Whisky flask? No, it's a new type of Mesh box for WiFi networking

by Guy Kewney | posted on 22 September 2004

The hard part about doing a public mesh is finding the locations for the antenna. It has to be up high, to reach the next node. It also has to be close to the access point, because losses in the antenna cable are huge. Defacto Wireless has cracked it: make the Mesh box waterproof, and stick it up outside.

Guy Kewney

<1/> Two ways to configure iMesh

The problem with doing this is simple: providing power to the computer inside the AP. DeFacto has taken the obvious route of using the Ethernet cable which connects the box to its Internet feed, to provide power over Ethernet on the spare wires in the Ethernet cable.

The DeFacto box is called iMesh and is part of their "self-healing network" - based on LocustWorld mesh technology. The iMesh will be shipped in Europe by LocustWorld, for around £350, and by DeFacto in the US, where the company is a LocustWorld Qualified Service provider.

LocustWorld has posted an enthusiastic endorsement of the iMesh box: "It's certainly the smartest, neatest, cutest MeshBox that we have ever seen."

Marketing boss Richard Lander said: "Low power consumption is an important feature of the iMesh. In tests we have found that it will run for over 24 hours from a 14 amp-hour battery under full load, and for up to 48 hours on light load."

<1/> Pen gives scale of the stainless steel box

The iMesh, says LocustWorld, "has a very elegant construction. The stainless steel case is tightly sealed against the elements, with just two outlets, an N-type connector to attach the antenna, and an Ethernet cable. The antenna can be attached directly to the iMesh, eliminating the need for a connector cable and reducing signal losses. The Ethernet cable can be used to connect to local wired devices and also provides power to the machine using Power-over-Ethernet."

David Peterson from Texas-based Defacto Wireless says "We have already sold and shipped over 300 of these machines in the first month, and we have orders for many more. The iMesh is our most popular MeshBox yet. There is something about the simplicity and elegance of the machine that really works for our customers."

Also available is iMobile, allowing a kit to be mounted in a vehicle such as patrol car or mobile fleet, providing seamless handoff between nodes due to the inherent aspects of mesh.

"Normal WiFi cannot hand-off quickly enough at high physical speed (70mph) to maintain connections for multimedia and VPN," says Peterson, "but the redundant characteristics of mesh allows iMobile to hold open connections through multiple cells, even for Voice Over-IP."

Full data on the iMesh is available on the DeFacto web site, and a tech spec is downloadable here.

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