HPE Aruba Networking Blogs

Wireless Has Left The Building

By Kevin Blackburn, Blog Contributor

Engineers commonly think of wireless networks as those that are positioned indoors. Warehouses, hospitals, and office buildings are the common places that engineers work to provide wireless access to end users. Now look at the world around us today.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a very real idea. People are constantly keeping connected while on the go with a wide range of devices, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or a computer. This new realm of wireless network planning has some extremely useful topologies and use models that engineers around the world are turning to and using.

Uses for Outdoor Wireless Networks

Common outdoor wireless networks can generally be summed up into two broad configurations. The first would include general, blanket wireless coverage configurations designed for end users. The other is “specialized” configurations such as point-to-point networks designed to function more like infrastructure. The more general outdoor mesh networks looking to just serve clients over a wide area are used in places such as metropolitan areas, school campuses or even outdoor sport stadiums.

Through the use of more rugged, outdoor antennas, engineers are able to project wireless signal over specific areas in a very intentional manner. With the advent of wireless mesh networking, every access point in these outdoor environments is no longer required to be connected to a building with a wired connection available. This is quite the contrast to providing wireless access outdoors with all wired access points and directional antennas. Heat maps will begin to show the better coverage for the end users when outdoor mesh environments are used.

The other common configuration is either point-to-point or point-to-multipoint topologies. This is a very useful way to connect multiple buildings that are all positioned nearby each other in a certain geographic location. The last case that I worked with a wireless network in this configuration involved extending network access from a large office building to a smaller office location across the street. This is a prime example of a way to extend the network where other designs like trenching a new fiber line may not be an option.

The reality of a lot of situations is that this new, wireless option to bring network connectivity to other locations is a prime candidate. Whether it's for reasons like cost or required permits, trenching a new line for an uplink isn't always a possibility. Outdoor wireless mesh networks configured as a point-to-point can provide a stable network solution when a wired connection is out of the question.

Regardless of which design, these outdoor mesh networks are becoming more widely used than ever, in a wide range of configurations.

Mesh Wireless from Aruba

Aruba’s mesh wireless capabilities are designed to extend wireless networks to new places where a hardwired connection might not normally be possible. When it comes to these networks using mesh access points, they can connect back to their wireless controller in one of two methods:

  • Direct connection to network, via hard line network connection. This is called a mesh portal.
  • Wirelessly, through communications with a mesh portal. These are called mesh points.

Direct network connections provide a method of connecting these access points just like you would any other indoor access point. The wireless mesh option though has many specialized uses. The most common use that I have encountered is point-to-point topologies to connect an outlying building near the main site. A single mesh portal can connect one (or multiple) mesh points to extend the network to additional buildings on a campus. Depending on how you position these mesh access points, the amount of coverage and the possibilities of where you could extend the network are endless.

For more information and details on MeshOS terminology and usage, I highly recommend the following video from Aruba:

Follow Kevin Blackburn on Twitter at @TheRoutingTable.