Building a Wireless Mesh Network

Intro

Wireless mesh network is a communication network made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology. Some may address it as wireless ad-hoc network, mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) or mesh-net. These networks are resilient due to its self-forming and self-healing characteristics.

I started building my own wireless mesh nodes using low-cost routers and open-source software back in year 2015.

A wireless mesh network typically comprise:

  1. Wireless clients;
  2. Wireless mesh nodes (i.e. wireless routers and/or wireless gateway).

Unlike a regular wireless network which wireless clients and access points connect in a hub-and-spoke fashion, the wireless mesh nodes (of a wireless mesh network) are interconnected and (often) have multiple paths between a source and destination.

Some uses of wireless mesh networks are:

  • Mobile ad-hoc communication in areas where telecommunication infrastructure are absent or lacking. For example, having a reliable means of communication during trekking;
  • Establishing a permanent (wireless) communication infrastructure in rural areas where laying fixed lines like fiber or copper are cost prohibitive.

 

Wireless Mesh Operating Modes

Infrastructure Mesh Network
Infrastructure Mesh Network

There are two main operating modes for wireless mesh network:

Model Infrastructure mesh network Client mesh network
TrafficPractically all the traffic is either forwarded to or from a gateway to Internet or an external network.The traffic flows between the devices or nodes within the same network.
ExampleAn example is having a wireless router at home providing Internet to your devices over wireless. Wireless mesh nodes can be scatted around the house to extend Internet coverage to areas where the main wireless router have problem reaching. As a result, wireless clients on the wireless mesh network will be able to connect to the Internet as long as they can connect to a wireless mesh node.Just imagine the trekking scenario where your friends walk in an a single file. In the case of using regular radios, there would be situations where the first guy have problem communicating with the last guy. If everyone is equipped with a mesh node, the message will be received by the last guy by relaying through the intermediate nodes.

The wireless mesh nodes (or equipment) are available commercially off the shelf but they can also be built using opensource software and hardware. And so I built my own wireless mesh network using opensource software and affordable hardware.

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