Firetide has produced new wireless mesh hardware and software to help create an Ethernet network that can handle data, voice and video.

The new HotPort 3000 indoor and outdoor mesh nodes will boost throughput by two-thirds (from 15-18Mbit/s to 25Mbit/s) and nearly triple the number of nodes in the network, the company claimed.

At the same time, users can create a mesh network with up to 50 nodes, which includes a mix of outdoor and indoor boxes. The largest network with the 1500 model had 18 nodes, according to Firetide executives. The larger network can cover a much wider area (although the exact coverage hinges on the radio frequency chosen, obstacles and other variables), support more users or both.

The Firetide nodes are essentially Ethernet switches that route traffic among themselves via radio signals. This eliminates the need to run Cat5 cable. Any of the devices normally found on a wired LAN such as video surveillance cameras, printers, laptops, wireless LAN access points and even servers, simply plug into the Firetide box via standard Ethernet ports. Traffic typically hops wirelessly through two or three nodes to one or more Firetide boxes that act as gateways to the wired Ethernet or Internet.

The HotPort 3103 indoor mesh node and the HotPort 3203 outdoor node incorporate a new CPU, an Intel XScale processor running at 530 MHz. The 3000 products also use Linux, rather than the FreeBSD Unix variant on the 1500 line. The 3103 has four 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet ports, and meets building-code requirements for deployment above drop ceilings.

The HotPort 3203 has an aluminum weatherproof enclosure, sun shield, two 10/100 Ethernet ports and two 6dBi omni-directional antennas. It can be fitted with a more sensitive 8dBi antenna. It supports IEEE 802.3af Power over Ethernet. Power options include a solar charger, and integrated battery for back-up power.

No change has been made in the dual-band radio chipset, from Atheros. Via software the 3000 nodes can be set to operate as either 2.4 GHz 802.11g (and 802.11b) or 5 GHz 802.11a radios.

Firetide made several changes in the systems software for the new products. The mesh software now can search for the nearest gateway node, finding the fastest route out of the mesh to the wired network. Also new is QoS, by using the Ethernet class-of-service framework to assign different priorities to different types of traffic.

A third addition is support for virtual LANs, which lets net administrators segregate traffic so users on a given VLAN see only the traffic on that VLAN. Administrators can create VLANs on the mesh, or extend VLAN assignments on the wired network over the mesh.

Both products ship at the end of March. The indoor 3103 costs $895, the same as the current model 1500 product introduced last November. The outdoor 3203 is $2,000.