What is a mesh network?

In many real-world deployment scenarios for communications networks, particularly in industrial or smart city settings, a simple point-to-point connection does not offer the reliability or flexibility needed to support the wide variety of use cases that may be needed. In many modern network deployments, there will be less need for a centralised hub for communications and data management, as more and more intelligence is placed at the edge of the network. It therefore becomes crucial for these edge points to be connected both to each other and to the central office in more reliable ways, with a lower risk of losing connectivity or bandwidth. Mesh networks are an effective way of meeting that demand, as they allow for a more reliable, dynamic connection to be supported, with network topography automatically forming to create the most efficient route from point-to-point or end-to-end, ensuring that data and applications can be securely delivered and controlled across a wide range of environments.

What are mesh networks?

Mesh networks are made up of a series of interconnected nodes. These nodes are wireless radio devices that communicate with one another, creating an overlapping mesh that does not rely on a central hub. This allows for quick and efficient data routing.

Nodes are self-sufficient and self-managed, finding the fastest and most reliable paths using line-of-sight wireless communications to transfer data at faster rates. The more nodes there are, the further the connection spreads, creating a wireless web of connectivity that can serve large areas. This node technology makes mesh networks simple and easy to install as they can be set up on the outside of houses, on streetlamps, or on telephone poles. Nodes’ interference are issues reduced, and deployment costs lowered, all while maintaining high-performance, reliable broadband connections.

Mesh networking uses self-aligning beamforming technology that focuses wireless signals to a receiving device, combined with intelligent routing where various pathways branch to each connection point. Mesh networking also takes advantage of multiple ‘Points of Presence’ (PoP) connections to the core network, typically via connection to multiple high bandwidth fibre-based PoP nodes. By eliminating the need for a single point of connection this further improves the resilience of the network.

The same mesh network technology can also be used to connect 4G LTE / 5G NR small cells to the core network for use as a cost-effective backhaul connection mechanism. This is necessary as the amount of data we process will scale up over time, and so connectivity capabilities will need to keep up.

How mmWave technology can power mesh networks

Wireless mmWave networks can use mesh to create more reliable connections in the same way as other wireless networks. The unlicensed mmWave spectrum (57-71 GHz), however provides data rates of more than 3 Gbps per link under typical mesh deployment conditions with an ultra-low latency per link of less than 500 usec. With a maximum connection range exceeding 1km, multiple mmWave nodes can be connected to establish a wide area of coverage.

Using mesh topography for mmWave network deployment ensures that the coverage over an area can be maximised whilst the amount of equipment that needs to be deployed to offer a high quality, high performance service can be minimised. It also means that both indoor and outdoor networks can be built that offer extensive coverage even in environments where mmWave point-to-point connections would be difficult to achieve.

Ensuring that high bandwidth devices and applications are able to access and deliver required data in a variety of different environments, and whilst on the move, are crucial considerations for ensuring a consistent quality of service across an area. mmWave mesh is able to meet these challenges and reduces the need for detailed planning and support for individual connections that might otherwise be needed.

What are the key features of mmWave to enable this?

Wireless mmWave mesh networks offer many benefits for small- and large-scale deployments. Blu Wireless has been a driving force in transforming networks for smart city and transport applications by implementing our mmWave technology. Performance has been validated through several 5G testbeds notably the Liverpool 5G urban mesh network and the AutoAir 5G V2X for high-speed transport applications.

By exploiting electronically steered phased array antennas with dynamically controlled beamforming techniques our mmWave nodes can establish and maintain multiple wireless connections, either point-to-point or point-to multipoint, or a combination of both. Seamless node synchronisation to within a few nsec is achieved using IEEE 1588 precision timing protocol, which can be further augmented by GPS where available. Mesh networking for the connection of multiple moving vehicles is further enhanced with the Mobility Connection Management (MCM) technology for IP session management.

Mesh networks can meet the needs of a variety of applications, and thanks to the carrier-grade performance and high bandwidth of mmWave technology this can be extended to 5G use cases. If you’d like to discuss how mmWave mesh networking technology could power your application get in touch with us here.