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The Mesh Pit

Taking wireless networks to the next level

The next step in wireless networking may be mesh networking. Also called multihop networking, it extends the range and strength of a network by using multiple access points. The more nodes you have interconnecting, the better. Each node acts as a router and can talk to other nodes instead of having them all talk back to a main base station. That's a boon for flexibility and reliability: If one node goes down or is too busy, the rest can reroute the traffic.

A sign of the interest in mesh networking is the number of startups getting involved, like Ember, MeshNetworks, PacketHop and Strix Systems. Mesh networking can be used to cover big areas, like MeshNetworks' coverage of 57 square miles in Garland, Texas, or older office buildings that give regular Wi-Fi setups fits. It can also extend networks without setting up new base stations.

Intel is throwing its weight behind mesh networking, working with Cisco Systems to create technology standards. One hiccup for widespread adoption is the lack of interoperability between the solutions on the market. Still, it shouldn't be long before the devices get to the local Radio Shack.

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This article was originally published in the May 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Mesh Pit.

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