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RF Alert: Mesh Networking FAQ

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Mesh networking is a burgeoning force in the wireless networking world, although the technology doesn’t make many headlines on industry media platforms.

Mesh networking is making great inroads in the information networking world. But ask an information technology professional their opinion on mesh networking, pros and cons, chances are you'll get a wide range of responses.

Here's what you really need to know.

MORE: Best Computer Networking Certifications

What is mesh networking?

"A mesh network is based on 2.4-GHz two-way RF communication," explains Jeff Singer, product marketing director at Crestron Electronics in New York City. "With mesh networking, each device acts as a transmitter and a receiver, unlike other wireless platforms that have a single, dedicated gateway (or transmitter) which sends data to each device (or receiver)."

Traditional wireless networks are limited both in terms of range and number of devices due to this architecture. Each receiver must be within a certain range to communicate with the transmitter. As more devices are added, the network becomes slower due to the increased traffic. That said, mesh networks could offer a greater range because every device can communicate with every other device. As more devices are added, more communications paths are established, which can increase the speed and reliability of the wireless communication.

Why would organizations want or not want to use it?

Mesh networks are ideal for low data rates, such as control for lights, shades and thermostats, Singer adds. "RF technology does not support high data rates, such as for streaming media," he says. "While mesh networks are great for new construction, wireless is ideal for retrofit applications or environments where pulling wire is possible or cost effective."

Can it fulfill the promise of seamlessly connecting networks worldwide?

No, says Singer. "Mesh networks are designed for local communications," he explains. "Each device must be within a maximum distance of about 290 meters from each other, with a maximum of 240 devices per gateway (these specs may vary based on environment and installation). Mesh networking refers to control communication among simple devices and as nothing to do with IT, the internet or computers."

How reliable is mesh networking?

A mesh network is self-healing, says Nandhaan Verma, digital marketing executive at Matrid Technologies, in Chandigarh, India. "That is if one network breaks or one of the routers goes down, all the other routers will still keep functioning and provide you with internet access, which is very cool. You can repair the broken network at any other time without having to suffer the loss of your internet."

How fast is mesh networking?

"A mesh network is a little faster than other networks since all its nodes (routers) are programmed to find the shortest and most efficient possible path for the data to be passed from the source to the end point user," says Verma. "Also, since all the nodes in a mesh network are routers (i.e. they can both send and receive data), your network becomes more strong and amplified. If you've ever had that feeling, as you step away from your modem, that your Wi-Fi signal has become weaker and the internet grew slower, no worries. With a mesh network that won't happen and your internet works at a great speed irrespective of your distance."

What's the long-term outlook for mesh networking?

"We believe the potential is huge for mesh networking," says John Stachowiak, CEO of Unium, a Seattle-based telecommunications company. "With predictions of more than 2 billion IoT devices in the next few years, consumers and enterprises will see big drains on their Wi-Fi. As more things connect, it will be less effective. However, the solution is mesh networking software which will allow every connected device to improve the home Wi-Fi network rather than degrade its quality."

Mesh networking is a burgeoning force in the wireless networking world, although the technology doesn't make many headlines on industry media platforms.

That could change, and fast, as the word gets out on one of the technology industry's most innovative – and fastest growing – networking solutions.

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