Governments are keen to encourage the roll-out of broadband interactive multimedia
services to business and residential customers because they recognise the economic
benefits of e-commerce, information and entertainment. Digital cable networks
can provide a compelling combination of simultaneous services including broadcast
TV, VOD, fast Internet and telephony. Residential customers are likely to be increasingly
attracted to these bundles as the cost can be lower than for separate provision.
Cable networks have therefore been implemented or upgraded to digital in many
urban areas in the developed countries.
has been developed by telcos to allow on-demand delivery via copper pairs. A bundle
comparable to cable can be provided if ADSL is combined with PSTN telephony and
satellite or terrestrial broadcast TV services but incumbant telcos have been
slow to roll it out and 'unbundling' has not proved successful so far. Some telcos
have been accused of restricting ADSL performance and keeping prices high to protect
their existing business revenues. Prices have recently fallen but even now the
ADSL (and SDSL) offerings are primarily targeted at provision of fast (but contended)
Internet services for SME and SOHO customers. This slow progress (which is partly
due to the unfavourable economic climate) has also allowed cable companies to
significant proportion of customers in suburban and semi-rural areas will only
be able to have ADSL at lower rates because of the attenuation caused by the longer
copper drops. One solution is to take fibre out to street cabinets equipped for
VDSL but this is expensive, even where ducts are already available.
Network operators and service providers are increasingly beset by a wave of technologies
that could potentially close the gap between their fibre trunk networks and a
client base that is all too anxious for the industry to accelerate the rollout
of broadband. While the established vendors of copper-based DSL and fibre-based
cable are finding new business, many start-up operators, discouraged by the high
cost of entry into wired markets, have been looking to evolving wireless radio
and laser options.
relatively late entrant into this competitive mire is mesh radio, a technology
that has quietly emerged to become a potential holder of the title 'next big thing'.
Mesh Radio is a new approach to Broadband Fixed Wireless Access (BFWA) that avoids
the limitations of point to multi-point delivery. It could provide a cheaper '3rd
Way' to implement residential broadband that is also independent of any existing
network operator or service provider. Instead of connecting each subscriber individually
to a central provider, each is linked to several other subscribers nearby by low-power
radio transmitters; these in turn are connected to others, forming a network,
or mesh, of radio interconnections that at some point links back to the central
trace their history to a branch of finite mathematics called graph theory. A Mesh
is a very general form of network, not unlike the Internet. A wireless mesh is
a mesh network like any other, but the links between nodes are implemented with
a radio of some form. In a radio mesh network, each wireless device is capable
of acting as a router as well as an end station; it not only transmits and receives
data for itself but passes on data for others as well. As long as you are in range
of another device you have coverage. The more devices the better the coverage.
may involve either fixed
or mobile devices. The principle is similar to the way packets go around the Internet,
data will hop from one device to another until it reaches its destination. Dynamic
routing capabilities included in each device allow this to happen. To implement
such dynamic routing capabilities, each device needs to communicate its routing
information to every device it connects with, "almost in real time".
Each device determines what to do with the data it receives. Either pass on to
the next device or keep it. The algorithm used should ensure that the data takes
the "most appropriate route".
importantly, the number of possible links between a given node and any other is
potentially much greater than in a wired network, since the actual configuration
of a particular wireless mesh need not be determined until it is actually moving
data. Paths through the network can change from moment to moment in response to
varying traffic loads, radio conditions, or traffic prioritization. Wireless meshes
are thus among the most flexible network structures ever created, and these are
amazingly adaptable and applicable to many different missions, applications, and
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