The company's new AP 7181 access point optimizes 802.11 Wi-Fi for outdoor applications with up to a quarter-mile range to make possible a wide variety of new SMB applications -- among other uses."A lot of small businesses can make business use of a private WLAN that goes outdoors," said Chip Yager, director of operations in Motorola's Mesh Networks Product Group. He cited marinas and small private airports that could use the system to connect its own devices, and also sell network access to boat and plane owners. Any business in a heavily touristed area could use it to offer Internet connectivity to passers-by. Construction companies could use the AP 7181 to support their workers' handheld communications devices without paying separate cellular connection costs. Other applications include mining and landfill sites, connecting fixed surveillance cameras, and remote control and monitoring of Wi-Fi devices. "You can't run wires everywhere," Yager pointed out.
I don't typically think of Wi-Fi, even 802.11n, as a wide area outdoor solution, but Yager explained that the AP 7181 packs 4 Watts of power -- compared to 250mW in a typical indoor 802.11 access point. In addition to more-sensitive reception technology, it also uses Motorola's ADvanced Element Panel Technology (ADEPT) antenna system that avoid the interference common with high-powered protruding antennas -- "It's not a porcupine," Yager said -- and generates more heat than would be acceptable in most indoor locations. The device could be used in large factory installations, however. And it may extend the life of enterprise and municipal Wi-Fi installations.
While the AP 7181 can cover distances of up to a quarter mile in "greenfield" situations with no obstacles or competing signals, for larger applications the AP 7181 supports Wi-Fi mesh networks that can extend the range as needed, including working seamlessly with the AP 7131 indoor access point. Motorola says its MeshConnex technology can even support connections from moving vehicles.
Of course, 802.11n bandwidth can get crowded, especially in urban areas. But becaus it uses unlicensed spectrum, "whoever brings the biggest guns wins," Yager said, "and these are some pretty big guns."
The AP 7181 is expected to ship in the fourth quater, with pricing beginning around $5,000.