Wi-Fi mesh provider Tropos is launching a system that will let users hook their indoor network to the outside world without an external receiver.
The system, launched on the same day that Cisco entered the Wi-Fi mesh world, leapfrogs Cisco's offering, says Tropos, by including access points (also known as "customer premises equipment" or CPE) that users can install indoors without the help of an engineer.
"Today, the link from the mesh to the CPE is pretty much a blind spot in metro-scale mesh networks," said Tropos spokesman Scott Green. The MetroFlex 2200 access points are made by Ruckus, and developed from using Ruckus' BeamFlex, a multi-antenna technology launched in September and designed to increase range and throughput.
"The basic premise of our MetroFlex 2200 is to allow metropolitan Wi-Fi providers to connect consumers to networks more reliably, with faster access speeds, using standard 802.11b/g technology," said Dave Logan, vice president of products at Ruckus. Wireless CPE present similar problems addressed by MediaFlex, Ruckus' current indoor products. "The problem was how to distribute a consistent reliable video stream round the house. Now the problem is how to improve receiver sensitivity to connect to distant Wi-Fi nodes and steer around other users' interference."
The user box will have one Ethernet port, and will blankets the home with a Wi-Fi network to provide connectivity in the house. It will also be manageable by the service provider: "Ruckus is building in hooks that will allow us to manage through the mesh to the CPE," said Green. "So, for example, we'll be able to analyse performance on all links in the network, including the mesh to CPE link."
Manageable CPE means network operators can respond better to customer calls, and may even be able to spot and fix problems before the user notices them, explained Green. "To the best of my knowledge, Cisco has no similar product in their portfolio."
"Our products, including our routing protocol, have been built from the ground up with covering metro areas in mind," said Green. "Products such as the Cisco product have an enterprise extension design point and therefore lack the ability to deliver sufficient capacity and to scale."
Despite this, Tropos and Ruckus welcomed Cisco's entry to the market: "The arrival of Cisco is very indicative that mesh is inning to hockey stick [ie, the graph is going upwards]," said Logan. "I know of a significant number of metro areas that are going to be implementing metro networks for their constituents."