Meraki Jacks Up the Price

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Meraki, which makes innovative, low cost ($50-$100) mesh networking hardware is now out of beta testing. But their new pricing comes at a significantly higher price. The low cost nodes have now been stripped of most of their features (FAQ).

This is causing a user revolt, reports WiFiNetNews. According to Meraki’s user forum; “If you burn anything else onto the Meraki such as CUWIN or OpenWRT you’ll get a nice wireless access point but it won’t have Mesh Node ability and can’t be used to relay connections from one to the next. They are only good for a single access point with no way to reasonably extend range’.

Meraki’s three editions now include:

  • Standard, for individuals and community organizations interested in setting up free networks. It comes in a $50 Mini and a $99 Outdoor Model.
  • Pro, for property owners and small operators who wish to use our billing suite, setup closed networks, or require enhanced support. It comes in a $149 Mini and a $199 Outdoor Model.
  • Carrier, for service providers interested in large-scale deployments that integrate Meraki into existing subscriber management systems. It adds a $100 per node license for advanced control and the ability to bill.

According to WiFiNetNews, the standard edition now doesn’t allow billing, user authentication, access control or a custom splash page. You’ll have to pay $100 more per node for most of features that previously came “free”. Meraki is pushing their Hosted Services.

Open source software like CUWIN, DD-WRT, OpenWRT, HyperWRTe, and Tomato Firmware can be flashed onto $50 Linksys and Buffalo access points without the advertising and revenue sharing requirments of Meraki. The Wifidog project is an open source captive portal solution, designed primarily for wireless community groups, but caters to various other business models as well.

The Vancouver BC Wireless Group hoped to establish a free WiFi network by installing Meraki WiFi units around town. The Meraki price hike could kill those plans and others like it., an independent DSL ISP in California (map), has launched the San Francisco WiFi Project, to deliver free Wi-Fi to San Francisco residents.

Customers can buy a $40 Wi-Fi starter kit that includes a Meraki Mini, a WiFi repeater, with Sonic’s DSL service (from $29/month).

Network users will see a Google ad bar at the top of the browser, explains GigaOM. In the future the ad revenues generated by this ad bar will be split between those who choose to opt and place a wireless router on their connection, and will be credited against their broadband bill.

ChilliSpot, an open source captive portal or wireless LAN access point controller, is used by Toronto’s free community network called Wireless Nomad.

NetEquality is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to providing free internet access for low-income communities. They provide planning, deployment resources and internet mesh products worldwide and install free network hardware in qualified communities in the Pacific Northwest.

NetEquality has a free planning, installation, monitoring, alerting and mapping site designed for use with Meraki wireless mesh networks. Their Meraki Dashboard lets you make changes or updates, and view detailed usage data in real time, as well as diagnose network problems.

At a Portland PersonalTelco meeting this March, Michael Burmeister-Brown (left), co-founder NetEquality, explained how they use the $50 Meraki box to bring wireless Web access to low-income housing.

Michael Burmeister-Brown, who is a co-founder of Central Point Software and a key developer of Yahoo Messenger software, has worked closely with MIT’s RoofNet group and their commercial spin-off, Meraki.

NetEquality likes to bring in broadband to a low-income apartment complex via wired DSL. Then they use a $50 Meraki box to repeat the signal. One $40/month DSL line can be shared by a dozen or more aparments by relaying the broadband signal through 3-4 Meraki access points that mesh together using the RoofNet protocol.

NetEquality played a key role in developing Meraki’s backend management software, called Dashboard (above), which maps access points on Google Maps.

If coverage of low income areas is problematic, perhaps a WiMAX/WiFi solution could work.

Motorola’s CPEi 300 (above) is a $200 WiMAX client that will be compatible with Clearwire’s Mobile WiMAX service in Portland. A $50-$100/month WiMax backhaul might be shared by a dozen different residents, using $50 Meraki repeaters for less than $10/month (or free with ads).

Ubiquiti Networks recently introduced their PowerStation 2 (FAQ), which supports Open WRT. It can be used as an AP, Bridge, PMP Station, or Mesh networking client. The PowerStation2 is the world’s first platform designed for OpenWrt and it’s the world’s first open 802.11 product platform specifically tuned for outdoor wireless communities. Integrated with the 400 mW radio is an embedded hi-gain antenna based on Ubiquiti’s patent-pending Adaptive Antenna Polarity (AAP) technology.

An adaptive mode allows for the beam polarities to be switched dynamically on the fly for improved performance in heavy noise environments. In the case of PowerStation2 (2.4GHz), all of this is done utilizing a single, efficient 18dBi antenna with better than 25dB polarity isolation.

The Sunforce 50044 60 Watt Solar Charging Kit (above) includes a PVC mounting frame, 7 Amp charge controller, 175-watt inverter, and wiring/connection cables ($399).

One WiMax backhaul and one Wi-Fi Access Point per bus stop. Solar powered.

Portland’s Department of Urban Forestry and One Laptop Per Child provide interesting models for reducing the Digital Divide. For every tree the department removes, a similar amount of canopy must be restored elsewhere in the city. Same deal with free WiFi — for every access point delivering service in high income areas, a second might be required to supply low income areas.

Like ad-sponsored television, free ad-sponsored internet access might work better in low income areas. Bus shelters could provide the solar collector space while One Laptop could provide live cameras, bus mapping and local ad revenue at each bus stop.

“Equal access” should be the first priority of any municipal network. A node on every block. With no hidden backhaul expenses. Put ’em inside birdhouses.

Related DailyWireless articles include; FreeNet in Vancouver, One $400 Laptop: Buy 1, Give 1, Auto Diagonistics for MuniFi?, Copowi: Community Powered Internet, Open Source Convention, Openmoko Shipping Soon, Intel Joins One, $40 Netgear into Music Streamer, Solar Man, Solis Solar Powered Hotspots, Solar Powered WiMAX & WiFi, One Laptop + 5.8 GHz WiMAX, Personal Telco Finds Portland WiFi Coverage Lacking,

Posted by Sam Churchill on Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at 2:28 pm .

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