What is a Wireless Mesh Network?

Richard Elstob By Richard Elstob - updated October 30th, 2023
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Do you experience lagging, internet weak spots, and dead zones around your home? A Wireless Mesh Network (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. After seeing much success with usage over massive areas such as cities, schools and businesses, networking hardware manufacturers have now developed and released consumer versions for the home.

There are many benefits of using a wireless mesh system over a traditional wireless range extender, such as the vastly superior performance and reliability. With a mesh 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. It's the best solution to strengthen and expand your coverage so that your entire home has access to strong, steady Wi-Fi.

What exactly is Mesh Wi-Fi?

Mesh Wi-Fi blankets your entire home with strong and steady Wi-Fi signals (Image from Huawei Q2 Pro Mesh Wi-Fi)
Mesh Wi-Fi blankets your entire home with strong and steady Wi-Fi signals.

A wireless mesh network (WMN) is a communications network consisting of multiple separate devices (called satellites or nodes) 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 network, data moves from one satellite to another using the most efficient and shortest path until it reaches its destination. By automatically selecting the shortest and most effective path for data transmission, it enhances reliability and coverage. As each satellite also serves as a hop point for others in the system, this ensures even the satellite farthest from the router will receive a strong Wi-Fi signal by communicating with other satellites, as opposed to relying on one-to-one communication with the main router.

Is it different from a wireless range extender?

Range extenders have been around for some time and have the same purpose of extending the range of Wi-Fi in your home. The key difference between the two is the way they work. One important thing to understand about Wi-Fi range extenders is that they usually decrease your internet speed. Here's why: An extender's job is to pick up your router's signal and rebroadcast it to reach further. Now, as it uses the same frequency channel to receive and retransmit data, it can't do both at the same time. So it alternates between the two tasks, impacting the speed. Adding more extenders can further reduce speed, as each one needs to do this signal relay. There are extenders that use different channels to avoid this issue, but they tend to be more expensive and could still be less efficient.

Another downside to using traditional Wi-Fi range extenders is that each extender by default has a separate network ID (SSID). This means that you’ll need to switch between different networks when moving between Wi-Fi zones. For example, if you’ve added a range extender to fix the weak spot in the office, you’ll need to switch networks as you move from your main zone – the bedroom – to the range extender zone – the office. This can be inconvenient, especially if you move around a lot. If you’re not careful, this could lead to frustrating scenarios such as downloads being interrupted or being dropped from a video call as your device switches networks. While some extenders allow you to use the same SSID as your router, it doesn't guarantee smoother performance and doesn't ensure that your devices will automatically switch from the router's network to the extender's when needed.

Mesh Wi-Fi vs. Range Extenders
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.

What are the benefits of Mesh Wi-Fi?

Unlike range extenders, mesh systems use multiple frequency bands to maintain connections and carry network data to your devices, meaning there is no degradation of bandwidth. Wireless mesh devices are set up to also share the same SSID meaning you always stay connected. These aren't the only benefits though. Other benefits include:

Smooth and Reliable Performance

Mesh Wi-Fi systems offer smooth and reliable performance for your internet. Since your mesh satellites piggyback on one another, it acts as a continuous link throughout your home, providing smooth, consistent Wi-Fi coverage no matter where you are. This also means your network is more reliable and less prone to failure, even if an individual satellite gives out. Thanks to dynamic routing, if one of your satellites is down, your data will pass through the nearest available satellite ensuring you stay connected. Your satellites are constantly working together to ensure a strong wireless connection in every nook and cranny of your home.

Better Wi-Fi Coverage

A mesh system lets you blanket your entire home in steady Wi-Fi coverage, regardless of the size of your home and where you are within it. Whether you’re on your rooftop, balcony, sleep out, or even in the basement, mesh wi-fi systems allow wireless signals to reach even the farthest corners, leaving no dead zones behind. This means no more lagging or buffering as you stream videos and movies, enabling a superior multimedia experience within your home.

Easy to Set Up and Install

The thought of setting up a whole-home mesh Wi-Fi system might sound daunting, but the good news is that most of them have been designed to be easy to set up and install. Even users with little or no technical knowledge will breeze through it. Mesh systems typically come with a user-friendly mobile app that guides you through the installation process with easy-to-follow instructions. They’ll even tell you where to place your satellites for maximum coverage throughout the home.

Easy to Manage

Mesh Wi-Fi systems are often automated making them easy to manage, with further controls accessible via a dedicated app. Some advanced systems are self-learning and adapt to the changing Wi-Fi environment every day, automatically optimising the Wi-Fi channel in real-time to avoid interference, and can actively remember your online surfing habits. Your router will learn to understand and support you for more efficiency in daily tasks.

Easy to Expand

Mesh Wi-Fi systems are easy to expand. For an even wider coverage of your home, all you need to do is add more satellites which can be purchased separately or in packs. Some systems allow you to add up to 15 satellites, which is more than enough to provide high-speed Wi-Fi coverage for large properties.

What type of Mesh Wi-Fi system do you need?

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 the benefits of additional satellites shine is if your home has thick walls, multiple floors or just general dark spots where a single wireless router refuses to send the signal. 

When it comes to buying Mesh products, you'll notice these are often 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.

How much MESH WiFi do I need at PB Tech

Browse our full range of Wireless Mesh Networking Systems here.

What is Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi?

If a wireless mesh system doesn't entirely meet your needs (you may have really thick walls or a very large property), you may want to look at a Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi system. 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. Here are some instances a Hybrid mesh system may be best for you:

  • Large-scale or Multiple-stored Properties: Hybrid mesh Wi-Fi systems can provide robust and reliable connectivity across large areas or multiple floors more effectively compared to purely wireless systems.
  • Thick Walls or Radio Interference: Hybrid systems can be beneficial in homes with thick walls or in environments with a lot of radio frequencies, as the wired connection can provide a steady link where the wireless signal might degrade.
  • High-density Devices: If there are numerous Wi-Fi devices active simultaneously or if heavy bandwidth activities are common like streaming, gaming, video conferencing, a hybrid mesh can offer more stable and faster connections.
  • Future Proofing: Even if your current needs are met by a fully wireless mesh system, a hybrid approach can offer more capacity for potential future internet speed increases or to support additional devices down the track.

In general, any situation where enhanced signal stability, coverage, or speed are valuable would make a hybrid mesh Wi-Fi system worth considering. However, they can be more complex to install due to the need for ethernet cabling.

Considering upgrading to a mesh network?

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 or read about our Top Mesh Wi-Fi Systems!

Written By

Richard Elstob

PC and audio nerd from waaay back… From building PCs and taming complicated smart home systems to owning more noise cancelling headphones than I care to admit, it’s fair to say I am a lover of all things tech!

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Hi, currently have ASUS RT AC68U wifi router and a range extender plug into power point. We want to upgrade to a new router with better speed and range. I am thinking of the new ASUS RT AX3000 with a ASUS mesh device? Our house is single story but long. What do you recommend?

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1 year ago Reply Report

Ben B (Head Office)

Hi Kevin, for single story but long house https://www.pbtech.co.nz/product/NETAS61812/ASUS-ZenWiFi-XP4-Dual-Band-AX1800--AV1300-Hybrid is the best option. Your old ASUS router can work within this new system too as one network.

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1 year ago Reply Report