Can you build a mesh 802.11n backbone yet?

* 802.11n and mesh to soon – well, mesh

High-speed aggregate core networks built from a mesh of intercommunicating Draft 2.0 802.11n nodes could alleviate having to cable every wireless LAN access point to an Ethernet switch.

Such an approach could conserve significant resources as Wi-Fi deployments grow. And 802.11n mesh APs could be deployed in small enough numbers so that eventual upgrades to final standards in a year or so, if needed, would not be overwhelming.

This potential application of the technology begs the question: Where can you get Draft 2.0 802.11n products that also support mesh?

Perhaps the first available such animal will come from WLAN-maker Ruckus Wireless. A spokesman says Ruckus will ship an 802.11n Draft 2.0-compatible version of its ZoneFlex AP—a mesh-capable AP used with a Ruckus WLAN controller—in December. Ruckus has traditionally focused on high-quality, high-speed Wi-Fi consumer applications such as streaming media but branched out in May to embrace small and midsized enterprise wireless networking requirements with its business-class ZoneFlex line.

In addition, Colubris says it will ship its MAP-625 802.11n access point later this quarter and that it will support Colubris’s existing Local Mesh Protocol for backhaul applications.

A sampling of other 802.11n mesh plans in the industry:

* Aruba Wireless: All currently shipping Aruba APs support meshing. The company says its mesh product line will include 802.11n on or before first-quarter 2008.

* Cisco: A version of the enterprise market leader’s Draft 2.0-compatible Aironet 1250 802.11n access point that supports mesh “will be coming soon, by year-end or early next year,” according to a company spokesman.

* Firetide: Focused on radio-agnostic mesh networking for indoor and outdoor use, the company is “evaluating both 802.11n and WiMAX modules” for its systems, says Manish Chandra, product manager. He adds that, because of Firetide-proprietary technology, the company’s existing 802.11a and 802.11g products can achieve 70Mbps speeds from one AP to another (across a single hop) or sustained 35Mbps end-to-end speeds today. He indicated that these higher-than-average Wi-Fi speeds have tempered the need for 802.11n’s 100Mbps-and-up speeds among its customer base.

* Meru Networks: VP of strategic marketing Rachna Ahlawat says the company’s new AP-300 802.11a/b/g/n series AP will support mesh sometime during the first quarter of 2008.

* Motorola/Symbol: Will be beta testing Draft 2.0 802.11n in the first quarter of 2008. It plans to ship 802.11n mesh-capable products in the first half of 2008 in what Sujai Hajela, VP and GM of Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility business, describes as “adaptive WLANs,” which allow the AP to be part of a mesh-only or combination mesh-WLAN controller network.

* Trapeze Networks: Director of product marketing David Cohen says the company’s Draft 2.0 802.11n AP, integrated with its RingMaster network management and system features, “should all come together by the end of Q1” 2008. He says, “Our 802.11a/b/g AP already supports mesh network, and our .11n AP will also support mesh.”

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