Mesh networks can easily, effectively and wirelessly connect entire cities using inexpensive, existing technology. Traditional networks rely on a small number of wired access points or wireless hotspots to connect users. In a wireless mesh network, the network connection is spread out among dozens or even hundreds of wireless mesh nodes that “talk” to each other to share the network connection across a large area.
Mesh nodes are small radio transmitters that function in the same way as a wireless router. Nodes use the common WiFi standards known as 802.11a, b and g to communicate wirelessly with users, and, more importantly, with each other.
Nodes are programmed with software that tells them how to interact within the larger network. Information travels across the network from point A to point B by hopping wirelessly from one mesh node to the next. The nodes automatically choose the quickest and safest path in a process known as dynamic routing.
The biggest advantage of wireless mesh networks — as opposed to wired or fixed wireless networks — is that they are truly wireless. Most traditional “wireless” access points still need to be wired to the Internet to broadcast their signal. For large wireless networks, Ethernet cables need to be buried in ceilings and walls and throughout public areas.
Mesh networks, only one node needs to be physically wired to a network connection like a ADSL or Fiber Internet modem. That one wired node then shares its Internet connection wirelessly with all other nodes in its vicinity. Those nodes then share the connection wirelessly with the nodes closest to them. The more nodes, the further the connection spreads, creating a wireless “cloud of connectivity” that can serve a small office or a city of millions.