The economics and usage patterns of MuniFi have been a subject of debate for quite sometime, but it is hard to argue with the efforts of innovators to keep the dream alive with low-cost but smart solutions. Meraki, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company certainly is one such innovator – bundling its mesh WiFi solutions in ultra low cost devices. The company has announced a $99 outdoor repeater that can send signals between 400-to-700 feet.
The repeater can pick up signal from a $49 Meraki Mini, which can take the fixed line input and distribute it via a mesh of outdoor repeaters into a neighborhood. The outdoor repeater can be stuck on a wall or a pole and can be coupled with a solar kit (comprised of solar panel, battery pack and an outdoor Ethernet cable) that can eliminate the need to run powerlines to mesh networking devices.
Meraki claims with this low cost solution, the price to connect homes with high-speed wireless Internet access comes to between $1-to-$2 a month. This makes it particularly attractive in emerging economies, where power is at a premium, and running wires can be a bit of a chore. This solution can also come in handy for small communities in the developed world. The best use-case scenario for Meraki will be neighborhoods that can create their own smaller, Wi-Fi clouds.
Meraki, which raised over $5 million in venture capital from Google and Sequoia Capital, has been encouraging innovation around its hardware and software. Netequality, a Portland, Oregon-based not-for-profit organization is running a network using a special plug-n-play version of Meraki’s router. Meraki is currently operating a test network in San Francisco, and claims that it has networks deployed in 35 countries.