Cisco Blesses Mesh

Cisco is set to unveil a line of outdoor mesh products aimed at reducing the deployment costs involved in setting up indoor and outdoor wireless networks, according to internal Cisco documents viewed by CRN.

“Every town we&'re talking to has some interest in it,” said Ethan Simmons, partner at NetTeks Technology Consultants, a Cisco solution provider in Boston.

Solution providers have been expecting a wireless mesh product from Cisco since its March acquisition of Airespace, which was already developing its own offering. Cisco joins vendors such as BelAir, Firetide, Nortel Networks and Tropos in targeting the wireless mesh market.

A Cisco spokesperson declined to comment.

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Solution providers said there is a growing opportunity in wireless mesh networking, particularly among cities, towns and customers in campus environments such as universities, warehouses and large office parks. In some cases, municipalities are looking to use their homeland security funds to roll out mesh networks that tie police, firefighters, public works and other agencies together with wireless communications, Simmons said.

Since all of the nodes in a wireless mesh network are connected to each other, the technology also can provide seamless mobility across the network and can improve reliability because there is no single point of failure, solution providers said.

“For large campuses, you can get higher data rates at relatively low price points,” said Pat Scheckel, Cisco practice director at Berbee Information Networks, a solution provider in Madison, Wis.

As first reported by CRN last week, the Cisco solution is based on its proprietary Adaptive Wireless Path Protocol, a mesh routing technology that enables the mesh access points to automatically connect and authenticate to the Cisco WLAN controller and establish the most efficient network backhaul link, according to the documents.

The Cisco mesh solution can be used in two ways: as a rooftop gateway and as an access point mounted on a streetlight or utility pole. The rooftop gateway uses 802.11a to link up to 32 Aironet 1500 lightweight mesh access points. The Aironet 1500 supports 2.4 GHz, 4.9GHz and 5GHz radios as well as 802.11b/g client access. Designed to withstand extreme temperatures, the Aironet 1500 can use AC/DC, power-over-Ethernet and also can tap into a streetlamp&'s power source, sources told CRN.

The Cisco Wireless Mesh solution is slated for general availability later this month. The Aironet 1500 costs $3,999. A kit with an Aironet 1500 access point and equipment for pole-top mounting will sell for $4,645, while an Aironet 1500 with a rooftop mounting kit will costs $4,815, according to the documents.