Networking giant Cisco Systems this week announced a dual-radio wireless mesh solution designed to help municipalities provide Wi-Fi broadband wireless services.

Cisco’s Wi-Fi mesh solution utilizes Cisco Aironet 1500 Series access points and technology acquired when the company bought Airespace for $450 million earlier this year, said Ben Gibson, Cisco’s director of wireless and mobility marketing.

Each access point in the Cisco mesh architecture includes two radios, one of which is used to communicate with client devices and one that communicates with other access points, Gibson said. Having a radio dedicated to delivering traffic between access points improves network performance and reduces latency, meaning a Cisco mesh network can perform as well with five to eight hops between access points as other mesh offerings do with three, he said.

That advantage means a Cisco mesh network offers greater design flexibility, which is enhanced by Cisco’s centralized management tools and security offerings, Gibson said. This combination should be more than enough to offset the fact that Cisco’s list price of $3995 per dual-radio access point is higher than competitors’ single-radio access point offerings.

“When you compare initial capex costs, certainly it would be less expensive to go with the single-radio approach,” Gibson said. “But, if you look at it over a five-year period—if you look at opex costs, making sure you have maximum network uptime, and you don’t have performance issues—the ongoing costs can dwarf the cost of initial acquisition.

“We feel that coming to market with a dual-radio approach will pay a lot of dividends to our customers and, over the long haul—when you add in the operational costs—will be far superior,” Gibson said.

Cisco has deployed the solution in Dayton, Ohio, and in Lebanon, Ore. The Dayton deployment is focused more on small-business connectivity, while the Lebanon network was created more to provide city services, Gibson said.

Cisco plans to unveil a 4.9 GHz mesh solution during the first quarter of 2006, Gibson said.