top of page

What is Mesh-Netting

During recent training classes in NC and AL we discussed an alternative to cell phone texting and communications via cell towers. I mentioned mesh-netting to folks but could offer minimal information on it because I was just learning about it. So, below you will find more information. From my basic understanding, as I briefed in class, a big difference is mesh-netting uses nodes vs a cell tower and digital platform. Enjoy.

A mesh network (or simply meshnet) is a local network topology in which the infrastructure nodes (i.e. bridges, switches and other infrastructure devices) connect directly, dynamically and non-hierarchically to as many other nodes as possible and cooperate with one another to efficiently route data from/to clients. This lack of dependency on one node allows for every node to participate in the relay of information. Mesh networks dynamically self-organize and self-configure, which can reduce installation overhead. The ability to self-configure enables dynamic distribution of workloads, particularly in the event that a few nodes should fail. This in turn contributes to fault-tolerance and reduced maintenance costs.

Mesh topology may be contrasted with conventional star/tree local network topologies in which the bridges/switches are directly linked to only a small subset of other bridges/switches, and the links between these infrastructure neighbors are hierarchical. While star-and-tree topologies are very well established, highly standardized and vendor-neutral, vendors of mesh network devices have not yet all agreed on common standards, and interoperability between devices from different vendors is not yet assured.

Basic Principles

Mesh networks can relay messages using either a flooding technique or a routing technique. With routing, the message is propagated along a path by hopping from node to node until it reaches its destination. To ensure that all its paths are available, the network must allow for continuous connections and must reconfigure itself around broken paths, using self-healing algorithms such as Shortest Path Bridging. Self-healing allows a routing-based network to operate when a node breaks down or when a connection becomes unreliable. As a result, the network is typically quite reliable, as there is often more than one path between a source and a destination in the network. Although mostly used in wireless situations, this concept can also apply to wired networks and to software interaction.

A mesh network whose nodes are all connected to each other is a fully connected network. Fully connected wired networks have the advantages of security and reliability: problems in a cable affect only the two nodes attached to it. However, in such networks, the number of cables, and therefore the cost, goes up rapidly as the number of nodes increases.

Development history

Wireless mesh radio networks were originally developed for military applications, such that every node could dynamically serve as a router for every other node. In that way, even in the event of a failure of some nodes, the remaining nodes could continue to communicate with each other, and, if necessary, to serve as uplinks for the other nodes.

Early wireless mesh network nodes had a single half-duplex radio that, at any one instant, could either transmit or receive, but not both at the same time. This was accompanied by the development of shared mesh networks. This was subsequently superseded by more complex radio hardware that could receive packets from an upstream node and transmit packets to a downstream node simultaneously (on a different frequency or a different CDMA channel). This allowed the development of switched mesh networks. As the size, cost, and power requirements of radios declined further, nodes could be cost-effectively equipped with multiple radios. This in turn permitted each radio to handle a different function, for instance one radio for client access, and another for backhaul services.

Work in this field has been aided by the use of game theory methods to analyze strategies for the allocation of resources and routing of packets.

SONNET: World's Most Advanced Off-Grid Mobile Mesh-Networking:

Send text messages, voice recordings, images, and GPS locations on your phone without cellular coverage, satellite, or Internet access.

Your phone is dependent on the mobile network, and they can't keep you connected when the mobile network is unavailable or unreliable, such as when you are:

• Exploring the backcountry: network is unavailable or very sparse coverage

• Traveling abroad: network unreliable or very expensive to use

• Attending crowded events: network slow and congested with too many users

• Encountering a natural disaster: network service disrupted or completely destroyed On the other hand, walkie-talkies work anywhere.

However, they are:

• Bulky and cumbersome: some walkie-talkies literally feel like bricks that you carry around

• Complex and unintuitive: A lot of tuning and setup require before you can use it

• Very low-quality audio only: no text, no images, just bad audio, which often leads to miscommunication

9 Things You Need To Know About Mesh Networks

Catch up on the latest developments.

Even though you might have heard more and more about it these past months, mesh network have actually been around for a while. It is not a temporary tech hype. They have considerable benefits that will bring us a step closer to a seamlessly connected world of people and things. But what is the technology behind the fancy words? This article addresses common questions about mesh networks. Most people often need to visualize the context to fully understand concepts that one has never heard of before. So to better explain what a mesh network topology is, this article will explain the bigger picture, backed up with visual diagrams.

The OSI Model — 7 Layers

To start with, we are talking about internet, networks and the connections between devices. It is thus important to introduce the OSI model which is a reference model for how systems communicate over a network. This process of communication can be divided into seven distinct groups of related functions. In a network, all devices, also called nodes, use those seven layers to communicate with each other. Each layer in the OSI model serves the layer above it, which in turn serves the one above itself. So for instance, when information is exchanged between nodes the process will work like this: a flow of data circulates down through the layers of the machine that sent the message, then it travels across the network and finally flows up through the layers of the recipient device. Why is this relevant to this article? In the context of mesh networks, this model is in use within the systems active on the network. Consequently, the most important layers to be discussed are the media layers, layer 3 and below, which are described later.

1. Topologies — Ring, Bus, Tree, Star and Mesh

Before looking at how the nodes operate with the OSI model, it is first important to define what a topology is and explain what a mesh network has to do with it. A topology refers to the virtual layout (but it does not have to be the physical layout) of the interconnected devices on a computer network. For example, computers on a high school network can be arranged in a circle in a classroom, but it is not a ring topology there. The different existing topologies are organized as follows: there is the bus, ring, tree, star, and mesh topologies. Naturally, these can also be combined to form hybrid topologies, but we are not going to address those in this article.

We want to understand what a mesh topology is and to explain, we will proceed with comparing it to today’s most used topology. That topology is the star, in which the devices are connected to a central access point (centralized network). In contrast, on a mesh network, nodes connect directly to each other (decentralized network). The two diagrams below illustrate these two examples.

Star and mesh topologies

So what does this imply? In the star topology, the central point has to handle all the traffic in the network. It also has to forward the info to the destinations on behalf of the sources. In contrast, on the mesh network topology, the nodes allow point-to-point or peer-to-peer (P2P) communication. This eliminates the need for a central entity. As you can imagine, these different layouts offer both advantages and disadvantages in the usage of the network. These are going to be discussed in detail later.

2. Mesh Networks

From topologies, let’s dig deeper and talk more specifically about mesh networks. To start with, a mesh refers to an interlaced structure. In networks, it refers to the many interconnection of nodes that can establish links to connect to others. Since all nodes are connected in a fluctuating web, devices can act as routers and forward traffic to others. This enables the content to hop between them until it reaches a destination.

3. Multi-transport vs. Single-transport Connectivity

Node with Bluetooth 5, Wifi and ZigBee radios.

Now that we have defined the larger context, let us take a closer look at the nodes themselves. We are referring here to layer 1 of the OSI model. Something that differs between mesh network providers is whether they support multi-transport or single-transport connectivity. In the former, this means that mesh networks can be implemented on several types of radios (Radio Access Technology RAT) simultaneously (ex: Bluetooth, WIFI, mobile carrier, etc…). In this case they are said to be multi-transport. These devices range from having solely access to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and phone carries as for instance today’s smart phones, all th