Wireless Mesh Networks (aka Mesh Wi-Fi) is one of the best things you can do for your struggling Wi-Fi connection - especially now that they're more affordable and easy to set up than ever. The idea of a wireless mesh network has been around for a while now, initially created for military use before being developed and implemented in areas where internet coverage was lacking or connectivity was poor. Then seeing much success with usage over massive areas such as cities, schools and businesses, networking hardware manufacturers have now developed and released smaller scale consumer versions for the home.
There are many benefits of using a wireless mesh networking system over a traditional wireless range extender, such as the vastly superior performance and reliability. With a mesh wireless network, it’s possible to have multiple wireless access points around the home providing a consistent blanket Wi-Fi signal in every room and without the need to manually switch between access points.
What exactly is Mesh Wi-Fi?
A wireless mesh network (WMN) is a communications network consisting of multiple separate devices configured in a mesh-type structure. Each individual device maintains a connection with all other devices that are within its range. When transferring data across this type of network, data moves from one device to another using the most efficient and shortest path until it reaches its destination. By placing multiple mesh network devices throughout your home, you will be able to ensure that there is always a connection present for devices such as your mobile phone and laptop to connect to no matter where you are in the house. The mesh network essentially blankets a vast area with a wireless signal, but also, uses a single network ID thoughout rather than several different ones.
How does it compare to Wireless Range Extenders?
Traditional Wi-Fi range extenders help to extend the coverage of your wireless network, but there are some major disadvantages in using them. Firstly and most importantly, most Wi-Fi range extenders at peak performance effectively cut your signal bandwidth in half at minimum. The job of a wireless range extender is to re-transmit the signal it receives from your wireless router to a device such as your tablet that is further away. Due to using the same frequency to both receive and then send that signal on, the range extender can only use a maximum of 50% the bandwidth to receive the data and 50% to resend it. Also for every extra range extender that you use, you lose an additional 50% of your bandwidth. It is possible to buy wireless range extenders that use different frequency channels to receive and resend, but this is where it gets costly and inefficient.
Another downside to using traditional Wi-Fi range extenders is that each range extender by default has a separate network ID (SSID). Your wireless device will need to switch between the different wireless networks to get the best performance as you move around your home or office. This may cause problems using your wireless devices, from network dropouts to overall poor performance. Some wireless range extenders do offer the ability to use the same SSID as your router but this can cause added performance degradation as well as the likelihood that some of your wireless devices will not automatically switch from your router to your wireless range extender’s network anyway.
What does a Mesh Wi-Fi Network do better?
A Mesh Wireless network, on the other hand, deals with these problems. Using multiple frequency bands to maintain connections and carry network data to your mobile devices means there is no degradation of bandwidth. Some products are equipped with a dedicated third band just for communicating with other devices freeing up even more bandwidth.
Wireless mesh devices are set up to also share the same SSID. This means that your mobile wireless devices will always stay connected to your mesh network no matter where you move in your home. Moving away from one mesh device and closer to another as you change room now means that your mobile devices no longer need to disconnect and reconnect to a new network, providing 100% up-time.
The most defining feature of a mesh setup though, is its redundancy. By placing three or more mesh devices in your network within range of each other, you have assurance that if one mesh device fails your mobile devices will always still stay connected. If by chance one of your mesh devices fails, the other mesh devices around your home will pick up the slack to keep the wireless connection operational until the failed device is replaced.
All these benefits result in excellent performance and a 100% stable connection.
Different mesh devices have different maximum range specifications and most will blanket your home with a wireless connection easily only using a couple of devices. Where multiple mesh devices shine is if your home has thick walls, multiple floors and just general dark spots where a single wireless router refuses to send the signal. Or, rather than buying more mesh devices to place throughout your home, Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi systems are great at penetrating Wi-Fi signals through even thick concrete walls. More on this later in this article!
When it comes to buying MESH products you'll notice these are available in packs, each consisting of various numbers of devices usually ranging from 1-3 units in a kit. To make it easy, take a look at the images below for how these space out over a small, medium and large single level house. Once you're setup you can still add additional kits as needed.
Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi — The Ultimate System
If you're looking to take your Mesh Wi-Fi experience to another level, a Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi system will elevate the strength and performance of your Wi-Fi even further! In addition to a Wi-Fi mesh, Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi systems also use a Powerline network that routes your traffic over the existing electrical system in your house instead of dedicated Ethernet cables.
With both Mesh Wi-Fi and the Powerline network working together at full-speed, you can get connections up to 1,876mbps. A Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi system picks up where regular Mesh Wi-Fi may struggle. If the walls in your home are particularly thick for example (and made up of material such as concrete), you might find that Wi-Fi signals struggle to get through them. With a Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi systems, this will be an issue of the past.
The ZenWiFi XP4 Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi System - 2 Pack from ASUS is a great option, especially if you are looking to future-proof. Featuring WiFi 6 technology, the wireless transmission speeds of 1800Mbps, if you can find some, you'll be comfortably streaming 8K content. The ZenWiFi XP4 can also utilise powerline networking to backhaul data through thick concrete or metal reinforced walls. This mesh WiFi system will certainly get the job done.
Can getting a faster and more reliable internet connection really be that simple? It really can, and these days, it's pretty affordable too.
Check out the full range of MESH networking products available now, and we'll keep updating this article with the latest!