Ad-hoc networking is taking steps into the public safety market

Two mobile networking companies have announced partnerships with established wireless infrastructure companies to market ad-hoc networking to public safety agencies.

PacketHop Inc. of Belmont, Calif., and Nortel Networks Corp. of Brampton, Ontario, will co-market their mobile communications platforms, focusing on the $11 billion homeland security market.

Motorola Inc. will distribute the products of MeshNetworks Inc. of Maitland, Fla., to public safety and first responder agencies.

Mobile mesh networking lets mobile computing devices such as notebook PCs, handhelds and personal digital assistants communicate with each other over IP radio connections without going through servers or other infrastructure. Each client device becomes a mobile router, passing along packets to other devices within range.

These ad hoc networks become more robust and extend their reach as more devices are added. Networks can be created on the fly, letting personnel from different agencies share data and applications on the scene.

A number of cities are experimenting with extending their traditional networks into the field with mixtures of fixed and mobile meshed wireless networks.

PacketHop partnered with Nortel to gain a fixed infrastructure its mobile system can readily interface with. Nortel provides access equipment for wireless metropolitan area networks. PacketHop also is pursuing partnerships with manufacturers of mobile devices on which their software could be loaded.

PacketHop expects to announce availability of its as-yet-unnamed mobile mesh system in the first quarter of 2005.

The MeshNetworks Enabled Architecture product line will be offered as part of Motorola's advanced wireless broadband data portfolio for enterprises, utilities and public safety. Motorola has a large share of the public safety communications market, and the MeshNetworks offering will extend communications from traditional voice radio to mobile IP devices.

Most interest in mobile mesh networking so far has been from cities, where metropolitan area broadband access often is seen as a public utility and a public safety asset.

'Federal participation in local infrastructure is a critical part of what we have to offer, but most of the traction has been at the state and local level,' said PacketHop president Michael Howse.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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