Mesh networks, that is, a network in which each note is used to receive and transmit information so that the individual node does not have to be within distance of the network's AP, have been around for a while. They came onto the scene with much fanfare some four years ago, promising an uncomplicated way to address one of WiFi's major drawbacks -- its limited range. Problems with security and scalability, however, hobbled the technology, and its growth stalled. What did not help was the the third problem -- a lack of agreed-upon mesh technology standards, making consumers anxious about interoperability issues.
There is a renewed interest in the technology, which parallels the growing interest in implementing muni-WiFi networks. The first two issues have been addressed by improvements in the technology, and now the third issue is heading toward resolution. Members of the Wi-Mesh Alliance, among them Nortel, Philips, Thomson, InterDigital, and NextHop, have submitted a specification proposal to the IEEE 802.11 Task Group S, which is meeting in San Francisco.
The Alliance's proposal covers the MAC sublayer, the routing, the security, and high-layer interworking. Its authors say that it also offers an extended mesh discovery solution with dynamic autoconfiguration and integrated BSS and WLAN 802.11e QoS traffic handling. The proposal is compatible with 802.11i. The proposal will work with current WiFi standards and with the forthcoming 802.11n. Task Group S will be considering proposals, or partial proposals, from Intel, Texas Instruments, and NTT DoCoMo.