Light Reading

Secrets of the Mesh, Part III

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6/7/2006
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9:15 AM -- OK, now I understand where Tropos Networks Inc. is going. PePLink is there. And now so is Strix Systems Inc. , with a different philosophy on CPE.

What does “CPE” mean to you? It certainly stands for “customer premises equipment,” OK. But there are several possible forms of CPE, and therein lies a bit of residual confusion from my previous notes here. (See Secrets of the Mesh and Secrets of the Mesh, Part II.)

Tropos has proposed a specification for third-party CPE functionality. I finally did get a copy of the document without signing an NDA, and promptly discovered that “CPE” in this case refers to a new edge to the mesh, and not a user’s computer. PePLink is shipping a box that conforms to Tropos’s vision of what CPE should do for now. I phrase it this way because Tropos today sees CPE as a separate box, but will extend its model to include functionality on a client PC in the future. The PePLink Surf CPE product, by the way, handles such items as security and class of service, provides a wired Ethernet port, and, most importantly, can operate at significantly higher transmit power for those nasty fringe situations.

Strix Systems recently got into the CPE business as well with its own Edge Wireless System EWS 100 box, which performs a similar set of functions, but is sold by Strix and not a partner. Regardless of who builds the box, I must confess that I like the idea of being able to buy (well, rent) such a CPE product directly from the operator, as opposed to, say, having to get one at CompUSA. But cable modems are sold through retail channels, so either model could work.

I really like the CPE idea -- it’s a new edge to the mesh, and one that should enhance performance significantly. Ultimately, I see such a box as a combined router/repeater/AP that will become the standard technique for residential (and even enterprise in some cases) mesh access in the future.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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