The metropolitan mesh equipment vendor Tropos continues its juggernaut-like movement, releasing more ways to bind others into their fold: The company's announcements today are about reaching out to other firms. They announced a software API (application programmer's interface) that allows third-party developers to extend their own software or management interfaces to work down to the level of Tropos equipment. The partner program provides these developers access, and the list of partners is quite extensive.
They also previewed three tools for providing better operator pre-build planning, operation, and monitoring: Insight, Drive, and SignalPro by EDX Wireless with Tropos modules.
Although the press release lists them in reverse order, let's start with SignalPro: the Tropos modules will allow metropolitan-scale radio frequency planning using topographical and other data. It's the software used for planning cellular and other wireless networks today.
Tropos Drive lets an operator test deployments by emulating different hardware clients and correlating that with GPS coordinates while driving. A neighborhood's effective coverage can be measured and changes can be made before end-users are involved.
Tropos Insight "identifies places where the network throughput and capacity can be improved by looking at the backhaul links, the intramesh links, and also the client performance," said vice president of marketing Ellen Kirk said.
The range of what Tropos expects to see its partners integrated is across the board with access, public safety, and government functions. "Everything from video surveillance, municipal automation, indoor equipment to feed the delivery of these solutions: it's not just about offering connectivity any more from Tropos," said Kirk.
The recent addition of Kirk to the Tropos management team reveals its direction: She comes from Qualcomm via SnapTrack, and was at AirTouch before that. Cellular industry know-how might come in handy in metro-scale networking.
The array of partners signing on to the Tropos program is extensive, but Ruckus made a, well, ruckus with their own press release today: they're producing the MetroFlex, a CPE (customer premises equipment) device using beam-forming technology designed for what will probably be a multi-million-unit per year business by 2007. This isn't the full on, multi-stream MIMO, but it is a range-extending technology.
EarthLink, for one, expects that its retail network partners in various cities will need to provide CPEs to customers so that the signal is strong enough within their homes and businesses. (This isn't new, although some anti-muni types have pretended it was. The CPE requirement means that 802.1X authentication can be pre-configured before being shipped to an end user; EarthLink will require this strong authentication for login and network encryption for its networks.)
Because EarthLink has apparently standardized on Tropos as their mesh and end-user connection equipment, the Ruckus CPE will likely be an early choice for the Internet service provider to recommend. With the Tropos API and partner program, a service provider will be able to monitor and respond to problems all the way to the customer edge in the CPE in their home, rather than ending at the access point.
Tropos's MetroMesh Solution Partners, as they term them, includes Motorola (Canopy will be the backhaul in EarthLink networks), a few smart meter firms, and a host of previously partnered OSS/clearinghouse companies that handle back-end user authentication, billing, and roaming, including Boingo Wireless, Airpath Wireless, and Pronto Networks. The list also includes NetMotion Wireless, a firm that uses client and server software to allow seamless transitions across any network medium for enterprise customers--and, I expect, government networks as well. They have a killer demo.