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Tropos Does Chaska Cheap

Wireless LAN mesh network Tropos Networks says its metro-scale 802.11 network in Chaska, Minn., will go live next Wednesday. It claims that 1,500 of the town's 18,000 residents have already signed up to use the service.

Tropos is one of the growing number of startups working at the coalface of the wireless LAN mesh networking market. Others include BelAir Networks, Locust World, and MeshNetworks Inc. Until recently, mesh networking on a town- or city-wide basis had been seen as a very niche market.

But now larger companies like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) are getting in on the act, particularly because it appears that there may public money, especially homeland security funds, to spend on public wireless networks.

Tropos announced the Chaska deal late in May (see Tropos Unwires Chaska). Chaska.net, a wireless service provider operated by the city itself, has installed a network of roughly 200 Tropos access points to unwire the 16 square miles of the town over the last thirty days or so, according to Tropos's PR man, Brad Day.

Probably one of the reasons that Chaska residents have signed up for "pre-subscriptions" is because the service is very inexpensive. Chaska.net is giving away the wireless cards when people sign on for the service and charges $15.99 a month for broadband access.

Wireless mesh "is the least expensive way possible to provide community broadband," claims Day.

The installation process is farly simple, typically involving mounting the access points on street lamps, according to Day. "You just need a city worker with a bucket truck and a screwdriver."

Mesh networks also require less backhaul than standard WiFi or fixed wireless networks, because the radio networks in a node transmit data back and forth between each other, claims Day.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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