What is Mesh Wi-Fi?

Mesh WiFi

Sometimes, you may have dead zones in your home where computers or other devices can’t connect to your Wi-Fi network. A mesh Wi-Fi system may be the solution.

So, what’s a mesh Wi-Fi system, and how does it differ from a typical setup?

Let's get to know -

A wireless mesh network is a communications network made up of radio nodes organized in a mesh topology. A mesh refers to rich interconnection among devices or nodes. Wireless mesh networks often consist of mesh clients, mesh routers and gateways. Mesh routers forward traffic to and from the gateways which may be connected to the Internet. Mesh clients are often laptops, cell phones, and other wireless devices.

The coverage area of all radio nodes working as a single network is sometimes called a mesh cloud. Access to this mesh cloud depends on the radio nodes working together to create a radio network. A mesh network is reliable and offers redundancy.

It is built of peer radio devices that do not have to be cabled to a wired port like traditional WLAN access points (AP) do. Mesh infrastructure carries data over large distances by splitting the distance into a series of short hops. Intermediate nodes not only boost the signal but cooperatively pass data from point A to point B by making forwarding decisions based on their knowledge of the network, i.e. perform routing by first deriving the topology of the network. Wireless mesh networks are a relatively "stable-topology" network.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems consist of two or more router-like devices that work together in order to blanket your house in Wifi. Think of it as a system of multiple Wifi extenders, but one that’s much easier to set up - and doesn’t require multiple network names or any other quirks that some extenders have.

How does a mesh Wi-Fi network work?

A typical home Wi-Fi network has a traditional router that connects to your modem, the device that brings your internet connection into your home. Your router then broadcasts a wireless signal as far as it can. Sometimes that’s not far enough. A mesh Wi-Fi system takes this scenario a step further. It still has a router that connects to your modem, but it also has satellite devices - or nodes - that communicate with your router and each other. In doing so, these nodes expand your Wi-Fi coverage throughout a larger area, possibly eliminating dead zones.

Some current applications of WiFi mesh network:

  • U.S. military forces are now using wireless mesh networking to connect their computers, mainly ruggedized laptops, in field operations.

  • Electric smart meters now being deployed on residences, transfer their readings from one to another and eventually to the central office for billing, without the need for human meter readers or the need to connect the meters with cables.

  • The laptops in the One Laptop per Child program use wireless mesh networking to enable students to exchange files and get on the Internet even though they lack wired or cell phone or other physical connections in their area.

  • Google Home, Google Wi-Fi, and Google OnHub all support Wi-Fi mesh (Wi-Fi ad hoc) networking. Several manufacturers of Wi-Fi routers began offering mesh routers for home use in the mid-2010s.

  • The 66-satellite Iridium constellation operates as a mesh network, with wireless links between adjacent satellites. Calls between two satellite phones are routed through the mesh, from one satellite to another across the constellation, without having to go through an earth station. This makes for a smaller travel distance for the signal, reducing latency, and also allows for the constellation to operate with far fewer earth stations that would be required for 66 traditional communications satellites.

If Wi-Fi dead zones are a common occurrence, no matter how many times you reset your router, then consider a mesh network. Advances now make it possible to bring mesh technology home at a price that’s more expensive than traditional Wi-Fi, but still affordable.

Photograph by Maxger

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