An ordinary router cannot always provide a reliable Wi-Fi connection to the whole house or cottage – often in the structure, there are “dead zones” where the signal is so weak that it is impossible to talk about high-quality surfing. There are two possible solutions in such cases: building a seamless roaming area throughout the reporting area and creating a mesh network.
The latest technology, dubbed the Wi-Fi Mesh network, is the topic of today’s discussion. This method of circumventing the restrictions associated with the long-range of routers is quite promising. It is no coincidence that it is discussed as a possible way to organize a single city wireless network, but it is far from that. But within a single building, residential, or office, Wi-Fi Mesh systems are already actively used.
What Is Wi-Fi Mesh?
We hope our readers are well aware of the meaning of the term Wi-Fi. As for the word “mesh,” one of the meanings of its translation is “network cell.” Therefore, the principle of building a network based on this technology is called cellular. Doesn’t it remind mobile operators? In any case, they have something in common: The Wi-Fi Mesh network allows you to penetrate the most remote corners of buildings.
Setting up such networks is not too complicated. The number of routers used is not too large – for a residential building such as a cottage is enough two or three such cells. Each cell has equal rights – we can say that they are all identical to each other in terms of capabilities. The 802.11s standard describes how and how to create topological hierarchical networks by searching for and connecting adjacent access points. The technology is complemented by other protocols, 802.11k/v/r, that allow customer hardware to route unhindered between access points without breaking the current connection.
This method is very different from the standard Wi-Fi technology, its intelligence and the ability to almost unlimited scaling.
In other words, the Wi-Fi Mesh network can be described as a system consisting of several devices that extend the Wi-Fi range but with the possibility of easy customization. And what is most important – without the need to use different network aliases or other settings, characteristic of other systems lengthening the range of the digital signal.
The setup is to connect the routers and run a few items in a particular application.
How Wi-Fi Mesh Networks Work?
As we have already noted, all-access points in the Mesh system are, in fact, equal wireless routers with almost identical minimum settings. There is only one caveat – one of the devices provides an external connection of the world network through the provider channel (fiber or twisted pair). The rest are connected to this router.
At the same time, the network’s topology is such that the primary device is not – all of them are equal. However, in the absence of a signal from the Internet provider will not be on any device. But suppose there is a backup communication channel with the provider, and one of the routers will connect to it. In that case, all the others will also be automatically reconfigured, and the network will work, as it did not happen – users will not even notice it.
Scale such a network is straightforward – buy a router and install it in the area of uncertain signal, ensuring the availability of any neighboring router. Physical placement of devices does not play a role – even in the attic or in the basement, their number is also unlimited – you can build a network of 5, 10 go 20 devices. At the same time, the bandwidth of the network does not suffer, as is the case with the use of conventional repeaters.
Roughly speaking, each device is not designed to amplify the signal but is a full-fledged router in the cell network. And the administration function of such a network is straightforward and accessible through the smartphone app, not through the router’s web interface. To understand the picture, we note that when using repeaters, such devices can only interact with the head router – they do not see each other. On the contrary, each router in the Mesh network is a full-fledged router that can communicate with mobile gadgets and neighboring devices. This topology makes scaling the system much more accessible.
Since all wireless Wi-Fi Mesh networks have multiple radio modules, this ensures that both routers and custom gadgets can be maintained without slowing down and the quality of the signal being transmitted.
The pros and cons of Wi-Fi Mesh
Let’s start with the advantages:
- Significant improvement in the coverage area. It was to cover large areas and conceived the creation of Wi-Fi Mesh systems. If you live on the next floor with your parents, you will not have difficulty providing quality Internet for both apartments. When building such a network, you will no longer have to focus on the “provider” router – any device will be an equal point of access, which greatly facilitates the construction of remote access points, linearly and topologically.
- The high stability of the network is due to its mesh structure. When building a network of repeaters, one of the devices crashed and caused the entire segment to fall. In our case, hovering one of the routers will not create a critical load on the whole network, overload the primary router will not need – it is enough to restart the failed device.
- Dynamic load distribution is another valuable feature of mesh networks. There is no hierarchy here as such, so you don’t have to worry that being at a significant distance from the main access point, you’ll be left with a signal.
- The ease and efficiency of the coating. If the network consists of routers used as repeaters, the network changes as the user moves from the range of one device to the coverage area of another, as each router has its SSID. If you’re using a new gadget, you’ll have to implement all of these connections manually. There is no such thing as Mesh networks. There are no switches between networks.
- The ability to use the input at the same time from several Internet providers. Sometimes this way of organizing a backup channel is helpful if the provider’s tariffs depend on the traffic consumed.
Now let’s talk about the shortcomings of The Mesh Wi-Fi systems, although at first glance, it seems that they should not be:
- The cost of building such networks is still relatively high. The cost of the devices themselves is affected – they are more expensive than similar characteristics of conventional routers. So if there are a few dead zones, the best solution is to use a router.
- Lack of functionality is a direct consequence of the “connected and working” concept. Manufacturers do not knowingly equip their routers with additional settings and features that can be very useful. We are talking about parental control, the use of the functions of the zone DM’ or the system of zos and other “delicious.” If their service is vital, you will have to purchase a regular router. For gamers, a mesh network is a losing option.
- Stall. Yes, and this is possible if there is no feedback channel in the network. In such cases, the network organization loses its advantages and starts working as regular extension cords with a corresponding slowdown in speed.
How to build a mesh network yourself?
The first thing you need to do is calculate the area of coverage, taking into account the area of the house/apartment and all the external areas where it is planned to provide access to the network. If it is a high-rise – take into account the distance between the floors.
Keep in mind that coverage depends a lot on the site’s topology, so one network with the same coverage area may require more routers than another. Finally, structural units of buildings such as walls, windows, doorways, thickness, and floor material are essential. Eventually, some household appliances can interfere with the wireless network (a typical example is telephone stations and microwave ovens). It’s important to understand that Mesh systems are expanding, and if you haven’t taken something into account at the design stage or there’s been a change in layout, all of this can be fixed.
Starting to set up your devices, you’ll need an Internet connection and an app on your smartphone. Once you start it, you need to create an account by providing it with an administrator password. It’s important not to forget it, so you don’t reconfigure the network in case of problems or when it’s expanding.
ATTENTION. The password for all devices will be one – you can administer any router from one account in the app.
Most bag device manufacturers recommend disabling the leading (provider) router from the network to self-set and assign the site a valid IP address. Start the customization process, start the app, log in, and follow directions on how to connect the next router to the network.
When setting up your home Mesh network, it’s essential to consider the location of all access points so that the topology of covering all areas, including the dead, is optimal – this will reduce your costs. The primary device through which access to the external network will be carried out should be located near the entry point, whether it is an Ethernet cable or a satellite signal. Do not hide routers in cupboards or nightstands. Because it is active network equipment, it should be located near the outlet. The launched app will search for all the nodes and will automatically assign them internal network addresses. Of course, be sure to assign your network a unique password used to connect Wi-Fi gadgets.
A piece of good practical advice is to have another router in the middle between another router and a dead area, just like you would do using a repeater. However, it is necessary to limit this distance to a maximum of two neighboring rooms. If you need to cover several apartments on different floors, the distance between them should not exceed the height of 15 meters.
Most modern routers provide signal level verification software between neighboring nodes, making it easier to build a network by telling you how far away you are from the best signal level in the next node.
It should also be taken into account that some end devices work better from wired, faster, and more reliable connection – Smart TVs, receivers, set-top boxes. Most Mesh devices are equipped with one-two LAN ports, less often – four, so try to place routers at a relatively small (no more than 5 meters) distance to any custom devices that require a wired connection.
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