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A mesh WiFi network is great for some…
…but not all. So firstly, beware of any claims that mesh WiFi is the universal answer to all your wireless connection problems.
What is a mesh wireless system?
If you’re reading this page, the chances are that you’ve tried all the usual WiFi boosters, range extenders and signal repeaters. You might have also tried an upgraded router to overcome the WiFi limitations of the free router from your ISP. For many these apparently simple, and often cheap, fixes turn out to be a frustrating waste of money and time.
Mesh WiFi can be a significant step up from all of these sticking plaster fixes.
Put simply, a mesh network is a group of wireless access points that communicate wirelessly with each other. This creates a single WiFi network that provides a blanket of wireless connectivity. It provides multiple sources of powerful WiFi throughout your premises, instead of just from one single router.
How is mesh WiFi different from signal boosters, repeaters and extenders?
Traditional wireless signal boosters, extenders and ethernet over power WiFi devices work by creating their own wireless ‘hotspot’. Each device effectively broadcasts its own wireless network signal.
This can cause issues with devices competing with each other for bandwidth. It can also lead to signal dropouts as your connected devices (phone, laptop, tablet, etc.) switch between the different networks when you move around.
Mesh wireless networks are different. All wireless access points (the devices that broadcast the WiFi signal) work together as one seamless network.
Because all access points within the wireless mesh are connected to each other, data can take several paths toward its destination. Mesh technology ensures that the access points always choose the fastest route from your device to the internet. This results in a more powerful and reliable WiFi experience.
The big drawback of mesh networks
The main drawback with a mesh system is that it can be badly impacted by signal interference.
Similarly to boosters and repeaters, mesh relies on WiFi to spread its signal. This becomes a problem when you have WiFi blocking materials and/or other sources of interference in your environment.
When faced with thick or dense walls, metalwork, mirrors or any number of other WiFi blockers, mesh may not perform any better than cheaper options.
When is mesh WiFi the best option?
Mesh WiFi will almost always come second best to a cabled wireless network. Using cable to connect wireless access points is the only 99.99999999% reliable way to get uninterrupted WiFi coverage where you need it. This is because there is no degradation of the wireless signal providing the internet connection.
However, there are circumstances when running cable to connect access points is either impractical or undesirable. For example over longer distances (100+ metres); or in areas where aesthetics are a priority and places to hide cabling are inaccessible; or in external areas. This is where mesh WiFi can really come into its own.
Mesh wireless networks work well when there is a clear line of sight between the access points. This means the wireless signal has no barriers to potentially degrade the WiFi signal. It makes them perfect for large open spaces, both inside and out. For example campsites, conference centres or open-air events, just as a few examples.
It is also possible to get a good mesh WiFi network where there are obstructions between access points, depending on what the obstruction is. For example, stud partition walls will generally allow good WiFi penetration, whereas thick stone walls or metal barriers (e.g. RSJs, electric underfloor heating) won’t.
How do I install a mesh WiFi network?
There are some reasonable mesh systems available ‘off the shelf’ from the likes of BT and Google. This relies on you installing the equipment yourself. As a result, it’s a case of trial and error to find out if it will work for your particular circumstances. This is reflected in customer reviews of mesh WiFi systems.
Considering the cost of a quality mesh wireless system from a known provider, it could be a costly experiment if it doesn’t work. So before you buy, it’s a good idea to make sure you can get your money back in that scenario.
Mesh or wired networks: how we can help
If you’re based in the Bristol, Bath, Trowbridge and Chippenham area we offer a free WiFi survey and advice about the best wireless system for your circumstances.
There isn’t usually a one size fits all solution when it comes to getting good WiFi coverage everywhere you need it. We can give you advice and pointers as to what would work best for you. Whether that’s mesh WiFi or a cabled wireless network.
Contact us today for free expert advice from a wireless network specialist and to book your free WiFi survey.