Proxim Packs Wi-Fi and WiMAX Access in One Mesh Networking Box
The MeshMAX product makes it possible for many, even all of the nodes in a mesh network to have a backhaul connection to a base station and the Internet. Such an arrangement can boost the capacity of these networks dramatically because the client devices connecting to each node share a much larger broadband pipe to the Internet, claimed Proxim.
Typically, today's wireless mesh networks have nodes - access points-- that route data traffic among themselves over optimal paths and around failed or congested nodes. In addition, only a few nodes make a separate wired connection to the Internet, so mesh networks have to be planned, managed and calibrated carefully to minimise the number of hops from client device to Internet.
Some products, such as those from Wi-Fi mesh vendors including BelAir, Firetide and Tropos, will use 2.4GHz radios for client connections, and separate, dedicated 5GHz node-to-node communications. Some deployments can connect these nodes physically to a separate broadband wireless radio, including WiMAX, for the backhaul connection.
Proxim's MeshMAX product does the same thing, with one 802.11b/g radio in the 2.4GHz band and one 802.11a radio in the 5GHz band for Wi-Fi connectivity. These radios are based on the company's Orinoco mesh products, but MeshMAX adds a built-in, dedicated 802.16d, fixed, WiMAX subscriber-unit radio from Proxim's Tsunami fixed-wireless product line, which can make the backhaul connection directly to a WiMAX base station. Thus, client, mesh and backhaul connectivity are integrated into a single box. The WiMAX radio, based on an Intel chipset, works in the 3.3G to 3.6GHz licensed band or the 5.1G to 5.8GHz unlicensed band. MeshMAX also has a Layer2 Ethernet switch.
"It's cheaper to install [than two separate boxes], both capital and operating expenses are lower, and it's all managed by our network management software," said Pankaj Manglik, Proxim's president and COO.
Proxim's overall strategy isn't unique. Nearly every Wi-Fi mesh vendor has announced plans to add WiMAX radios in the future. Recently, NextWave Wireless , a supplier of WiMAX gear to carriers and operators, acquired Go Networks for its Wi-Fi mesh and radio beam-forming technologies. NextWave also plans to combine both types of radio into a single product. However, Proxim said it was the first to ship such a product.