When you set up your WiFi router, you try and center it so that every room in your office or house can get a reasonably good signal. You also have to consider the fact that there might immovable objects that you will have to take into account when you’re placing your router. You will still be left with areas that get no signal, or a very weak signal. A WiFi extender can help you fix that but it’s a clunky set up and it makes you think that it shouldn’t be this hard to get a uniform WiFi signal throughout your house. This is precisely why mesh networks have been developed. A mesh network fixes the problems that you have to jump through hopes to fix with an ordinary WiFi router.
A mesh network is created using a mesh router. A mesh router is different from a regular router which only broadcasts a signal. With a mesh network, different routers combine together to form a single network that blankets your home or office so that there are no dead spots.
A mesh network differs from a regular WiFi network that’s using access points in how it works. With a regular WiFi router, the access points all connect to the router and boost its signal and thereby extend its range. With a mesh network, the routers and access points can all connect with each other. They don’t all have to connect to a single router and then boost the signal. Because all the access points can connect to each other, they are able to create a net or a blanket that covers more space and provide a stronger signal.
Think of it like this; lets say you’re in room with ten people and an instructor. You’re learning to build a bird house but if you get stuck, you can only ask your instructor for help. That same rule applies to everyone else in the room. You all only have access to the instructor. This is how a regular WiFi network works. With mesh networks though, you’re allowed to talk to everyone and anyone in the room and ask for help.
This technology isn’t new; mesh networks have been in use for a long time but it’s only recently that they’ve become available for home users. A mesh router is now the best upgrade you can give your home if you’re looking to buy a new router.
A mesh network has the following advantage over a regular wireless network;
- No dark spots in the network and uniform signal throughout the building.
- It’s cheaper than a regular network with far less wiring and infrastructure costs involved in setting it up. A mesh network can be used to provide strong internet access to an entire city for far less than what a regular wireless network would cost. Spain’s already doing it.
- Mesh networks are great for when you’re faced with obstructions and immovable objects that are likely to interfere with and weaken a signal.
- The set up is much easier in terms of adding additional access points i.e. nodes. The nodes can communicate with all other nodes and you don’t have to configure them to connect with a router.
- If a node goes down either due to damage, loss of power, or another technical glitch, other nodes continue to work. The failure of a node doesn’t create a hole in the network and instead the other nodes can normally compensate for the loss of one or two other nodes.
- You can grow a network pretty easily, and shrink it down when needed. This means that if you suddenly decide to expand your office from one floor to two floors, meeting your network needs for a larger office is easier. Likewise, if you have to downsize and move to smaller premises you will be able to shrink it down to size just as easily.
Mesh routers are now available at reasonable prices. They’re priced low enough to compete with regular routers however there is a hardware limitation that comes with them. In order to create a mesh network at home or at work, you must be using hardware from the same manufacturer. At present, you cannot mix and match mesh network hardware though, a standard is being developed to allow it. This standard is, at present, called EasyMesh.
EasyMesh is a standard being developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance (yes, that’s a thing) to help routers developed by different manufactures talk to each other. This standard will allow you to use routers and access points made by different manufactures to create a mesh network.
This may be great for consumers but not so great for manufacturers who will prefer that a user only use their product instead of mixing it with others.
Mesh routers for homes and offices are a new concept but leading router manufacturers including Linksys and Netgear are manufacturing them. Google has a fairly affordable option of three devices that cost a little less than $300. The point is, if you prefer a particular popular router manufacturer you can get a mesh router from them. Likewise, if you’re looking for an affordable option, it’s there.