Internet connectivity is a must-have at most places today, the popularity of mesh Wi-Fi networks has been on the rise. As people grow tired of internet signals with diminished bandwidth, clunky user interfaces, and difficult networking solutions that often require a professional, they are looking for reliable and affordable solutions for their work, studies, and recreational use. In this article, we go through your most pressing queries about the advantages, disadvantages, speed, and effectiveness of a mesh Wi-Fi network.
What is a Mesh-Network?
Mesh networks are intended to cover a large space with Wi-Fi by sharing the network across multiple devices in your required space. They are gaining traction as more workplaces and homes require a stable internet connection over a large area, which traditional routers simply cannot cover. This is single-handedly the most important reason why Mesh Wi-Fi is the best choice for a large-scale networking solution.
Mesh Wi-Fi (also known as Whole Home Wi-Fi) systems are home networking solutions that opt for a decentralised approach to the problem of local connectivity. Wireless mesh/sensor networks offer various unique features such as self-configuration, ease of installation, scalability, and self-healing. These features make them very attractive for deployment in various smart grid domains, such as Home Area Networks (HAN), Neighborhood Area Networks (NAN), and substation/plant-generation local area networks for real-time monitoring and control .
How Does Mesh Wi-Fi Work?
Mesh Wi-Fi relies on what we refer to as mesh nodes, which are different from Wi-Fi extenders. They function on the same Wi-Fi standards that we expect all of our internet devices to comply with, such as 802.11a, b, and g. But rather than simply repeating a signal, nodes are designed with software that helps them communicate with each other and the overall network. They can choose the safest and fastest route for your traffic to be delivered from one node to the next, which is known as Dynamic Routing.
Routing through this method is often what leads to confusion about ‘How does mesh Wi-Fi work?’. This mode of routing is one of the reasons why mesh Wi-Fi is considered the best choice for people who do not want to lose bandwidth. This is especially helpful for large networks, where you might still want to have a wired ethernet connection but do not necessarily have the extreme cable lengths necessary to make it happen. In such a scenario, you would be able to connect your ethernet cable to a node instead of your wireless modem. Even nodes that are far away from the router can still deliver very strong signals due to them being linked through a ‘daisy chain’ system. Through this chain system, even if one node fails, your network can still stay active and rely on the other nodes as a means of protection against network failure.
Advantages of Mesh Wi-Fi
- Better Coverage
Many of us are curious about the effectiveness of Mesh Wi-Fi and the internet speed you can achieve with mesh-routing solutions. With a mesh Wi-Fi network, you can get a strong and stable connection regardless of where you are within your home or workplace. Each satellite module, which we call node, relies on the connection of other nodes to provide you with high signal strength and connectivity speeds regardless of how big your space is. In homes, this means you will stay connected at your rooftop, balcony, or even your basement. Housing solutions that use mesh Wi-Fi can cover up to 7,000 sq. ft. or more, which is more than enough for most users.
- Minimising Dead Zones
Better coverage also means fewer dead zones around the house. Compared to Wi-Fi extenders that merely repeat signals and are prone to weak bandwidth across the home, mesh Wi-Fi signals are stronger and work better at transmitting signals through walls. This can be a deciding factor for you if you were curious about the effectiveness of Mesh Wi-Fi. If you are tired of losing signal strength to walls and concrete, this could be one of the reasons why Mesh Wi-Fi is the best choice of networking solution for you. However, if your walls are unusually thick, then you might still encounter decreased bandwidth.
- Smartphone Management
When it comes to going over the advantages of Mesh Wi-Fi networks, Mesh-router systems make it easy to manage your network as most of them are automated and provide you access to your most frequent controls from the comfort of a mobile app. This merit is a huge win compared to traditional routers as it saves you plenty of time ploughing through a browser dashboard trying to configure your new traditional router. Through the app, you can set up guest networks so that strangers don’t access your file servers, test the quality of your network at different points of the house, and even connect smart home devices through integrations such as Zigbee and more. You can prioritise bandwidth on select devices when you are streaming 4K content or having a PS5 Gaming session, while still making sure that your data remains safe and encrypted.
- Customized Size
Mesh Wi-Fi networks provide immense flexibility when it comes to choosing how widespread you would like your network to be. From one-packs that start at 1,500 sq. ft. to three-pack deco systems that can cover up to 7,000 sq. ft. and still offer network speed upwards of 3 Gigabit, there is a large variety of products that can cater to your specific needs. While this can be overkill for some apartments, it can also be the perfect solution if you are tired of using Wi-Fi extenders in your space.
- Easy Configuration
Most mesh routers allow you to configure and set them up with ease. After you have gone through the initial setup, you will be able to: change your network settings, see your coverage, see the currently active users on your network, check speeds, and apply parental controls through black lists or allotted time windows on any device of your choosing. This becomes easy with mobile applications that do the heavy lifting for you and have intuitive user interfaces for any changes that you may need. You will be guided on the optimal location to place your new nodes if you ever decide to expand.
- Less Connection Failure
Since Mesh Wi-Fi networks rely on a network of interconnected nodes, your network is less prone to failure if one of the individual nodes dies out. Through dynamic routing, your data will be passed through the nearest available node, ensuring that you stay connected, even during network difficulties that may arise. In the scenario where your main modem device fails, you will often immediately be notified through the app. These backup scenarios ensure the effectiveness of mesh Wi-Fi networks as we know them.
Disadvantages of a Mesh Network
Not all mesh Wi-Fi devices are built alike and a good mesh router kit will cost you upwards of $200, with additional nodes costing at least an additional $100 or $200. This can be a steep cost to cover, especially considering how you can find range extenders for as low as $20. However, if high bandwidth, ease of use, and strong signal strength are non-negotiable for you, then mesh Wi-Fi is worth the investment.
- Overly User Friendly
Simplicity is not always good and so is the case when it comes to using the interfaces that operate mesh Wi-Fi networks through mobile apps or the network portal. This emphasis on making features accessible to your average consumer isn’t great for power users who appreciate the tighter and more advanced controls over your network settings, even if it means using a dated and older user interface. This can especially be true when it comes to troubleshooting network errors such as a broken node or a modem, often leading you to rely on customer support to come in and fix the issue for you.
Mesh Network Ideal Applications
There are many different cases where a mesh network is used as it is the preferred networking method for large spaces. One example we see is in the educational sector, where the high bandwidth needs of students who have to download large files are catered to by using Wi-Fi mesh networks on campuses. This helps make educational institutions free from the effort of setting up long and arduous wiring in aged buildings while making the repairability of the network so much easier. Since networks are not just used for internet connections, some schools connect their entire security infrastructure to the network, where security camera feeds and file-sharing servers can easily be accessed by anyone connected to the network.
Another application of a mesh network we often see is that in healthcare. Hospital buildings are often scattered across a large area and are not built with the thought of network connections in mind. However, every single lab and the operating room benefits from an internet connection as a means of constant communication. Therefore, Wi-Fi mesh networks can seamlessly connect all the different corners and spaces in a hospital without the extensive wired infrastructure that is difficult to install and maintain. Healthcare workers need to constantly update information such as test results, medical history, and insurance details which can be difficult under weaker or unstable connections.
Moreover, mesh networks are also found in warehouses, where scanning equipment to count inventory through bar codes needs to be consistently in-sync across the warehouse or multiple warehouses. Mesh Wi-Fi networks are also a consideration for rugged terrain in developed countries, where coverage from your Internet Service Provider may not necessarily be readily available. One wired connection linked to a Wi-Fi mesh network would allow connectivity to these areas, thereby making the internet much more accessible to everyone.
Mesh Wi-Fi networks can be unnecessary for smaller housing spaces. However, 1-2 pack deco systems can cover up to 1,500-2,500 sq. ft. while larger packs can cover up to 7,000 sq. ft., which is more than enough for most residential consumers. After all, mesh Wi-Fi does not claim to increase your internet speed beyond what your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides you, it merely improves the coverage and signal strength across the area through which it is deployed.
The Bottom Line
If you have a large enough space, and the budget for it, mesh Wi-Fi networks are a game-changer for those who want to have the best internet experience across all their devices. When comparing the advantages and disadvantages of a mesh Wi-Fi network, the pros far outweigh the cons and this one-time investment will make your internet experience much faster and more seamless.