Cisco is about to launch its first WLAN mesh solution next month. Airespace, which Cisco acquired for $450 million last December, had planned on bringing out a two-radio mesh product in March, so Cisco's mesh plans are not exactly a surprise. Hints--but only hints--about the product may be gleaned from the fact that Metricom's Bob Friday now works for Cisco. At Metricom he developed the first metro-scale mesh system. For our nostalgia buffs, Metricom was known for two things: It pioneered metro-wide networks with its Ricochet network back in the late 1990s (remember those radios on top of utility poles?), and it's known for running through a spectacular amount of investors' money in less than two years (it closed down in 2001, with 50,000 subscribers). There was an effort to revive it in San Diego by a company which bought Metricom's assets in bankruptcy court, but things did no go far.
Offering mesh networks to cities is more acceptable now than it was five years ago. But relying on proprietary technology, a la Metricom, is not the way to go (not that Cisco is going that way), as many companies now compete with each other to offer cities metro-wide networks based on 802.11.
For more on Cisco's mesh plans:
- read Dan Jones' Unstrung report