Stretching broadband with meshed WiFi
That's another fine mesh you've got me into...
Mesh radio networks are definitely back in fashion. British developer BPO Solutions claims its Meshhopper fixed-mesh routing software works with ordinary 802.11b wireless Ethernet kit to build "WLAN microsites" able to share a broadband connection.
The company says it has almost finished field-testing its mesh technology at a rural site in the UK, and is moving on to set up urban microsites.
The advantage of a mesh is that it uses individual self-configuring nodes, each of which can reroute data in a 360° sweep. So if a node disappears, or cannot get a direct radio link to the broadband access point because it's blocked or out of range, it doesn't matter - the network will figure out other ways to get traffic to where it needs to be, for example bouncing it off another node.
In the past, mesh networks have been proposed as a way of getting broadband to rural communities or businesses beyond the physical reach of ADSL or cable. However, those meshes used proprietary and expensive radio technology, and were aimed at the telco market.
The difference is that BPO is using cheap WiFi hardware, making meshes a realistic proposition for companies and communities alike. It is far from alone, though - several others are developing related technology, including open source projects such as LocustWorld, and even Intel has expressed interest in the idea.
BPO is showing Meshhopper at this week's Wireless LAN Event in London. ®