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PePWave links LANs to city Wi-Fi

Extending the reach of public wireless mesh nets

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Hong Kong-based Wi-Fi developer PePWave claims that its two new pieces of hardware will enable service providers to cover areas they couldn't cover before because of access control and cost issues.

The first is Mesh Connector - a Wi-Fi repeater system which extends the coverage of a public mesh but is cheaper than doing it with more mesh nodes, and the other is True Address Gateway (TAG), a device that works with the Mesh Connector and doesn't alter the client's MAC address, as most Wi-Fi repeaters do.

Mesh Connector works a bit like a DSL modem, connecting devices on the local LAN to the service provider network - in this case, that's the wireless mesh. The idea is it's cheaper than doing the job with another mesh node, plus its transmit power is 200mW to 400mW, meaning it can be further from the mesh than a normal 80mW or 100mW Wi-Fi PC client.

PePWave boss Alex Chan said Mesh Connector costs from $289 to $389 (£145-£195), compared to perhaps $2,000 or $4,000 (£1,000-£2,000) for a mesh node. It competes with Wi-Fi customer premises equipment (CPE) from companies such as EnGenius and Ruckus.

"Of course, the mesh node is more advanced in terms of mesh routing and self-healing capability," Chan said. "The Mesh Connector is not intended to replace the mesh node, but is a low cost way to extend the reach of a mesh."

As the Mesh Connector links an in-building network to the service provider's mesh, then if the mesh network requires authentication, the end-user device will still need to be authenticated. That's where the TAG comes in, passing the correct client address to the mesh network's authentication gateway.

"Mesh Connector is a Layer 2 device. It extends the coverage of the network," noted Chan. Combined with the TAG, it allows service providers to give additional coverage without sacrificing network performance or control, he said, adding that PePWave also offers a suite of admin tools designed to deploy, configure, and manage its wireless devices.

Chan added that the company also has a Layer 3 gateway, called PePWave Surf-AP. This is rather more like a home firewall/router, it authenticates with the mesh network once and then maintains an always-on connection for devices on the LAN, which do not need to authenticate to the mesh. ®

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