Meraki Networks, a 15-employee start-up in Mountain View, Calif., has been field-testing Wi-Fi boxes that offer the prospect of providing an extremely inexpensive solution to the “last 10 yards” problem. It does so with a radical inversion: rather than starting from outside the house and trying to send signals in, Meraki starts from the inside and sends signals out, to the neighbors.
Some of those neighbors will also have Meraki boxes that serve as repeaters, relaying the signal still farther to more neighbors. The company equips its boxes with software that maintains a “mesh network,” which dynamically reroutes signals as boxes are added or unplugged, and as environmental conditions that affect network performance fluctuate moment to moment....
For NetEquality, Mr. Burmeister-Brown decided to try out the Meraki equipment in several neighborhoods. In the largest, consisting of about 400 apartments, five DSL lines were used to feed 100 Meraki boxes, which cover the complex with a ratio of one box to every four apartments. Each box both receives the signal and passes it along, albeit at diminished strength. For an initial investment of about $5,000, or $13 a household, the complex can offer Internet access whose operating costs work out to about $1 a household a month.
The bandwidth can match DSL service, but here it is throttled down a bit to deter bandwidth-hogging downloads. Nonetheless, Mr. Burmeister-Brown says everyone is able to enjoy Web browsing with what he describes as “really snappy response.” The sharing of signals among neighbors does not compromise privacy if standard Wi-Fi security protocols are switched on.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Interesting NYT article on a startup that's trying to bring cheap broadband to the masses through mesh networking.