for planning outdoor mesh WLAN deployments.

Site surveys of locations that need effective wireless LANs are de rigueur for most organizations, but they are a little harder to pull off with a citywide deployment. Wireless Valley Communications might make a dent in that problem with a new version of MeshPlanner, a product they originally designed in partnership with Nortel Networks.

"The MeshPlanner 'generic,' as we call it internally, has a broader sweep," says Roger Skidmore, chief product officer at Wireless Valley. "Customers can compare and contrast how different [mesh] vendor products will work."

Skidmore says site surveys for most citywide mesh networks required mounting some equipment first (usually on city light poles or on buildings), driving through an area to collect data on the wireless signal, and then doing it all over again if the signal wasn't strong enough. MeshPlanner will accept map input to help network providers figure out how the mesh propagates and what interference might be there before installing any hardware.

Unlike the Nortel version, the 'generic' MeshPlanner doesn't do vendor recommendations. Skidmore says it doesn't have any pre-defined specifications for existing mesh equipment at all, so a side-by-side comparison of how, for example, Tropos Networks might do versus Strix Systems in a given environment isn't possible. "The goal is to look at how an overall mesh will perform," he says.

The software will, however, consider various technologies and how they're used in the mesh. It can, for example, look at 802.11a for backhaul on the mesh itself with 802.11b/g on client connections, or vice versa. As new technologies come out — such as WiMax for longer distance, higher throughput backhaul mesh connections — it will be added to MeshPlanner.

The software is suitable for planning not just permanent deployments, but also temporary mesh networks used in emergencies or limited-time events like concerts or festivals .

"Certainly, anytime you're looking to set up a network and provide service to people, particularly for public safety or any form of mission-critical application, ad hoc or not, the more planning [put in], the better off you are," says Skidmore.

The ability of the new MeshPlanner to handle data input for mapping is upgraded from the Nortel version. Map importing covers almost anything, from CAD drawings to maps from Google, anything that would make it easier for a common base of users without any particular expertise in wireless networks or site surveys. The new version also does not require as much user activity to identify building obstructions and other obstacles that can impede a signal, while delivering the same amount of accuracy, according to Skidmore. Such upgrades will likely make their way into the Nortel version of the product as well, as Wireless Valley says it's committed to the partnership.

The price for the product is to be determined, and Skidmore didn't want to guess at a ballpark figure, other than to say the company is "trying to make it available to anyone looking to make a mesh... as many people as possible." The product should be ready by the end of October.

Comment and Contribute
(Maximum characters: 1200). You have
characters left.