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Cisco Aironet 1500

Metropolitan-scale wireless LANs are changing the landscape, bringing broad coverage and robust service to large urban settings and corporate or other campus environments, such as hospitals and educational institutions, without breaking the budget.

Cisco Systems joins the fray with its Aironet 1500 mesh wireless series, playing catch-up to mesh-only competitors such as Tropos Networks and BelAir Networks, while fending off new mesh offerings from fellow networking giants like Nortel Networks.

Mesh wireless providers take different tacks, some using single radio devices to ease deployment, while others use multiple radios to enhance performance and scalability. Cisco's new 1500 takes a dual-radio approach: 802.11a is used for higher-capacity transport, while 802.11g serves in the client-access role.

Cisco has a worthy offering, but questions remain about how successful mesh networks ultimately will be in the real world. Variables such as signs, awnings, tree plantings, tall vehicles driving by, competing networks and concrete canyons that conduct radio frequency signals in unpredictable ways can all take their toll on connections and performance.

Mesh wireless networks differ from conventional WLAN implementations in that many APs (access points) are deployed, but only a small number actually connect to the wired Ethernet network. Those APs that stand alone get to the wired nodes in the mesh through a radio "backhaul" service, and all nodes in the mesh dynamically sort out which radios talk with each other at a given time. In Cisco's 1500 series, this dynamic traffic routing is done with the proprietary AWPP (Adaptive Wireless Path Protocol).

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