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Motorola buy adds heat to mesh networking

A Motorola acquisition and an expected deal from Nortel show that the market for mobile ad hoc network equipment is hot.

Motorola said Tuesday that it will purchase MeshNetworks, which makes equipment for mobile broadband and position location networks. That deal and an expected announcement from Nortel Networks suggest that the mesh-networking market is on the rise.

Motorola rival Nortel said it plans to announce on Wednesday a large sale of mesh-networking equipment to a customer in China.

Mesh networks are ad hoc, decentralized networks. Creating wireless Internet access is cheaper with them because they use nodes that can communicate with each other to route traffic. Devices on such networks--Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, for instance--can communicate directly with one another instead of going through a main communications point such as a central hub. Decentralizing the network can cut deployment costs considerably.

"This space is heating up," Nortel Networks general manager Mark Whitton said.

Network equipment makers say a growing number of municipalities are using the equipment to make broadband available to residents. Universities are buying mesh network equipment to provide broadband, voice and video services to students.

Mesh networking equipment relies either on proprietary methods or Wi-Fi, a standard for devices that establishes wireless local-area networks for devices to connect, transmit and receive data within a range of 150 feet. MeshNetworks uses a wireless technique developed by the military known as quad division multiple access.

The deal is expected to close later this year. The combined company will take steps to add Wi-Fi and WiMax--radio technology in the works that promises high-speed Internet access with ranges of several miles--to the networking mix, Motorola Vice President Juergen Stark said.