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Google Invests in Indoor Mesh

Dan Jones
11/30/2006
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Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is working with early-stage startup Meraki Networks Inc. on indoor mesh technology, industry sources tell Unstrung.

Google's invested in Meraki as well. The search giant is said to have made a "relatively small" six-figure investment in the Mountain View, Calif., startup. "They're devloping an in-house CPE [customer premises equipment] type unit that can also mesh," an industry source tells Unstrung. Another source says that Google will test the box with businesses that are within its Mountain View WiFi mesh coverage area.

Indoor mesh capabilities have been the Achilles heel of many early mesh deployments, and users of the Google's WiFi testbed in Mountain View have been particularly vocal about coverage issues. (See WiFi Outlook Cloudy in Mountain View.) In part, this is a failure to manage user expectations, since WiFi was never meant to provide coverage indoors and out. It appears, however, that Google is working with Meraki to resolve this shortcoming.

Sources expect that the Meraki unit would be cheap at around $50. The startup already has the technology in place for this: The "Meraki Mini" is a small, indoor 802.11b/g access point designed for mesh networking. Each Mini covers a radius of 150 to 500 feet and is intended to enable "everyday people" to set up small mesh networks in their homes or apartment buildings, according to the Meraki Website. The Mini is in beta now and due to be available soon at "under $100."

Neither Google nor Meraki had returned calls as of press time.

Meraki was spun off from the RoofNet group at MIT "with the hopes of bringing free or low-cost Internet access to people around the world." The startup's expertise is in using multiple hops to improve coverage rather than incurring additional expense with more radios and antennas.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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