Wireless Mesh Definition

Wireless mesh technology was developed for the US Defense Department. Basically, it was a way for tanks on the battle field to communicate with one another and a central system. Each tank was an access point (AP). An AP would talk to its nearest AP who would relay the messages to another close AP, passing messages up and down the line. The network was smart in that you could take out one tank and it would heal itself, finding the shortest way back to the central command center.

Today, wireless mesh has evolved. Most mesh technologies still use a single radio for sending the information up and down the network as well as connect with a customer device like a phone or internet connection. In practical terms, this limits the speed (bandwidth) of the network, and also means that the system can go no further than 3 hops before it needs to find a connection into the internet fiber backbone as a single radio system loses, on an average, about two thirds of its speed over three hops.

WiMax and cellular technology systems are based on the single cell tower system. Mesh uses small radios or access points which are much cheaper to deploy and which connect to each other with many possible routes, passing information up and down the system. To increase speed and range, mesh technologies now use multiple radios and frequencies, which allows them to create a much faster and larger network. Each radio can be dedicated to different functions, such as one for sending data up the network, one for sending data down the network and one for connecting to a customer device.

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John Mauldin's Weekly E-Newsletter, May 11, 2007

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