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Cisco Plots Mesh

(Nasdaq: CSCO) will launch its first wireless LAN mesh products next month, according to various industry and analyst sources.

As Unstrung reported back in April, Cisco has been plotting a mesh launch since it acquired wireless LAN switch startup Airespace for $450 million in December. The startup had originally been planning to launch a two-radio mesh box in March of this year.

"We heard that they [Cisco] were going to announce a mesh product, under development from the Airespace aquisition," says one industry source. "The original announcement date we heard was September 15th... Obviously [it] didn't happen then. We are confident, however, that they will be announcing something in the next month or so."

Other industry sources concur that the Airespace-derived boxes are on the way.

But exactly what Cisco does with its mesh products is what interests some WiFi watchers.

"Bob Friday of Metricom now works for Cisco [via the Airespace acquisition]. He did the Metricom architecture, the first metro-scale mesh. So I'm expecting something big," says one analyst, who wished to remain nameless.

Metricom developed the Ricochet network back in the very late 90s. At one point, Ricochet had around 50,000 subscribers, but it closed down in 2001. Several attempts to bounce back followed.

But the metro-mesh scene is very different from the one that Metricom pioneered. Instead of one company trying to build out a nationwide network with proprietary technology, there are multiple companies bidding to win contracts for citywide networks using 802.11 radio nodes and mesh routing software.

Cisco's rivals in this space will include Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and startups like Tropos Networks.

But for the moment at least, Cisco is keeping mum about its plans. "Stay tuned," says Alan Cohen, Cisco's director of wireless marketing.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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