Intel Mesh "breakthrough" still not as good as Locustworld

by Guy Kewney | posted on 24 February 2003

It looks as if Intel has decided to ignore everything that has been done in linking wireless network nodes into a "mesh" - and has, nonetheless, impressed observers with its originality of research!

Guy Kewney

In theory a mesh can replace the need for cables - not just from the point where your phone line comes into the house, but actually replacing the phone line itself. It's a "parasitic" network, where each node in the network passes messages on to the next link in the chain, bridging areas where no other network is available.

In the UK, Locustworld has already launched a working, commercially available network node which uses standard WiFi, and which will link itself to any other Locustworld nodes that it can reach. At the Intel Developer Forum last week, Intel showed a prototype mesh which utterly failed to impress inventor Jon Anderson, who created the Locustworld software.

"It seems they've realised mesh networking is a good thing," commented Anderson drily, "but it sounds like they are at very early stages and they could have done everything they've advertised just by downloading the meshAP on a CD to a couple of laptops."

Intel got some gee-whiz coverage for its research project, but the demonstration at the IDF seems to have fallen short of features which are already in Locustworld.

"I know they're not using any of the LocustWorld stuff because that has compression and encryption between nodes and they say they don't have any of that working yet," observed Anderson today.

"There are considerable technical challenges in making it all work, so they've still got a long way to go. Hopefully if they're interested in meshing, they'll consider talking to me and I could then take the meshbox to the mass market!"

The latest Locustworld build lets users do "snazzy things" - like shape the bandwidth to different wireless users based on their login classes (which is handled at or a remote radius server) so people sharing a connection can be sure that they can limit how much bandwidth everyone else is using.

It can also do quality of service and prioritize things like VoIP for minimum latency. "It has a full captive portal and so is an out of the box meshing hotspot solution which can be set up however is required - either community or commercial model," Anderson said.

There is a community using it with considerable success down in Kingsbridge, in Devon. "I'm talking to just about every other community wireless project about how they can utilize the Meshbox," said Anderson.

Locustworld now has some WiFi "sharing-friendly" ISPs on board and they can supply variable ADSL connections which can have the bandwidth capacity moved up or down depending on how much is required for the downstream wireless sharers.

"All in all things are going very well, there is still much work to do and development is ongoing. The Meshbook should be on sale at Linitx next week," Anderson ended.