Outdoor Strix Steals a Hotzone

Outdoor Strix Steals a Hotzone

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Written By Eric Sandler

By Eric Griffith

April 25, 2005

The commercial release of this new outdoor mesh equipment comes with the announcement that an Arizona wireless group is dumping its trial of popular Tropos hardware for the new multi-radio Strix units used by partner MobilePro.

Strix Systems announced its outdoor, multiple-radio “Wi-Fi cellular mesh” system in December last year, and as of this week the products are making their commercial debut with Strix channel distributors.

The company’s Access/One Network Outdoor Wireless System (OWS) comes in two models, the OWS 2400 and 3600. Both use hardened enclosures for outdoor deployments. Using multiple radios, the OWS units can create a backhaul mesh separate from the wireless connection to end user clients. The system currently uses Atheros chips.

With this announcements comes a major coup for the company, as it has become a partner with MobilePro of Bethesda, Md., to provide outdoor wireless services in Tempe, Ariz. —a city that had been trying out mesh equipment from competitor Tropos Networks.

The Wireless Access Zone (WAZ) Alliance, which has its fingers in hotzones including even the island of Maui in Hawaii through its WazTempe extension, “decided months ago to take out the competitive product and install ours,” says Doug Huemme, AVP of Marketing at Strix Systems. “They recognized the advantage of our approach over others.” That competitive edge, Strix says, is the multi-radio approach. (Strix isn’t alone in doing multiple radios in mesh equipment, as BelAir Systems also does it with their outdoor units.)

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Tropos vice president of marketing Bert Williams says, “We heard some stuff with the WAZ Alliance, we heard rumors that they went in a different direction in Tempe, but have no confirmation on that.” He went on to say that the competition at Strix and BelAir have picked “a really lousy frequency band for outdoor transmission,” referring to their use of the 5GHz band for mesh backhaul. Tropos uses the 2.4GHz band with their own Predictive Wireless Routing Protocol, which he says is the ‘secret sauce’ that gives Tropos equipment better performance.

The Tempe hotzone will cover 40 square miles, with service to 65,000 households and 1,100 businesses. The network will also be used by first responders and by the personnel of the Arizona State University at Tempe. Through the multiple radios, multiple network frequencies will be used, from 2.4 and 5 GHz for 11b/g and 11a, up to the 4.9GHz emergency band and, in the future, WiMax for long distance connections.

The contract with Tempe, approved by the city council, is good for five years, and will also encompass other partners like EarthLink, Limelight Networks, and Cox Communications for support and deployment.

While the “landing page” and access to the Arizona State Web pages will be free, the only area with full free unfettered access to the entire Internet will be the downtown merchant district. No word yet on the total cost for access to eventual subscribers.

MobilePro also has a deal from earlier this month (through its Neoreach wireless division) to provide a pilot hotzone in nearby Chandler, Ariz., near Phoenix, again using Strix equipment. This is part of WazChandler. The network will cover the indoors and outdoors of the downtown area.

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