Carl Weinschenk spoke with Milind Bhise, director of Product Marketing, Proxim Wireless. Earlier this month, the company introduced the MeshMAX line of devices that incorporate WiMax, Wi-Fi and mesh networking.
Weinschenk: Where are we in the integration of mesh and Wi-Fi?
Bhise: Not many major players have expertise in both because of how they evolved and how the players have chosen their strategies. Both mesh and Wi-Fi have been around for quite some time in various shapes and forms. Ricochet had a first mesh network in the mid-1990s in Silicon Valley through Metricom. It was a high flier on Wall Street at the time. It was the first outdoor Wi-Fi type of access network, outdoor Internet access. If you look at the underlying technology, it was mesh. In the past three or four years, the concept of mesh has gotten significantly more advanced. It has a lot of momentum. Today I believe mesh is close to critical mass, but it remains proprietary. If you are deploying access technology, you need to make sure it is high bandwidth and high availability. [Mesh provides this and] redundancy.
Weinschenk: Where is each in its development cycle?
Bhise: Wi-Fi access uses an open standard, while mesh internetworking is proprietary. IEEE 802.11 is working on a Wi-Fi standards draft, 802.11s. It will be some time until you see a standard, however. The heart of a mesh is a network that will self form and self heal. Mesh requires advanced IP networking capabilities in order to provide multiple security modes such as VLANs. If you are a municipality deploying network mesh, you can clearly charge differently for different VLANs and you can have different levels of security built in.
Weinschenk: What are the dynamics driving the mesh/Wi-Fi partnership?
Bhise: I think mesh has reached critical mass or close to that. I can tell you that there are a couple of major drivers. One, in my opinion, is the increasing number of Wi-Fi devices. The latest number I heard was 300 million-plus. That's a huge number. The second driver is municipal networks. Local governments want to deploy it by themselves or through service provider networks. That will help bridge the digital divide and offer blanket Wi-Fi service in the city. Advanced mesh networking will enable these networks to offer redundancy and enable SLAs to be offered.