Centre for Internet & Society

Ravikiran Annaswamy tells us the definition of Mesh Networks, its importance, applications and the things to explore in future.

Imagine[1] a room full of people in a party spread around randomly. One of the people wants to pass information to another in the corner of the room. The traditional telecom networking way of passing information involves having a person at the center of the room acts as a switch and routes the information from sender to receiver.

Mesh networks provides a new way of organizing the network, every person in the room can speak independently to the person next to him and in turn the second person speaks to the next person till the information reaches the destination. The route for the information is optimized to get the shortest path.

Mesh Networks 1

Definition of Mesh Networks

Mesh networks are highly interconnected network of computers or communication devices. This concept is applicable in software systems, wired networks and wireless networks. These networks consist of nodes (like computers, routers, radio base stations and mobile phones) and are connected to each other to carry information across.

Mesh networking is organic — every node in the neighborhood contributes network resources and cooperates.[2]

By Definition, Mesh networks are a way of structuring peer nodes in such a way that each node acts as a switch or a router deciding how to forward the information they receive. These networks use every node to determine the path of the signal, hence its important for every node in the network to be live and healthy. This requires self-healing algorithms to dynamically identify new routes in the network. The concept of Self-organizing Networks (SON) is being implemented to achieve flexibility and scalability.

Importance of Mesh Networks

Traditionally telecom networks are hierarchically structured with centralized control systems. Mobility and increase in number of wireless devices needs a distributed architecture with intelligent nodes like in Mesh networks to manage bandwidth, optimally use spectrum and device power consumption.

IEEE 802.11s is a standard that defines how wireless devices can interconnect to create a mesh network. This covers both the static networks and the ad-hoc networks.

Applications of Mesh Networks

Mesh Networks are applied in various areas of telecom like:

  1. Optical Mesh Networks enable the transport networks with dynamic quality of service, bandwidth on demand and managing bandwidth with peer nodes and applying policies.
  2. Rural or Village communication systems work with wireless nodes in every village connected to each other and provide communication services without depending on the operator infrastructure.
  3. Wireless Ad-hoc networks are decentralized networks with no predefined structure.
  • Wireless mesh Network is a telecom network made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology.[3] This network is used in LTE radio, Metro-Wi-Fi networks and military communication applications in battlefield surveillance, tunnels and oil rigs.
  • Mobile Ad-hoc Networks (MANET) are mobile devices connected to each other without the need of a central infrastructure. Vehicular ad-hoc networks where vehicles communicate with fixed internet points on the road or between the vehicles themselves is an interesting application.

Next things to look for in future

Mesh networks are evolving in to real world scenarios where in sensors that monitor physical and environmental conditions are networked. These small low power wireless devices are connected through standardized ZigBee[4] protocol specifications.

The application of ZigBee is seen in Home automation, Health care, Remote controls and Smart energy meters.

[1].System Architecture for Wireless Meshes, Fairpoint Group White paper, April 2007, FPG 2007-127.1
[2].Self Organizing Wireless Mesh Networks, Microsoft Research, http://bit.ly/11Rmec
[3].Wireless Mesh Networks: http://bit.ly/hVKII0
[4].ZigBee Description: http://bit.ly/u8XNS


Metro-Wi-Fi: Wireless network built with Wi Fi components covering the entire city
MANET: Mobile Ad-hoc networks

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