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An example of Mesh Networks for Rural Broadband Access

Firetide and Sky Catcher Communications are to collaborate to bring Mesh networks to Rural North America.

Firetide's HotPort mesh networks will be used as the wireless infrastructure for its network services. In conjunction with a satellite-linked system, mesh networks have extended wireless access to untapped communities that have been unable to get service in the past. The mesh networks are used for voice, wireless video surveillance, and enterprise networking.

Sky Catcher's Dirt Road High Speed wireless broadband services enable rural towns, private communities, real estate developers, schools, colleges, and private enterprises to set up their own revenue generating operations that offer DSL class broadband and VoIP services.

The company's SkyVoice service provides full featured voice over IP solutions with options for conference bridges, remote management, and software to enable phone extension access to or from a computer.

Although it is fairly straightforward to bring service to a single location with a satellite link, distributing the connection to multiple buildings, streets, and homes from a single point is more of a challenge.

Wiring even a few buildings is expensive and time consuming, and conventional wireless requires clear lines-of-sight which aren't always available.

With a mesh network we eliminate all the wires and because it does not rely on line-of-sight for all connections, it can easily work around any obstacle.

Firetide mesh networks consists of small devices call mesh nodes that are placed at each location that needs a network connection. Upon power up, the mesh nodes automatically link to each other wirelessly to form a mesh network that spans the selected area.

Each node has multiple Ethernet ports for connecting network devices such as computers, voice over IP phone adapters, Wi-Fi access points, and network surveillance cameras to the mesh network.

The mesh supports standard Ethernet devices and allows them to operate wirelessly even if they were intended only for wired networks.

The Sky Catcher/Firetide solutions are available in unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums and the 4.9 GHz spectrum licensed by the FCC for public safety providers. These solutions are used primarily for permanent fixed wireless installations in rural areas.

Firetide's mesh products are also used by other systems integrators for mobile and portable networks. The State of Florida has deployed several mobile Firetide mesh/satellite systems to maintain communications for disaster stricken areas.

These systems operate on the 4.9 GHz public safety spectrum and also include microwave links that allow Firetide mesh networks to connect to satellite feeds from several miles away.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.