Wireless Mesh Networks

In outdoor wireless networking, wireless mesh networks are the third topology after point-to-point and point-to-multipoint in order to build a wireless network infrastructure. Each device in a wireless mesh network is typically called a mesh node and is connected with multiple other mesh nodes at the same time. Wireless mesh networks are also multi hop networks because each mesh node can reach another node going through multiple hops and leveraging other nodes as repeaters. The major advantage of a wireless mesh networks is the intrinsic redundancy and, consequently, reliability because a mesh network is able to reroute traffic through multiple paths to cope with link failures, interference, power failures or network device failures.

Mesh Networks and Point to Point Wireless

Point-to-point, Point-to-Multipoint and Mesh Networks

Two types of wireless mesh networks are usually implemented for commercial and government applications:

  • Unstructured or omni-directional wireless mesh networks
  • Structured wireless mesh networks

In an unstructured wireless mesh network, each mesh node typically uses an omni-directional antenna and is able to communicate with all the other mesh nodes that are within the transmission range. Wireless links in an unstructured wireless mesh network are not planned and link availability is not always guaranteed. Depending on the density of the mesh network, there may be many different links available to other mesh nodes or none at all. Unstructured mesh networks are usually implemented with non-line of sight radios (NLOS) using low frequency and low bandwidth radios operating, for example, in the UHF bands, such as 400 MHz or in the license-free band at 900 MHz.  Unstructured wireless mesh networks leverage one single channel shared by all the radios. Therefore, the higher the number of hops a transmission requires, the lower the overall throughput of the network will be.

Structured wireless mesh networks are planned networks typically implemented using multiple radios at each node location and multiple directional antennas. A ring topology using multiple directional wireless links is commonly used in a structured wireless mesh network to enable each radio to seamlessly reroute traffic through different paths in the event of node or link failures. Structured wireless mesh networks can provide two or more alternative paths from each mesh node location and typically use high frequency radios and microwave links with directional antennas. The distance between nodes in a structured wireless mesh network can be up to tens of miles using long-range directional microwave links. Structured wireless mesh networks are often used for mission-critical applications such as wireless video surveillance, public safety, and industrial automation. They provide the ideal network architecture in case a site requires a highly reliable and available wireless network for a broadband application such as video, voice and data streaming. Each link in a structured wireless mesh network operates on an independent channel and, therefore, the number of hops for a specific transmission does not affect the overall throughput of the network.

Wireless mesh networks have been studied for many years in academia since the early ’90s, initially mainly with military applications in mind, and then they started to get significant commercial traction between 2005 and 2010.

Wireless Mesh Network

Wireless Mesh Network

There are multiple government and commercial applications for wireless mesh networks:

  • Temporary wireless mesh video surveillance: military and government organisations use wireless mesh networks frequently for rapid deployment of wireless video surveillance in war zones or during hostage situations.  Wireless mesh networks have also been used to provide temporary video surveillance to protect major sporting or political events.
  • Urban wireless video surveillance and public safety: law enforcement agencies have been using wireless mesh networks to create city-wide wireless network infrastructure and stream high resolution video across large cities without compromising reliability or needing to trench large portions of the city area. In the United States most mesh networks for public safety work on the 4.9 GHz public safety band.
  • Wireless Industrial Automation and Condition Monitoring: large industrial plants and oil & gas facilities have been using low-frequency unstructured mesh networks for condition monitoring and sensor data collection. At the same time, industrial automation has leveraged structured mesh networks operating at 5 GHz (5.4 GHz, 5.7 GHz and 5.8 GHz license-free bands) to high-throughput applications such as video and voice streaming.
  • Mining Automation: Mines have been pushing to constantly increase their efficiency leveraging automaton and technology. Large open pit mines have been using outdoor wireless mesh networks for video surveillance, truck automation and condition monitoring. Both low throughput and high throughput applications in mines often rely on a wireless mesh network due to the lack of any other telecom infrastructure.
  • Environmental monitoring and precision agriculture: farming is using increasingly more automation and technology to increase profitability. Farmers are adding sensors to their fields, tractors and vineyards to be able to act in a more precise and timely manner, spending less money and wasting less resources. Low frequency wireless mesh networks using sensor networks have been deployed frequently for environmental conditional monitoring both in vineyards and industrial crop farming. At the same time, high frequency wireless mesh networks in the 5 GHz band 5.4 GHz, 5.7 GHz and 5.8 GHz license-free bands) are getting more traction for tractor automation and precision agriculture as high resolutions cameras become a critical component in automating tractors and in collecting aerial images from drones.

Fluidmesh Networks manufactures multiple wireless mesh products and mesh networking capabilities are embedded in all our products. If you’re interested in wireless mesh products, we suggest you review the following wireless mesh products:

–       The Fluidmesh 1200 VOLO Ethernet Radio – is a mesh product that runs Fluidmesh proprietary MPLS mesh algorithm. It works in the license free 5.1 GHz, 5.3 GHz, 5.4 GHz, 5.6 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands and also in the 4.9 GHz public safety band. Multiple Fluidmesh 1200 VOLO Ethernet radios can be connected to each other creating a mesh cluster that provides multiple paths for each data and video stream.

–       The Fluidmesh 3200 Endo Ethernet Radio – is a mesh product that can be used with either directional antennas to create structured mesh networks or with omni-directional antennas to establish unstructured mesh networks. The Fluidmesh 3200 Endo is the ideal wireless mesh products for vessel connectivity in maritime applications, truck connectivity in mining automation, or other vehicle automation projects that require a reliable wireless mesh network with omnidirectional antennas.

Please do not hesitate to contact us in case you need any assistance designing your wireless mesh network or in selecting the optimal wireless mesh product for your project.