Motorola meshes with Wi-Fi

Motorola is making its first big push for the growing municipal high-speed wireless market since it acquired MeshNetworks late last year, with a product that covers a range of needs from residential broadband access to first responder communications.

The company's MotoMesh solution, which supports up to four separate radio networks from a single access point, is in beta tests now and should have its first production release in the second quarter of this year, company officials said.

MotoMesh is designed to address a problem that MeshNetworks officials noticed when they started to deploy their solutions several years ago, said Peter Stanforth, former chief technology officer of MeshNetworks and now vice president and director of technologies for mesh networking in Motorola's networking products group.

"We'd see different constituencies inside a city with different kinds of needs that couldn't be provided for with a single network," he said. "That was especially so with the kinds of regulations that mandated the use of certain frequencies, such as 4.9 GHz for public safety."

What MotoMesh does is tie together wireless access for all municipal needs -- such as the 4.9 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands for public safety and municipal employees, respectively, and residential devices using the 802.11 standard -- into a single network using a common backhaul, with the network itself allocating bandwidth as needed, Stanforth said.

Under normal circumstances, he explained, most bandwidth would be given over to residential and municipal needs. But when an emergency is declared then bandwidth is automatically prioritized on the 4.9 GHz channel.

This one-for-all approach should also help with municipalities' funding problems.

MeshNetworks officials "found that in many of the installations we did, the compelling reason for getting the network might have been for public safety reasons, but the bucket of cash available to fund it would come from the public works department," Stanforth said.

MotoMesh's pricing, which is being worked out, will reflect that, he said. Municipalities would buy the entire wireless infrastructure but, for example, pay for the license keys to turn on segments of the network at different times, as the funding becomes available.

"The whole process can be fairly complicated," Stanforth said. "Over the next few weeks we'll be engaging with [potential customers] to go through these pricing and technical issues."

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at brian@hullite.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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