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What is a Wireless Mesh Network?

Posted in Articles on 21/2/2017 (updated on 02/7/2019)

MESH WiFi with Linksys VELOP at PB Tech

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. It is because of these benefits that wireless mesh technology has caught the eye of leading networking hardware manufacturers as a replacement to traditional wireless range extenders.

So, what is a wireless mesh network and why might it be a good upgrade for you?

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, as shown in the Linksys Velop MESH image below, uses a single network ID thoughout rather than several different ones.

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.

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. With some products like the Linksys VELOP or Netgear ORBI now also 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% uptime.

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. Mesh network devices provide the connection, bandwidth, stability and ease that you require into every inch of your home.

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.

How much MESH WiFi do I need at PB Tech

Check out the full range of MESH networking products available now at PB Tech below, and keep your eyes on our Tips & News for the latest.

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