Tropos to help mesh net reliability

Tropos Networks has a new version of its wireless LAN mesh network software that contains changes intended to improve client connections.

The new software components, dubbed Adaptive Mesh Connectivity Engine (AMCE), let the outdoor Tropos MetroMesh nodes help a low-power client adapter link with the node best suited for it and choose an optimal data rate. Another change lets nodes more effectively shrug off local radio interference.

The changes were prompted by problems users had in Tropos-based metropolitan Wi-Fi networks, such as uneven connection speeds and difficulties in making or keeping connections, according to Ellen Kirk, vice-president of marketing for Tropos. Many of the problems are caused by the different ways client radios listen for, connect to and work with a mesh node.

One critical issue is the relatively weak power of client radios, which typically have a transmit power of 20 to 200 milliwatts. In contrast, the Tropos nodes, like those from such rivals as BelAir and Strix, have a range of 4 watts. This means the client radios can hear the Tropos node easily, but the node may have a hard time hearing the client.

Tropos engineers wrote code that lets the MetroMesh radio change its transmission power and timing on a per-packet basis with each client radio. For example, if the signal from a client is faint, the mesh node “whispers” instead of “shouts” at it. The client is then freed to connect with a mesh node that can hear it easily.

Tropos says reliability also is improved, with new code that more efficiently filters out interference from other radio sources. The code is incorporated in the MetroMesh operating system, which runs on all the company’s mesh products.

The City of St. Cloud, Fla., is beta-testing the software. According to Jonathan Baltuch, president of MRI, a municipal marketing and branding company in Georgia that works with cities on municipal networks, the St. Cloud mesh has seen major improvements in user satisfaction and client reliability. He was unable to provide data that tied the improvements to the new Tropos code, however.

Tropos also announced it has added a set of reports to its Tropos Insight application that collect and sift information on individual client connections. The new reports can be used to identify weak connections, persistent low-throughput problems or bandwidth bottlenecks.

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