Wireless Mesh Networks: what are they and how do they work?

Infrastructure

بالعربية

Mesh grid |Dealna

 

Do you suffer in connecting to the Internet in your country? If your answer is yes, please complete reading this article where we are talking about a new technology, that has emerged and developed through the past years and could solve the problems of bad internet services in rural areas in Arab countries. Wireless Mesh Networks (WMN) can provide a way to connect you to the internet if you live in a rural area.

Whether your problem is the high prices of internet packages or that the Internet service providers do not cover your area, WMN will solve your problem. Using this technology, you will be able to connect to the internet without the need of a service provider. You will have an internet connection just by connecting your device to a community of people.

In the coming lines, we will discuss thoroughly what is this technology and how we can benefit from it in the Arab world.

What are Mesh Networks?

A Mesh network is a topology of networks where the network infrastructure is decentralized. That means all the nodes communicate directly with one or more peer nodes in the network without the need of a gateway or access point.

Thus, all the nodes participate to relay the data. The data is propagated along its path hopping from one node to another until it reaches its destination.

The network uses dynamic routing protocols to ensure the availability of paths and overcome the failure of any if its nodes. If one of the nodes fail or one of the paths is broken, the network reconfigures itself for best path availability.

There are 2 main types of mesh networks:

Wired Mesh Networks: it involves connecting all the nodes with cables, it would be very expensive and unpractical.

Wireless Mesh Networks: it is the focus of this article. All the nodes are connected wirelessly.

Our focus in the coming lines will be on Wireless Mesh Networks and its advantages.

Wireless Mesh Networks (WMNs) is a cheap and simple way to expand wireless communication where there is no control from a centralized service provider. It can provide rural areas with a resilient internet and phone connection.

 

Wireless Mesh Network |Dealna

 

The history of Wireless Mesh Networks

Wireless Mesh Networks (WMN) was firstly used by US department of Defense (DoD) for military use. They needed a network without an infrastructure to connect their computers in field operations. In 2004 in rural Catalonia in Spain, A wireless mesh network was created with reaching now about 30,000 nodes due to the lack of broadband internet.

A lot of manufacturers started to develop mesh routers that are used for Wireless Mesh Networks like Meraki & Open Mesh.

There are currently a lot of communities , institutions and projects that work in the development of the standards and protocols for the Wireless Mesh Networks Technology like MIT, WING Project , SolarMESH project and many other initiatives.

How it works

Network nodes are either mesh routers or mesh clients. Each node operates not only as a host but also as a router, relaying data on behalf of other nodes that may not be within direct wireless transmission range of their destinations. If a user finds a nearby node (user or a router), it hops through it – or possibly multiple nodes – to get to the destination.

A WMN is dynamically self-organized and self-configured, with the nodes in the network automatically establishing and maintaining mesh connectivity among themselves.

The WMN can use diverse routing protocols to maintain destinations for each node in the network. If any of the links is broken, the routing protocols recalculates the best path for every destination on the network.

All types of nodes must support WMN routing protocols to achieve the desired communication. The routing algorithm should always ensure that the data takes the most appropriate (shortest and fastest) route.

Wireless Mesh Network Components

Any wireless mesh network consists of 2 main types of nodes:

Client: which is host devices (Laptops, Computers, PDA, Mobile Phones, etc.) or any host device equipped with wireless interface.

Mesh Router: it is like the conventional wireless router but with the capability of supporting mesh networks. It can achieve same wireless coverage of conventional wireless routers using lower power transmission.

 

Mesh Router |Dealna

 

Advantages of Wireless Mesh Networks

Price: WMNs is considered a cheap choice for establishing networks. Any device with 802.11 network card can be a node in the network. WMN eliminates the need for an access point if 2 wireless devices need to communicate with each other, therefore it cuts down the budget by eliminating the cost associated with building, organizing, and maintaining a backhaul network.

Ease of Use and Simplicity: You just need an 802.11 b/g/n capable device and WMN software to establish a node in the network. Mesh routers are configured dynamically and simple to deploy.

Reliability: WMNs are characterized by stability and resilience. If one node fails, its neighbors find other routes to relay data.

Scalability: Capacity can be simply added to the network by adding more nodes.

Coverage: Nodes transmit data to its destination by simply forwarding it to the nearest peer. So, they simply act as repeaters. Wireless Mesh Networks can span large distances over rough terrains. It can be used to connect rural areas without the need of a centralized and complicated infrastructure.

Power: Since the node is only required to transmit data to its nearest peer, it doesn’t need much power as with the case of a normal network.

Also, the autonomous deployment of mesh routers can simplify the way of providing power to it. You can power the routers using Solar, Wind, or any form of renewable energy sources.

There are countless other advantages for this technology.

Disadvantages of Wireless Mesh Networks (WMNS)

Shared Medium: unlike wired networks, WMN cannot hold simultaneous connections at the same time.

Bandwidth: In ad-hoc networks, bandwidth available for you degrades at each hop. That means you will have a big issue when you try to relay a message that is some hops away.

Latency: As the number of hops increase, the latency becomes very big, you will face a disastrous performance if you try VOIP or Video calls.

The technology has many applications. It is undergoing continuous development. In the future, big part of your life will depend on WMNs. Especially if you are living in a rural area where there is no ability of deploying a conventional backhaul network.