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Motorola buys into mesh networking

Motorola's plan to buy MeshNetworks not only heralds the arrival of enterprise mesh networking, but also its growing importance as a backhaul technology to support wireless LANs and ultra wideband.

Motorola Inc. has announced that it will acquire wireless networking startup MeshNetworks Inc. in a deal likely to bring wireless mesh architectures to a broader range of organizations.

Maitland, Fla.-based MeshNetworks sells wireless systems that allow access points to communicate with both client devices and with each other, so that data can be transmitted across multiple access points before entering the wired network.

It is an approach that makes it easier and less expensive to deploy large networks that cover campuses and even towns since it requires cable to be strung to fewer access points, said Rick Rotondo, vice president of technical marketing with MeshNetworks.

The company also offers a non-standard client radio that also can relay data to other clients, using the device as an access point. The devices create their own ad hoc client network that only becomes stronger as more devices log on, Rotondo said. Such ad hoc networks can be very useful in disaster scenarios when part of an infrastructure might be damaged and many users need the network at the same time.

"Motorola sees the value in what we can bring, and we are very excited to be working with Motorola," Rotondo said. "We'd never be able to scale the technology or have the market access that Motorola will enable us to have."

Motorola plans to apply mesh architectures to its public safety wireless technologies, along with its cellular, ultra wideband, automotive and transit-based systems, said Juergen Stark, corporate vice president with Motorola.

"This is a disruptive technology," he said.

Motorola is likely to apply some of MeshNetwork's architecture to multiple wireless technologies, said Craig Mathias, a principal with the Ashland, Mass.-based Farpoint Group.

"Mesh is an important architectural approach," Mathias said. "It minimizes the need for a wired backhaul whether you are building a metro-scale network, a wireless LAN or even an ultra wideband network."

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 MeshNetworks sells its systems to municipalities for their public safety systems, government agencies and transportation organizations. Mathias said that Motorola is strong in all three of those markets.

Motorola Ventures, the investment arm of Motorola, was an investor in MeshNetworks, which was founded in 2000. MeshNetworks also signed a distribution deal with Motorola in August 2004.

The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, and the acquisition will not be finalized until later this year. MeshNetworks, a privately held company, has not disclosed any revenue figures.

MeshNetworks will likely be absorbed into Motorola and will not operate as a separate unit, Rotondo said. He expects staff to grow as Motorola invests resources in the company.

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