Benefits and Challenges of Modern Mesh Networks

In the modern world, where wireless devices and the Internet of Things are the cornerstones of how people connect to each other, mesh networks have taken on new relevance since their inception in the 90s. Based on a collection of wireless nodes that can each communicate with neighbors to direct data, this type of architecture sees use in homes, businesses and even wireless community networks. However, modern technology brings more advanced obstacles to surmount, and many open problems persist on the subject of mesh networks.

The Promise of Mesh Networks

The traditional wireless LAN setup at home involves a central router that all devices connect to and send data through. A mesh network removes the centralized router in favor of multiple peer devices that collaborate to transmit signals between each other as nodes. These nodes can include both a series of static routers and any wireless mobile devices within the area, and each possesses the necessary algorithms to determine how best to transmit data via ‘hops’ between nodes. The intent is to minimize dead zones and the chance of broader network failure if a node goes offline.

Ongoing Issues in Mesh Networking

Any implementation of mesh networking has one crucial question to address: how to ensure that data reaches its destination on a decentralized network where nodes cannot see all of their peers? This problem scales in complexity when the network grows, especially with mobile nodes. Related to this are issues in making transmissions efficient given limitations in power and network bandwidth. Even with the 802.11 standards established by the IEEE, over 70 distinct protocols exist for routing across mesh networks, each taking different design philosophies and addressing particular kinds of mesh networks.

Because wireless mesh networks vary based on their structure, size, hardware and typical data traffic, no universally effective protocols exist. When trying to set up your own WLAN, your best bet is to consult an expert that can offer suggestions and solutions based on what your network looks like and what users need from it.