Motorola Competes with Low Cost Mesh

By Eric Griffith

June 19, 2006

Providing a total solution for metro Wi-Fi with new gear and planning software puts Motorola in direct rivalry with Tropos.

It has long been said by the makers of high-end, multi-radio mesh products that single-radio mesh products just can't compete. That may be the case when it comes to capacity and range, but not so with price, and that's why a company like Motorola is now offering a new lower-end product to compete with the success that's been had by Tropos Networks.

The new product is called HotZoneDuo. Inside, it has two Wi-Fi radios, one running 2.4GHz band for 802.11b/g, the other 5.8GHz 11a. The latter usually handles backhaul connections; that's more than Tropos can do with just a single 11g radio per node for both backhaul and client connections. The weather-protected unit is about the size of a cigar box, weighs about five pounds, and is designed to hang from a light pole. Pricing is not set yet, but is promised to be competitive.

"We took the core technology of the MotoMesh products, in particular the MeshConnex software routing and the MeshManager system, and put them in a compact, lightweight, cost-effective, high performance dual-radio Wi-Fi system," says Rick Rotondo, Director of Marketing in the Motorola Mesh Group. "This enables us to go into municipalities that want a straight Wi-Fi solution with low visual impact." The larger MotoMesh products have multiple radios, some for Wi-Fi and the others using the 4.9GHz band reserved for public safety.

One community is already beta testing HotZone Duo nodes, in Apopka, Florida, a suburb of Orlando with a population of 26,000. It won't go on sale to others until later in 2006.

Accompanying the HotZone Duo release is the software MeshPlanner, built on the bones of the network planning products of Wireless Valley, which Motorola bought in 2005. In fact, MeshPlanner was originally designed in partnership with Motorola competitor Nortel Networks. This current version is optimized for designing outdoor networks using the HotZone Duo boxes.

Motorola isn't the first company to break from the stance that multiple radio mesh nodes are what's needed, as BelAir Networks also announced similar products last summer.  

Tropos continues to generate headlines for its products as the mesh node of choice for EarthLink, the ISP reinventing itself as a metro Wi-Fi provider for big cities like New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco. In fact, Motorola is the reseller to EarthLink, as it is also the system integrator deploying the networks themselves. That includes using Motorola's proprietary long-distance wireless system called Canopy for backhaul.

HotZone Duo, Canopy and MeshPlanner all fall under the aegis of Motorola's MOTOwi4 brand, which also includes future mobile WiMax equipment.

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