Wireless Mesh Standard Coming

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Intel and Cisco Systems are poised to propose new standards to improve wireless

The two Silicon Valley-based companies said this week that they will
introduce an industry standard for wireless mesh networking during an
inaugural study group at the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers
(IEEE) meeting in Vancouver, Canada
next month.

Mesh is a network topology where devices are connected with many
redundant connections between network nodes. The Internet is a good example of
a mesh network. The architecture is now being used to help augment wireless
LANs based on cellular or 802.11 technologies.

The problem, however, is that not all mesh networking gear is alike. Some
are based on current wireless standards; others are proprietary or a mixture of the

“It’s all over the map,” said Wi-Fi Planet Managing Editor Eric Griffith.
“Nortel is playing with it and there are a lot of startups but if you put
all the mesh network boxes in a room and turn them on, they do not talk to
each other. Some use cellular some use 802.11a. Cellular is good for
mounting on telephone poles for longer reach. 802.11a is good for shorter
distances and is great because it won’t interfere with 802.11b or 802.11g

Engineers from Intel’s and Cisco’s R&D labs
said the goal is to avoid fragmentation in the marketplace.

Griffith said that if a specification is pursued it could be a standalone
version or a flavor of wireless standards based on 802.11a, similar to how
the Wi-Fi Alliance took parts of the wireless security 802.11i standard to form
Wireless Protected Access.

Firetide vice president Dan Skilken told internetnews.com a
standard is long overdue and said his company would be happy to participate in
the process.

“It’s not easy coming up with standards,” Skilken said. “We want to make sure
the standard provides things like self- healing and security. We want to
make sure it is kind with other access points and other protocols. We have
to be cognizant of the access point standards.”

Firetide is one of a handful of wireless mesh equipment makers that are
looking to extend the reach of hotspots . The Honolulu-based
startup won a “Best of Show” award at this week’s Wi-Fi Planet
Conference and Expo
. Other companies in this area include Strix Systems
and BelAir Networks.

“It’s interesting that Intel is involved with this,” Griffith said.
“Intel of course would want the standard to be addressed at the chip level.
I get the impression that they are making up for their past mistakes. They
were very late coming to the Wi-Fi party and now they are at the front of
the WiMAX standard and now this.”

Mesh Explained

In a true mesh topology every node has a connection to every other node
in the network. There are two types of mesh topologies: full mesh and
partial mesh.

Full mesh topology occurs when every node has a circuit connecting it to
every other node in a network. Full mesh is very expensive to implement but
yields the greatest amount of redundancy, so in the event that one of those
nodes fails, network traffic can be directed to any of the other nodes. Full
mesh is usually reserved for backbone networks.

Partial mesh topology is less expensive to implement and yields less
redundancy than full mesh topology. With partial mesh, some nodes are
organized in a full mesh scheme but others are only connected to one or two
in the network. Partial mesh topology is commonly found in peripheral
networks connected to a full meshed backbone.

The Wi-Fi Planet Conference and Expo is produced by Jupitermedia, and parent company of
this Web site.

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