Mesh network - what it is and how to set it up at home

If the Wi-Fi network in your house has dead zones or does not cover the whole house, you may have recently considered using Wi-Fi Mesh. Their popularity has skyrocketed, but what is a Wi-Fi Mesh system and how does such a network differ from a traditional Wi-Fi extender?

Set up a mesh Wi-Fi network at home.

What is Wi-Fi Mesh in simple words

Wi-Fi extenders have long become a popular option when it came to eliminating Wi-Fi “dead zones” at home, but with the advent of Wi-Fi Mesh systems over the past few years, many users have been following these new systems. Mainly due to the fact that they are easy to configure and use. Wi-Fi Mesh networks consist of two or more router-like devices that work together to fully cover your home Wi-Fi. You can imagine this as a system of several Wi-Fi extenders, but one that is much easier to configure, and does not require multiple network names or any other quirks that most signal extenders have. All you need is to connect the device and perform a few simple steps in the attached application. After everything is set up, managing your network will become really easy, since most of the complex functions are inaccessible to the user, and the basic functions that people need are easily accessible and easy to use.

How does the Wi-Fi Mesh system work

One aspect that many people don’t understand about mesh wireless networks is that they have to replace your current router, not work with it. Thus, while Wi-Fi extenders simply amplify the Wi-Fi signal of your main router, the Wi-Fi mesh systems actually create a completely new Wi-Fi network, separate from your current router’s Wi-Fi network. In addition, if you ever need to manage your Wi-Fi network, you can do this with a simple smartphone app, rather than through the complicated administration page of your router. This makes it much easier to change settings and get a general overview of your network.

The mesh network also allows these multiple routers to communicate with each other in any sequence. Traditional Wi-Fi network extenders can only communicate with your main router, and if you have configured several Wi-Fi extenders, they usually cannot communicate with each other. However, Wi-Fi Mesh devices can communicate with any gadget they want to provide the best coverage for all your devices, which is a huge advantage. For example, if you installed the first and second grid blocks in your home, you do not need to worry about placing the third block next to the first one, because it can simply receive a signal from the second block, which allows you to create a much larger range than you could with Wi-Fi extensions. Imagine this as a baton where runners pass the wand to the next to advance along the path — the Wi-Fi Mesh systems work in the same way.

In addition, if you open the Wi-Fi analysis application, you will notice that your Mesh Wi-Fi network actually transmits separate Wi-Fi networks, one for each device you have configured. This is how traditional Wi-Fi extenders work, but with those that you often have to switch between networks manually (for example, between Network and Network_EXT). However, the Mesh Wi-Fi network still acts as a single network, so your devices will automatically switch between cells. However, some Wi-Fi extenders can also do this, but they still have a clear disadvantage: since they use Wi-Fi to communicate with your router and your devices, this increases the load on the Wi-Fi extender, which leads to speed reduction.

However, network devices have several radio modules in each gadget, so one radio device can communicate with other network devices, and the other can be used to communicate with your devices, effectively distributing duties to avoid a “narrow” space. Thus, you can not only get a better Wi-Fi signal, but also a maximum speed throughout the house without degrading the quality.

Advantages and disadvantages of Wi-Fi Mesh system

These are the main reasons why you might want to invest in a wireless mesh system, and not just buy a wireless router.

  1. Significantly improved coverage

One of the main advantages associated with Wi-Fi Mesh-systems is the ability to cover much larger areas. This is especially true if you have a high-rise building or a larger building with a significant coverage area. When using a Mesh system, you are not required to rely on a single router to provide you with a signal for your entire home. Instead, you will be able to strategically place different nodes separately from the Mesh-system, which will help you to improve the overall coverage throughout the house and eliminate potential “dead zones”.

  1. Less prone to cliffs

Another reason Mesh networks have a significant advantage over a single-router network is that you don’t need to worry that a single router cannot transmit a signal. If you have ever had one router setup, you probably had to reboot the router. Since the Mesh network uses several nodes to deliver a signal throughout the house, in the event of a failure, one of them will not be completely overloaded with your network. It will simply connect devices to a node that is active and working.

  1. Simple cover

Another good news about Mesh networks is the possibility of smooth transmission when moving around the house and moving from node to node. Although you can configure multiple routers in your home that act as access points, each access point will have its own SSID. Because of this, you will have to manually transfer your device from one to another. In Mesh networks, your device is automatically transferred without problems to the best node for your particular location in order to achieve the highest possible signal speed.

The main disadvantages of Mesh

Let's see what is missing in the wireless mesh.

  1. The price is still quite high

The biggest drawback associated with such networks is the expensive barrier to entry. Unfortunately, these systems can be very expensive. Thus, you will need to make a huge initial investment, and it is usually more expensive than even the best wireless routers.

  1. Lack of advanced features

Another disadvantage associated with Mesh networks is that their design usually causes a lack of advanced features. Because they are designed to be user-friendly and for the most part plug-and-play, manufacturers typically miss access to advanced features that experienced users may require and / or may need in their routing solutions. If you need extended DMZ zones, strict parental controls and QoS systems, you should use a good traditional router, especially for gaming.

  1. Loss of speed

This is not necessarily true for all systems, but those that do not have a dedicated return channel work effectively as basic Wi-Fi extenders. The difference between Wi-Fi extenders and the grid is missing if there is no feedback channel.

How to organize Mesh-network

Before you buy and build a mesh-Wi-Fi network, you need to figure out how much wireless coverage you need. First, find out the area of ​​your house and any open areas that you want to cover, and do not forget to take into account the distance between the floors in high-rise buildings. Coverage varies from system to system, so make sure you check the specifications before you spend your hard earned money, and keep in mind that everyone at home is different. Structures such as walls, doorways, and floors will affect wireless signal transmission, as well as interfere with other wireless devices, such as microwave ovens and portable telephone systems. Almost all Mesh systems are extensible, so if you find that your system does not reach certain areas in your home, do not worry.

Most Wi-Fi systems require a mobile application and an internet connection to configure. After downloading the application, you will need to create an administrator account and password. Be sure to remember the password to avoid having to reset the system later. It is also a good idea (recommended by most companies) to disconnect the modem or router to which you will connect your Mesh system so that it can reset itself and assign a valid IP address to the router node. To start the setup, open the application and follow the instructions to connect the Mesh-router to the modem and add satellite nodes.

One of the most important things to consider when setting up a Mesh network is the location of each node for optimal Wi-Fi coverage without dead zones. The main node of the router, which provides Internet connectivity for all other satellite nodes, must be installed in close proximity to your cable modem or an existing router, as it will be connected to it using a LAN cable. The router assembly should also be placed outdoors (not in a closet or under a table) and within reach of the AC outlet. The application will search for the node and inform you when it is detected, after which the node will receive an IP address. Before proceeding to the placement of the satellite node, you will need to give your new network a name and password that will be used by all connecting clients.

The location of satellite nodes varies depending on the system: depending on their characteristics, some nodes provide a larger coverage area than others. A good rule of thumb is to place the second node halfway between the router and the dead zone, as if you were using a range extender, but limit the distance to no more than two rooms. If you use more than one satellite, follow the rule of two rooms. Place each node near an electrical outlet, in an open area and on the floor on a bookcase or countertop. The same applies to multi-storey buildings: try to limit the distance between the satellites above and below no more than 15 meters. Fortunately, many systems offer a signal test in the application or a physical indicator on each node that will tell you whether you are too far from the main or previously installed node.

When placing nodes, you should also consider how you will connect to things like gaming consoles, televisions, and other entertainment components. These devices are almost always better to use a wired connection, as they offer higher speeds without interference from other wireless devices. Most grid nodes are equipped with at least one LAN port that allows you to use a wired connection, so try to place nodes at a distance of 3 to 5 meters from any devices that would benefit from a wired LAN connection.

Wired or wireless transit

A transit connection is the process of transferring data from satellite nodes back to the main router and to the Internet. By default, the Wi-Fi Mesh systems are configured for wireless data transfer. Some systems use the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio bands for feedback, while others use a dedicated 5 GHz band for this purpose. However, some systems may use Ethernet cable for wired transit, which provides optimal performance and higher security. If your home is connected to an Ethernet network, you can improve your overall network performance by connecting your nodes through a wired connection to provide a wired backhaul connection to the main router.

Setting Parental Controls and Device Priority Settings

Once your Wi-Fi network system has been installed, it's time to take advantage of its capabilities. Many of these systems offer parental controls that allow you to create profiles for each family member, restrict access to certain websites and automatically disable access to the network at certain times of the day, for example, before bed and dinner. Almost all Wi-Fi systems in the application have a pause button that allows you to turn off Internet access at the touch of a button, and some systems have a parental control that is age appropriate. For example, a child preset will prohibit access to social networks, gambling and adult-oriented websites, while the preset for teens will be a little less strict, and the preset for adults will offer unlimited access. You can apply these controls to the profile of a family member, and then to each device used by that person.

If you have online gamers or use a network system to stream video, use the QoS (Quality of Service) settings to allocate bandwidth where you need it most. These options typically allow you to drag devices to high, medium, and low priority fields so that game consoles and devices that broadcast video can be given the lion's share of bandwidth without competing with other devices on the network. More user-friendly systems have QoS presets for things like games, streaming, surfing, and chat, and allow you to prioritize both devices and applications.

Management options

After your Wi-Fi Mesh system is configured and running smoothly, it is recommended to periodically check your network usage, visited websites and customer lists. Most noteworthy systems will send a push notification when a new customer joins the network, allowing you to immediately deal with unwanted customers. Many systems offer built-in anti-virus utilities that protect against viruses and other malicious content, so be sure to monitor network attack logs and quarantine any client devices that have been marked as infected. Finally, make sure your firmware is updated, as the latest versions often improve performance, add new features, and provide security fixes.

In general, the use of Wi-Fi Mesh products offers many advantages. They make them an attractive option for those who suffer from “dead zones” throughout the house. By investing in a wireless network, you will invest primarily in convenience and ease of use. These systems are designed to be easy to install and, as a rule, “easy to work”. To determine which option is right for you, just look at the coverage area, find out if there is enough one solution for the router, and decide what additional features you need when setting up. And Mesh Wi-Fi is one of the best solutions to date.