Broadband services

Strix Advances Mesh Architecture

As it continues to build out what looks to be the largest municipal wireless mesh network in North America, in Tempe, Ariz., Strix Systems Inc. today introduced a new mesh architecture that will allow its modular six-radio system to support any WiFi or WiMax standard in any configuration.

Strix's new "High Performance Modular Architecture" will also allow upgrades to next-generation technology, such as WiMax or the 4.9MHz public-safety frequency, onsite with no hardware replacements. The new chassis-based solution, says Strix vice president of marketing Nan Chen, represents the industry's largest-capacity radio, in a box that is 30 percent smaller than other Strix transmitters.

The Outdoor Wireless System (OWS) 2400-30, as the company calls its new product, "will dramatically enhance the suitability of wireless mesh networks for enterprises," says Chen, "because it will prioritize traffic from voice, to video, to data, and gives enterprises a clear path forward to true broadband wireless." (See Mesh Fit for a MAN's Job?)

In Tempe, network operator MobilePro Corp. is "back-filling" the network to erase dead spots and will have the entire city covered by summer, says MobilePro director of business development Karrie Rockwell. (See Indoor Trouble.) The network is also being expanded to the neighboring cities of Chandler and Gilbert, and by the end of this year will cover 187 square miles, the most expansive wireless mesh network in North America. The service is currently in use by Tempe city workers and by individual roaming users in the downtown area; it will be available to local businesses and residents on a retail basis this summer. (See Mesh & the Mayor.)

MobilePro is currently in the process of certifying a customer-premises equipment (CPE) device that will bring the wireless signal indoors, says Rockwell.

Dave Heck, deputy CIO for the city of Tempe, says the new equipment from Strix will provide a significant upgrade for the network in the near future.

"What they're touting, being able to move up to 4.9 [MHz] or to WiMax, seems like it makes sense," Heck points out. "You've got up to six slots in each of the housings, with room for six different radios, and we're only using three, so we could easily slap another card. This sounds like it has several advantages over the previous release -- mainly quicker network convergence."

Heck, however, has some questions about some of the claims in today's release from Strix: "I have reservations regarding the statement of reducing the number of [OWS] units needed to cover the same area. Power output is regulated by the FCC, and the current radios push that limit. How do you 'enhance' that?"

Nevertheless, the Tempe deployment -- in a city known for its outdoor lifestyle -- will provide a good first indicator in the coming months of the usefulness of wireless mesh networks for enterprises. (See Muni Mesh Mash Up.)

"The neat thing about this technology is it allows a real-time workforce for municipal workers as well as for businesses," says Rockwell, "whether you've got a salesforce in the field, you're tracking vehicles, or you're a real estate agent who can view MLS listings as they're posted."

"One of the things about Tempe is that it's such a neat place to work," adds Heck. "We've got a lot of outdoor venues, so in the downtown you can sit outdoors in the plaza or at a restaurant and get your work done. Or at least you can tell your boss that's what you're doing."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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