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Carrier WiFi

Moto Moves on Mesh

NEW ORLEANS -- CTIA Wireless 2005 -- Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) today unveiled its first 802.11 metro mesh product here in the Big Easy, a four-radio access point aimed at municipalities that want to run separate public and private networks over the air.

It's no big surprise that Moto should come out with a mesh offering. After all, the firm all but validated the entire quirky sector when it bought startup Mesh Networks in a deal rumored to be worth over $200 million (see Moto Gets Mesh).

But it appears that wireless LAN-based public safety may be just the start of Motorola's mesh ambitions. "They've asked us to look at meshing everything," says Rick Rotondo, a former Mesh Networks executive who is now a director of marketing at Motorola.

The firm's initial product is a metal box -- about the size of a picnic hamper -- designed to be installed on a lamp post or pole, with two 802.11 radios inside and two proprietary mesh-enabled architecture (MEA) radios inside. The idea is to use one of each type of radio for access, one for the mesh backhaul and to keep the two "channels" separate.

Rotondo thinks that the four-radio setup is what will give Motorola the edge over rivals like BelAir Networks Inc., Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Tropos Networks.

Moto's box can be configured to have two completely different radios -- for instance, public access over 802.11 on the 2.4Ghz bands and emergency workers using the MEA radios on the 4.9Ghz band (see FCC Opens Safety Floodgates).

Most other metro mesh systems use VLANs to separate services but run them across the same radio band. "We're keeping the public access and the mission critical separate... It doesn't take much to overwhelm a WiFi access point," says Rotondo.

Of course, a four-radio access point offers its own set of problems, most notably proximity interference effects from packing so many wireless transceivers into one smallish box.

But Rotondo claims that Motorola's RF software know-how came into play here. "We were able to leverage that and come out with a four-radio access point," he says, without ever exactly revealing what Moto has done to kill the interference.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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