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Turning A Wireless LAN Into A Mesh

Last year, the Wi-Fi network built by the University of Georgia that covers downtown Athens, Georgia was very literally deteriorating.

The access points forming the network had been cobbled together by students who made up an interdisciplinary group at the university called the Mobile Media Consortium. The network was being used by the group to study applications delivered over a wireless network and usage by the community.

But Athens has very humid weather and the access points, designed by Cisco for indoor use, couldn't withstand the environment.

"I found that you can teach a music student how to solder antennas but caulking is beyond them," joked Scott Shamp, director of the New Media Institute at the university as well as director of the Mobile Media Consortium. He said that moisture leaking into the home-made access point enclosures was quickly rusting the contents.

This was just one of the problems the group faced in keeping the wireless network running. To the rescue: mesh networking. This technology has received the most attention for its use in large city-wide networks. However, smaller municipal networks such as the one in Athens, as well as enterprises and other large organizations, are increasingly turning to mesh to make sure that large, disparate areas are covered.

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