December 2, 2008 Meraki, a company whose aim is to ‘bring affordable Internet access to the next billion people’, is hoping their solar-powered Wi-Fi unit will do just that. The Meraki Solar is designed to provide wireless coverage over large outdoor areas with a minimum of fuss by removing the need to run power cables. Each unit is self-contained and ready to mount on roofs, poles, or anywhere the sun shines and is designed to provide 24/7 uptime in most locations worldwide by running on its own solar charged battery.

The stock 2dBi antenna can provide 802.11 b/g wireless access to an area of 500-1,000 ft, (150-350m), and can be increased to 0.5-5 miles, (1-8km), with high-gain antennas. The unit typically draws 2W and a maximum of 7W depending on the geographical location it is placed and users can choose from Meraki’s 20W or 40W solar panels or even bring their own. These solar panels and the solar panel mount kit for the unit are sold separately. The Meraki Solar is also integrated with Meraki Dashboard, which enables users to monitor and configure the unit remotely.

With a price of USD$749 for a bring-your-own-panel model and up to USD$1,499 for larger units, the initial setup costs aren’t cheap, but they do offer a cheaper alternative than running power to hard to reach places such as parks and rural areas. The Meraki Solar starts shipping early this month.