While trade shows like the recent Interop showcase the top WLAN vendors, a parallel universe exists complete with handles that sound like they would be at home in the League of Cage-Fighting Robots. Along with WiliGear, the Open-Mesh initiative has vendor partners that include Accton, Anaptyx, Engenius and Ubiquiti. Funky names aside, this group could be onto something.
My day job affords me the occasional opportunity to work on projects that benefit the under-served, and so I appreciate the Open-Mesh credo: "...to develop WiFi deployment models that are flexible and affordable enough to work in low-income and developing areas of the world, yet powerful and reliable enough to thrive in commercial applications." And when they say affordable, they're not kidding. Open-Mesh is all about community-owned Wi-Fi, but they are a world apart from the so many failed or ill-conceived metropolitan wireless deployments based on big-ticket WLAN hardware that have come and gone. "Open" is very much the prevailing theme, from open standards to open source to being open to any and all manufacturers who want to participate.
But back to the notion of affordability. With wireless mesh routers costing under $20 (basic) and $60 (professional), a free-hosted management dashboard in the cloud, and the ability to use whatever hardware you can make compatible, Open-Mesh is downright noble. Surprisingly, the framework actually has features: rate limiting, your choice of a variety of captive portal options, firewall capabilities and multiple SSID support. Time will tell whether little-known WiliGear and crew will make a viable go of it, but in the meantime, Open-Mesh is pretty cool.