In its first offering leveraging its recent acquisition of MeshNetworks, Motorola has announced Motomesh, a wireless solution that provides four broadband wireless mesh networks in the 2.4 GHz and 4.9 GHz band in a single deployment.

Each Motomesh node supports four wireless networks: two in the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band and two in the 4.9 GHz band dedicated for public-safety use. The arrangement lets government entities such as municipalities address their general and public-safety wireless data needs in a single deployment, without impacting the integrity of the public-safety network, said Rick Rotondo, director of marketing for Motorola's mesh networking products group.

“You're really getting up to four broadband networks, but it's all in just one box with one network-management system,” he said.

And those characteristics provide tremendous network flexibility. The networks can be reconfigured quickly to address special needs, such as dedicating additional bandwidth to help first responders react to a large incident if necessary, Rotondo said.

Under normal circumstances, Motorola envisions a Motomesh deployment (see diagram) possibly supporting Motorola's proprietary MEA radios — devices that support ad hoc networking outside the Motomesh coverage area — and 802.11-standard-based radios on separate 4.9 GHz networks. On the 2.4 GHz side, one network could be used for public access, and the other could be dedicated to public works personnel, who often play a significant first-responder role in many large incidents.

“A lot of times, public works is needed to get power or water back on, and they need to coordinate that with the public-safety entity,” Rotondo said. “Legally, they use the 4.9 GHz band. But, since this is all bridged together, [public works] can communicate with public safety, even though they're using the 2.4 GHz band.”

Other than the legal restrictions associated with the 4.9 GHz band, the uses of a Motomesh network are virtually unlimited, Rotondo said. For instance, dedicating one of the networks strictly to backhaul could alleviate most latency concerns often associated with mesh networks, he said.

While such a setup would enable voice-over-IP (VoIP) applications to be used with greater quality, Rotondo said Motomesh should be viewed as a data solution, not a voice replacement.

“I'm not saying this is a replacement for cellular or public-safety voice,” Rotondo said. “It's not the most efficient way to do VoIP.”

Nor is it the most efficient way to create a wireless data mesh, said David Thompson, vice president of marketing for PacketHop, which offers a software-based solution that allows the creation of an ad hoc mesh with any radios based on the 802.11 standard.

Although supportive of the Motomesh multiradio concept to support the 2.4 GHz and 4.9 GHz bands, Thompson reiterated PacketHop's longstanding concern that Motorola's inclusion of the MEA radio in the solution requires customers to purchase Motorola equipment if they want to create an ad hoc mesh.

“Motorola basically continues to provide a proprietary, closed solution,” Thompson said. “If you want to do their version of [ad hoc] meshing on a mobile client, you have to buy their proprietary equipment. You want to avoid that situation, or you become locked into Motorola and single-sourced again.”

Peter Stanforth, vice president and director of technology for Motorola's mesh networking products group, acknowledged that MEA and 802.11-based radios cannot create an ad hoc mesh. However, he said they would be able to communicate if they were within range of an enhanced wireless router, where the IP information would be transferred from one radio to another.

“It doesn't have to be backhauled to some central server to make the hand-off,” Stanforth said.

Motorola officials offered no estimates about the cost of deploying Moto-mesh, but Stanforth said the solution will be noticeably cheaper than deploying four separate wireless broadband networks.

“If you include the cost of having someone climb a pole to install each network and the cost to manage all of them, your total costs will still be a lot lower [with the Motomesh solution],” he said.

Motomesh is designed to be particularly appealing to municipalities with limited budgets and a desire to provide wireless data solutions for public safety, other government employees and even residents within the community. Stanforth said Motomesh provides some much-needed budgetary flexibility to cash-strapped cities.

“If you talk to some of our city customers, it turned out that what they really wanted was a public-safety network, but it was their public works department that had money available to build a network,” Stanforth said. “This way, we can build the network for public works, and the public-safety group can pay us a license fee to turn on their network whenever they have the money — and no new deployment is necessary.”

The notion of governments providing consumer broadband services — something Motomesh could enable — has been a source of growing concern among commercial carriers, which dislike the notion of tax-supported entities being their direct competitors.

But Rotondo said some carriers already have expressed an interest in using a Moto-mesh deployment as a way to partner with government entities instead of battling with them.

“We had carriers that were interested in the possibility of deploying this and cutting a deal with the municipality in return for certain things, including free right-of-way,” Rotondo said. “This enables a lot of different business models.”

Unveiled last month at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association show in New Orleans, Motomesh also will be featured at IWCE in Las Vegas, Rotondo said. Currently in trials in Maitland, Fla. — the home of the former MeshNetworks — Motomesh is scheduled to be available during the second half of this year.