The Pros and Cons of Mesh WiFi Networks
Apr 05, 2023
Connectivity has become one of the main talking points in every tech preview that features networking, smartphones, or in general, smart devices. With the introduction of 5G, it has had even more air time, to the point of people coming up with conspiracy theories about it.
However, in a modern world where missing a notification might be the difference between a job well done or a major setback, having a stable internet connection is paramount. Whether the range might be an issue, or having dead spots, a stable WiFi connection, both at home and at work, is a necessity.
One of the most practical solutions to this problem is mesh WiFi. This is not a novel solution in technological years, but it is still not widespread enough to be affordable, hence having its own set of pros and cons.
Mesh WiFi is there to solve problems that come from a lack of range, lots of dead spots, neighboring connections which interfere, or simply a weak connection. Mesh WiFi uses multiple devices to cover a large area in a single access point, or rather, that is how the devices connecting to it perceive it.
This eliminates the need for a device, such as a smartphone, to look for another access point once you get outside the range of the one it is already connected to. A constant, stable connection is what you get from Mesh WiFi, though not without paying a steep entry price.
Mesh WiFi definitely has its pros and cons, and breaking them down should help with understanding if it is a good solution for your needs.
The first thing that comes to mind is a stable internet connection. You cannot hope to have stable streams over WiFi if the connection is weak. Depending on the quality of the stream, one might get away with a weak signal, but this doesn't work when one has to work.
Whether having frequent video conferences, or having to upload and download files all the time, a stable internet connection prevents any problems. Typically, for sensitive jobs which require a stable connection, most people use ethernet rather than WiFi.
When that isn't an option, Mesh Wifi is the best solution.
What makes mesh WiFi stand out is the fact that you have a single access point all over the affected area. Smartphones nowadays are quick to change an access point when they deem it necessary, however, that might interrupt a stream or a download, and definitely a live video call.
When your signal is strong, there is no need for new routers or range extenders.
Other solutions that extend the range of your WiFi connection are simply not as elegant as mesh WiFi is. They either require more access points or compromise the connection in another way, whether through stability or speed, or often both.
Mesh WiFi is easy to set up and use, which is what most users prefer, something plug and play, with little to no technical knowledge requirements.
Entering the mesh WiFi market is not cheap and what you mostly get is the main device and another one which broadens the signal range. A third or fourth device would increase the price greatly. Some devices can go as far up as 1,500 US dollars. More affordable devices range in the mid 300s.
Most people do not live in a mansion or a huge apartment which requires an elaborate and extensive WiFi setup. Those who require a stronger signal could purchase mesh WiFi as a more elegant solution.
Large office spaces typically have already implemented solutions which are developed for businesses.
This point ties into the previous one, because sometimes the placement of the router can be the difference-maker between having dead zones or a good connection in all parts of your living/office space. There are multiple ways to extend WiFi range, without using mesh WiFi.
One shouldn't be forced to choose a single solution and in this case, there are multiple ones that could suffice, depending on the situation.
An already present router could simply be placed in a location where it cannot cover all the rooms where WiFi is necessary. If there are very thick concrete walls blocking the signal, or lots of interference, or distance between the router and a desired location, other solutions might be more effective.
Note that purchasing a new, dual-band router, might not get rid of range problems. A specialized, long-range router should be prioritized.
It being new does not equate to better long-distance performance, especially if it has labels such as 6GHz, which actually has a shorter range as a band, due to a higher frequency.
A range extender, often referred to as a signal repeater, is a device which repeats or extends on the existing access point.
However, this creates a new access point and adds another point of latency, where one device has to communicate with another, and then another, and then you get internet access. The more layers there are, the worse the signal gets.
Turning an already existing connection into electricity and then passing it through your powerline to an outlet, to a device which converts it back to an internet connection, is almost like science fiction.
These devices are real and relatively affordable. Most come with a basic ethernet port, but the more advanced adapters support WiFi and thus eliminate the need for cables.
By examining the pros and cons of mesh WiFi, we can come to the conclusion that it is an elegant, simple solution which provides stability and speed over a large space, depending on one's needs and budget.
It should not be necessary for smaller living spaces and offices, but it adds that extra layer of ease and safety which might be worth the price even if unnecessary in most contexts.
About The Author
Milan has always been interested in writing and technology, but managed to pick up a love for music, literature and sports along the way. Essentially a jack of all trades, his interest in all things tech as well as love for the written word, keeps him well occupied.
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