Mesh networking, a network topology in which each node cooperates to relay and
distribute data for the network, has been in use for a variety of networking
needs. Broadly, they are:
- Mesh networks for municipalities/smart city initiatives (Part 1)
- Mesh networks for military use (Part 2)
- Mesh networks for enterprise telecommunications (Part 3)
We’ll be exploring a few examples in which mesh networks have been utilized to fit the specific needs of different network systems, with a special focus on how mesh networks successfully brought value to existing WiFi infrastructures.
Part 2: Military
Widely deployed wireless mesh networks were originally developed for military applications.
Until just a few years ago, US Marines operating on the front lines in Afghanistan and other war zones still relied solely on line-of-sight radios and voice communications to receive important orders and information from rear-positioned operations centers, just like their predecessors did in the 20th century. The radios, though upgraded, still did not work well when obstructed at all.
As the Army sought better, more secure ways to communicate, large-scale mesh networks were deployed. Mesh technology lets soldiers communicate digitally, no matter how rugged or remote the terrain.
Perhaps the most notable example is CAISI.
Combat Service Support Automated Information Systems Interface (CAISI)
The CAISI network is the largest tactical wireless network in the U.S. Department of Defense, with over 40,000 wireless devices. At current capabilities, the solution provides both wireless network extensions between locations separated by distances of up to 32 miles, as well as Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN) access points for local personnel.
CAISI has allowed the US Army to provide high speed, high capacity communications capabilities to its logistics and sustainment personnel that provide support to combat soldiers and other forwards placed units. This changed the network system from a expensive, complicated, inefficient array of physical and digital communications with little clarity to a streamlined, secure system.
In the past, these teams were largely limited to voice and data communications set up in the state’s 71 armories, which act as forward operating bases during disasters. Once away from the armories and out at the incident site, personnel couldn’t communicate back to the joint operations center, so they had to go back to the armories, which slowed response times down and hampered situational awareness.
Now, however, the response teams can use satellite terminals and the CAISI network to connect back over satellite communications, giving them access to voice and data communications for the best and latest information available. The CAISI works in tandem with the National Guard’s Joint Incident Site Communications Capability package, which enables radio interoperability and extends both military and commercial networks into and around disaster sites.
A mesh network is a perfect fit for military operations because it doesn’t rely on the traditional hub-and-spoke networking model, with its need for a centralized router. Instead, mesh networks employ a relay system that lets each node act independently to capture and disseminate information and then forward it to other nodes.
Not only does a mesh network allow forward-operating units to project data and video communications into spaces with no networking infrastructure, but it can also be configured quickly and is considered more reliable because it can automatically bypass nodes that are operating sub-optimally in favor of the quickest, most robust pathway
Mesh networking technology has been developed to gain independence from static networks that are difficult or even impossible to scale. As the given examples show, mesh networks can be a successful alternative to traditional networks -- giving wider range and high security while adding other benefits like actionable data to optimize operations.
Anyfi networks offer much greater reach-ability. Instead of requiring additional hardware and installation, the Anyfi software leverages the latent bandwidth in each user device to spread internet connectivity. This requires far less cost and complication while achieving even greater coverage and connection.
Adding Anyfi to a military network system would allow for simple, instantaneous communications between individual soldiers without the need to purchase and install specialized hardware.