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A mesh network: what is it and how does it work?

This article discuss the questions like what is A mesh network? What is use of it? What networks are available in the market currently.
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Installing a fast and reliable Wi-Fi network usually takes some doing. Installing repeaters, laying cables for access points, and so on. Manufacturers are working hard to solve this problem with mesh Wi-Fi networks. These networks do not come with one, but with several units. In this article we explain what a mesh WiFi network is, what it can do for you, and what possible disadvantages such a system has.

What is a mesh network?

A mesh network is a network in which all units of the WiFi signal are connected to each other. The wifi signal is communicated between all these units. This ensures that you have a better range than with a single router. With a mesh network, one router unit is connected to the modem. This unit forwards the signal to the corresponding satellites.

Each manufacturer has his or her own implementation for communication between router and associated units. Usually this is done via the standard 2.4 or 5 GHz band, but for example the Netgear Orbi  uses a separate 1.7 GHz band for this task. The entire system of router and associated units is produced and sold by one manufacturer. A combination of brands is therefore not possible, in contrast to a home-made network with repeaters or access points.

A mesh network – Better signal

Normally you place your router near the modem. That’s usually somewhere in a corner of a house. This will lose half of the signal. With a mesh network, the wireless signal from a router unit is sent to different satellites. You can place these satellites wherever you want and send the Wi-Fi signal through. This will give you a much better WiFi range. Do you want to expand your network? Then you buy a new unit and connect it. You can place this unit in a strategic location so that the reach is better in places where you would like it.

What helps with this is that the units of, for example, Google Wifi and Sitecom Huddle  look compact and unobtrusive. If the unit is in sight or hanging, this is a great solution to guarantee a better range. An additional advantage of a mesh network is that an extra unit can also provide better coverage for another unit. After all, the units are all connected to each other.

Easy setup

The setup of a mesh network excels in ease of use. This is because most manufacturers sell their mesh network WiFi systems in packs of, for example, 2 or 3. This integration of a router and satellite unit means an easy pairing process. Usually the entire setup consists of nothing more than plugging in the router unit, placing the associated satellite units and then having them connected. Often you can even just use your phone in the setup instead of a complicated web interface. Ease of use is therefore paramount in mesh network systems.

Automatically switch to best signal

Another plus is that it automatically switches to the best WiFi signal. If you move around the house, your device will automatically switch to the unit that offers the strongest signal. This is also referred to as wireless handoff.

Repeaters do not have such a feature, you have to set up a separate SSID if you want to use the network of this repeater instead of the router. The integration between the router and units again offers its advantages. Finally, updating the firmware usually takes place automatically: this takes place in the background and ensures that, for example, security vulnerabilities are quickly fixed, and you get new features.

Substantial investment

There are not only advantages with a mesh system. A disadvantage is that you invest in a certain system and are then stuck with it. For example, a Google Wifi unit does not work with an Asus unit.

So if you want to expand your network, you will have to buy a corresponding unit of the system itself. This gives manufacturers a lot of power and they can charge a lot of money for this. Investing in a mesh system can be expensive anyway: Google Wifi, one of the best-known mesh systems, costs $ 300 in America for a package of three units. The Netgear Orbi can easily cost € 450 for a package with two units. So if you are only looking to cover a dead spot in your house, a homeplug or a simple repeater may offer a better solution for less money.

Speed ​​loss?

Receiving and forwarding the WiFi signal wirelessly can be an advantage if you don’t want to lay cables. On the other hand, it can be a disadvantage if you are looking for the fastest speed possible. Speed ​​will be lost as the WiFi signal is sent from unit to unit. This is because the signal from the secondary units is less good than what the primary router receives from the modem. This is unavoidable when transmitting the signal wirelessly. So if you want the maximum subscription speed everywhere, it is better to get started with cables. That said, the speed loss isn’t such that you’ll notice it much unless you’re holding weekly LAN parties or continuously sending large files over the network.

This makes placing a unit a difficult choice: do you want more range and place it further away, or do you want a higher speed and place it closer to the router? Various mesh systems help find the ideal setup combination, by indicating whether the unit is too close or too far from the router. Finally, a drawback may be the lack of comprehensive settings. The integration of hardware ensures that manufacturers want to keep their implementation as intact as possible. So if you want far-reaching influence on your WiFi network, mesh WiFi systems are not a suitable option.

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