It's not that we're running out of mobile bandwidth. It's just that it's poorly distributed.
If you're in your home next to a Wi-Fi router, you might have a clean signal and access to a 12-megabit connection. Meanwhile, someone outside your door could have a smartphone that's struggling to hold onto a slow connection to a cellular tower a mile away. But mesh networking might make things better for everyone.
Mesh networks let devices share their connections with other users. If one user has a clean network connection and another nearby user does not, the second user can piggyback on the first's, automatically. If there's a collection of many people, their machines can all cooperate to make connections -- to each other and to the global Internet. In advanced mesh networks, connections and data can hop among devices, creating ad hoc bucket-brigade paths for communication.
The concept of mesh networking is not new. Many military systems rely on mesh networking, since forces in the field cannot rely on communications infrastructures. Utilities also use mesh networks for collecting data from equipment, like smart meters.
On this Reporters' Roundtable, I interview two innovators in mesh networking. They're both trying to bring this liberating (they say) and bandwidth-saving (ditto) technology to the masses.
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