Having fast and reliable Wi-Fi coverage in the house and maybe in the garden and out building is becoming more and more important.
Wi-Fi mesh networks are a fast growing area in the home networking arena.
Traditional WI-Fi networks use a central access point to connect the wireless nodes together and to the Internet.
Dead zones and slow connections can be overcome by extending the network using Wi-Fi extenders, cables or home plug adaptors. See extending a home network.
The main disadvantage of extending a network using wireless range extenders and access points is that you create several wireless networks which means that when moving between them you need to log off from one and then log on to the other.
Wi-Fi mesh kits from Google, BT, Amazon etc make creating a large extended network very simple and usually don’t involve using cables.
They comprise 2 or more Wi-Fi nodes that work together to offer a single Wi-Fi network (one SSID), and devices can hop seamlessly across the nodes as they move within the network.
There seems to be two approaches to these systems.
The Google approach is to replace the existing WI-FI network and home router with the Google Wi-Fi discs or access nodes.
The other approach taken by BT, for example, is to keep the existing internet router and replace the Wi-Fi network.
How Wi-Fi Mesh Works
The access nodes need to be able to communicate with each other.
Again there are two main approaches.
One approach uses a dedicated Wi-Fi network used solely for the nodes to communicate with each other (BT approach).
The communications path is hidden from view and the approach is called tri-band as the node provides a 2.4GHz network and a 5Ghz network for the devices as per standard WI-Fi access points, and another 5Ghz network for inter node communication.
The other approach used by Google is to use a dual band access point 2.4GHz network Plus a 5Ghz network.
The inter node messages use the same networks as the end devices.
Expanding A Wi-Fi Mesh
Expanding an existing Wi-Fi mesh network by adding additional nodes is easy ,but you must use equipment from the same manufacturer as the existing system.
In addition to providing Wi-Fi connectivity they also provide advanced features, not available on standard home Wi-Fi networks; like:
- Scheduled Internet access
- Pause Internet
- Secure Guest networks
Popular systems are
- Google Wi-fi
- BT Whole Home Wi-Fi
- Orbi by Netgear
This Google WiFI review by Engadget will give you a good idea of what these systems do.
Common Questions and Answers
Q- I have a dead spot in the house would you recommend changing to a Mesh System.
A- No I would use a homeplug with wi-fi as my first choice or a range extender as second choice.
Q- I’ve just moved into a new house should I get a mesh system.
A- Yes That would be my choice
Q- Can I use Wired connections in a Wi-Fi Mesh
A- Yes most nodes provide LAN ports
Q- Can I use my existing router with my Wi-Fi mesh network.
A- It depends on the system so you will need to read the documentation before you purchase
Related Tutorials and Resources:
- Wi-Fi and Wireless Networking
- Extending a Home Network
- How to find the best WiFi Channel for your Router.
- What are Mesh Networks