Optical/IP Networks

Mesh Casts Its Net

MeshNetworks Inc. is back!. Yeeaaaaaaagh!

It turns out that the startup -- which has been as silent as a fart in a yoga class for months now -- developed the mesh networking [ed. note: well, duh!] technology that is being used by Lockheed Martin Corp. and NextGen City to provide 57 square miles of wireless coverage for public safety personnel in Garland, Texas (see Lockheed Martin Picks NexGen).

The firm has also been busy on the standards side, according to Rick Rotondo, VP of technical marketing. It's working with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) to develop a mesh networking standard for 802.11. The work is being backed by such heavyweights as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) but is still in the study-group phase at the moment.

Rotondo is realistic about how long it may take for a specification to be developed by the IEEE. "In the best case scenario, it's two years off; in the worst case, it's four years off."

In the meantime, Mesh is using its own proprietary radio and software to power the NextGen City network. Rotondo notes that the network nodes have an open slot where an 802.11 radio could potentially be used in the future.

Rotondo says that Mesh Networks is planning to announce more metropolitan area wins soon. "We'll have three or more wins like this in the next 60 days," he crows.

Mesh networking -- you'll no doubt recall -- is the team sport of the wireless connectivity world. A mesh networking system passes data across a series of wireless nodes, and shares bandwidth among them rather than sending and receiving data from a central point.

The technology has been talked up as the next big thing in wireless for donkey's years with very little payoff (see Mesh Gathers Momentum and Commentary: Packet Relay Radio to the Rescue?. But now, finally, it looks as if it might actually take off.

As well as Mesh Networks, wireless LAN startups BelAir Networks and Tropos Networks are talking up metropolitan area networks using mesh technology (see WLANs Target Final Frontier).

Rotondo is trying to position his company as the big boy in the mesh networking crowd. He claims that the round of funding – which hasn't been publicly announced -- that his company has just closed will be its last and the firm is now bringing in steady revenues. "It was millions of dollars last year and we expect it to be substantially more this year," he says.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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