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Moto Gets Mesh

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has announced plans to acquire erstwhile partner MeshNetworks Inc. as it gears up for increased competition in the public safety market and looks forward to other wireless mesh applications.

The firms aren't disclosing the terms and conditions of the deal, although a source tells Unstrung the deal could be worth over $200 million.

Motorola first inked a deal to distribute Mesh's proprietary system this August (see Motorola, MeshNetworks Team). "Once they got a look at what we really had... they wanted to be more than friends," claims Rick Rotondo, VP of technical marketing at Mesh.

For those of you not keeping score, Mesh networking is the team sport of the wireless world [ed note: like ice hockey, but with less broken noses]. A mesh system passes data across a series of wireless nodes, and shares bandwidth among them rather than sending and receiving data from a central point.

Mesh technology has been around for an age, but interest in the applications it can enable -- such as WiFi metro-zone hotspots, self-healing enterprise networks, and easy-install home networking -- has been rekindled in the last couple of years, as the popularity of related wireless technology such as 802.11 has grown (see Mesh Gathers Momentum and LAN Dressed as MAN).

Established vendors such as Moto and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), as well as a slew of startups such as BelAir Networks, Firetide Inc., and Tropos Networks are all looking to capitalize on this revitalized interest in mesh.

Moto and Mesh are expected by many to initially concentrate on the wireless public safety market. Motorola is already a market leader in this space, but an Federal Communications Commission (FCC) memo about radios in the 4.9GHz public safety band last week opens the way for much greater competition in this market (see FCC Opens Safety Floodgates). And even though MeshNetworks will be taken under the wing of Motorola's commercial, government, and industrial solutions (CGIS) unit, Rotondo claims the entire company is looking at applications for mesh technology.

"They see applications everywhere, from the digital home -- you know, UWB [ultrawide band] -- to public safety, roadside networks, and enterprise," reckons Rotondo.

The deal is expected to be finalized before the end of the year. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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