Introduction to Mesh Networking

Policy Paper
Feb. 14, 2011

Hub & Spoke Wireless Networks vs. Mesh Wireless Networks

Most wireless networks, including cellular networks, utilize a "hub and spoke" architecture that is quite similar to the spokes on a bicycle wheel. In the network, users connect with other users via a centrally-located broadcast tower. This creates a very strong path dependency and makes the network extremely vulnerable to a single point of failure. These networks are also resource-intensive requiring a tower, specialized and expensive broadcasting equipment, and constant maintenance of the hub.

In contrast, a mesh wireless network offers the ability of users to connect directly to each other and facilitate a distributed network infrastructure that provides multiple paths for communication to the network and does not require centrally-located towers. They can bypass obstacles like buildings, hills, and trees by using different signal paths, have no single point of failure, and are easily expandable. With existing open source tools, a mesh network can be built with a diverse set of hardware from high end carrier class equipment, familiar off the shelf in home routers, existing computers and laptops, to common mobile devices. The result is a device-as-infrastructure network model inherently supporting peer-to-peer (mesh) communication while avoiding path dependencies and vendor lock-in.

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