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The Mesh Needs Standards

The development of an industry standard is critical to the success of the latest generation of wireless mesh networking, according to the results of Unstrung’s April poll: The Wireless Mesh.

After a false start in the late 90s, wireless mesh networking is on the comeback trail. Interest in the applications mesh networking can enable -- such as WiFi metro-zone hotspots, self-healing enterprise networks, and easy-install home networking -- has been rekindled as the popularity of related wireless technology like 802.11 has grown (see Gorillas in the Mesh and Wireless Mesh on the Comeback Trail).

To date, however, most wireless mesh systems from the likes of PacketHop, Strix Systems Inc., and Tropos Networks have been based on proprietary mesh routing protocols. In light of such differentiation, 43 percent of the 132 respondents argue that future growth of the wireless mesh networking market is dependent on “the development of standards from organizations such as the IEEE and IETF.”

Earlier this year Unstrung revealed that work on a new IEEE wireless mesh standard -- dubbed 802.11s -- is now underway. Initial voting on the standard is tipped to begin in July this year, with a first draft expected in March 2006 (see 802.11 Meshes Up).

Fifty-eight percent of respondents believe that the eventual emergence of 802.11s, expected to be ratified in early 2008, will be “critical to market development and standardization.”

On the issue of which vendors are likely to dominate the mesh market, it appears there will be room for startups that have made an early move into the sector as well as big hairy vendors like Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT). (See Moto Moves on Mesh.) “Spread the love,” say 31 percent of the respondents.

Meanwhile “metro mesh” deployments are deemed the greatest driver of wireless mesh networking. Thirty-five percent of respondents claim that demand for mesh technology in large urban areas such as towns and cities will fuel industry growth, followed by “mobile mesh” deployments (24 percent), “enterprise and campus” (22 percent), and “public safety” network rollouts (15 percent).

North America is forecast to be the dominant region for market growth, notching up 45 percent of the vote. Asia/Pacific is deemed the only other potential rival for top spot, winning 36 percent of votes.

Moving on, this month’s poll looks at the issue of unlicensed spectrum. There’s no doubt that unlicensed spectrum and 802.11 equipment is a powerful combination, but the fear is that with too many users competing for too little spectrum, it’s only a matter of time before wireless LAN becomes so congested and unreliable as to be unusable. Voice your opinion on the validity of such concerns, and how they should be tackled, by clicking here.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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