Broadband services

Wireless Mesh Gets a Test

Light Reading and Unstrung are partnering with testing firm Iometrix Inc. to bring you the first comprehensive test of wireless mesh networking gear.

Though wireless mesh networking technology is already being widely deployed, and many industry observers expect it to be the primary infrastructure for many wireless broadband services including municipal networks, emergency broadcasting, and wide-area voice and data transmission, testing of this equipment has to date been both sparse and scattered. (See Muni Mesh Mash Up.)

Iometrix has launched the 802.11 Wireless Mesh Infrastructure Test, the first comprehensive testing of wireless mesh technology. Unstrung and Light Reading will act as the official media sponsors and publish the results.

The 802.11 test will measure six areas: node client-capacity, multi-hop throughput performance, fail-over and smooth roaming performance, call capacity and voice transmission quality, security performance, and multi-BSSID (Basic Service Set Identifier) isolation and security. Throughput performance -- the consistent speeds attained over the shared medium of a wireless network -- is a critical measure, for example, because mesh nodes must not only forward traffic to and from end users, but also backhaul traffic between nodes. Because large numbers of client connections tend to make wireless networks more vulnerable, the capacity of a system to maintain performance levels under different authentication and encryption protocols is also a critical factor.

"Wireless mesh is really taking off," says Iometrix president Robert Mandeville. "A lot of vendors are bringing out products, and some are taking up dominant positions in the marketplace. But mesh remains largely unknown to many people. One thing I want to achieve is to use the test in order to really put people's noses into what mesh technology is, how it works, and what it can do for them."

Mandeville says that Iometrix has built one of the most advanced test beds to ensure that tests are scientifically rigorous and produce completely replicable results. For example, the Azimuth Test Bed is shielded from radio-frequency signals -- which might seem paradoxical considering that wireless mesh networks operate by definition in unshielded environments. But the wireless networks need to be tested under pristine conditions.

"The people interested in using this technology in open-air spaces are hungry to know, when the systems are tested in a scientific way, what the results will be," explains Mandeville. "The problem with testing in an open-air environment is that you don’t know whether any failings are inherent to the system or to the environment."

All wireless networking firms are encouraged to submit their products to Iometrix for testing. The results and analysis of the 802.11 test will be published on Light Reading and on Unstrung following the completion of the testing. If you would like to apply to include your system in the testing, please contact Iometrix directly at [email protected].

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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