Tropos to Support 4.9GHz

By Eric Griffith

February 27, 2007

New equipment coming later this year will give the mesh vendor another boost in snapping up municipal contracts.

Late in the summer of 2007, Tropos Networks plans to have three new products on the market supporting the 4.9GHz radio spectrum reserved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by public safety and EMS since 2002.

The new Tropos 9000 family of products will debut with three MetroMesh versions, one for outside mounting, and two mobile units that can mount in a vehicle like an ambulance or police cruiser, letting officers on the go create moving "hotspots" surrounding their vehicles.

"Think of the MetroMesh 9532 as our 5320 but with 4.9GHz rather than a 5GHz radio," says Bert Williams, vice president of marketing at Tropos. It has dual radios, one with 2.4GHz for use with 802.11b/g clients, and will support the new Spectrum and Application Based Routing Engine (SABRE) intelligent policy-based routing protocol Tropos just announced. "Running a high priority public safety application with a lower priority application, SABRE can push the higher importance to the 4.9 radio while 2.4 runs the lower priority," Williams says. "SABRE can roll the traffic from 4.9 to 2.4 if there's an issue with congestion, but the opposite wouldn't happen. The lower priority traffic wouldn't be allowed to ever interfere and get in the way of the 4.9 band."

The mobile routers come in two versions: the 9432, which is also a dual-radio 4.9/2.4GHz product running SABRE, and the 9431, with a single radio for 4.9 communication only.

"In normal circumstance," says Williams, "a laptop in a cruiser would be connected to the router via wired Ethernet." However, he says, with both mobile products, the officer can exit with the laptop and expect to still be able to connect via wireless, be it Wi-Fi on the 2.4 band or via the 4.9 band.

Why support Wi-Fi at all for such users when they have their own spectrum? "Under certain circumstances, 4.9 doesn’t propagate as well as 2.4GHz," says Williams. "To be able to actually do 4.9 to a laptop may require incredibly high node density."

The other issue is the dearth of 4.9GHz client cards available for laptops or handhelds today, while just about everything has Wi-Fi built in. "A lot of agencies want to take advantage of newer devices coming out in the form of handhelds and tablet computers that don't have a 4.9GHz option," says Williams.  

One of the few cards supporting both 4.9 and Wi-Fi is the Motorola WDE1000. Motorola makes its own mesh infrastructure equipment.

Tropos has been part of many answered requests for proposal (RFPs) by municipalities, and says 4.9GHz is coming up more and more. Williams says, "The market is what's driving this announcement right now, so we can get in the business of answering those RFPs... there's potentially a great market here."

The Tropos MetroMesh 9000 line will ship in the third quarter; no pricing has been set yet.



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