Optical/IP Networks

Li Takes Tropos Route

Tony Li, described by some in the industry as the telecom world's equivalent of a rock star, has joined mesh networking startup Tropos Networks Inc. to work on the firm's routing software, Unstrung has learned.

"Tony joined us about four weeks ago, and his title is software architect," Tropos spokesman Brad Day says. "It's obviously very exciting for us to have an IP routing expert of Tony's caliber on our team, and he's already making a solid impact for us."

Li most recently did a short stint with a stealthy startup called Portola, after leaving the firm where he started his career -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- for a second time. (See Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again.)

A Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) veteran as well, Li was hired by core-router startup Procket in 2000. Procket, however, was no rocket, and Cisco eventually bought the intellectual property and some engineers at the end of 2004.

Li's move into the world of mesh networking comes at a key time for startup Tropos. The firm has some heavy-hitting partners in the industry, supplying 802.11 equipment to both EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). (See Google & EarthLink Team Up.)

But there's plenty of debate in the industry about the best way to deploy metromesh systems. Most firms are moving towards a multi-radio system, with some transmitters handling the connections between nodes and others providing the wireless link to connect the user to the Internet.

Tropos has steadfastly stuck to its claim that a single radio that handles backhaul and front-end connectivity is technically viable, and also cheaper for cost-conscious municipal deployments of metromesh technology.

Developing this single-radio architecture further through improved routing software appears to be where Li fits in.

"As we've always said, smart routing is the only way to build scaleable, reliable, and high-capacity mesh networks... and the addition of Tony will allow us to further improve our industry-leading solution," says Tropos's Day.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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