When one router is not enough: how to improve home Wi-Fi using a mesh network

The appearance of Wi-Fi in every apartment has added not only “Internet to every home,” but also problems. Number of networks

Wi-Fi is growing:We watch television via the Internet, we have a lot of devices at home that consume Wi-Fi: laptops and tablets, TVs and smart speakers - vacuum cleaners and washing machines with air conditioners and those have already reached Wi-Fi. All this increases the load on the network, and, consequently, the requirements for the quality of coverage. This is especially critical in three cases: in panel houses (a lot of networks on all sides), large apartments (the router is in one point, it no longer “finishes” everywhere), and in private houses (two floors - already a problem for Wi-Fi). Stupid, freezes, lags, cuts out - all these are signs of “bad Internet”. Switching to Wi-Fi Mesh is a solution to the problem of slow Internet with little effort. To switch or not to switch is no longer a question. Editorialggknows “what to do to make the Internet work well”: we have studied the pros and cons of Wi-Fi Mesh and regular Wi-Fi, and are ready to rid you of any doubts about this technology.

What is a mesh network

Let’s say a few words in general about mesh networks (they are also called “mesh networks”, meshnet), what it is, and then we’ll move on to Wi-Fi Mesh itself.

Simply put, meshnet is a waynetwork construction, when data packets between network nodes (mesh nodes) are distributed in any available way until they reach their destination. The nodes in such a network are equal, connected to each other directly, or through “neighbors”, from node to node. Mesh networks are self-organizing and self-adjusting. With this connection method, even if one of the network nodes stops working for some reason, the information reaches the recipient because there is more than one path for it to pass through. Imagine a sieve - threads intertwined in space. This is a mesh network.

The first to use this network topology weremilitary. And in the early 90s of the last century there were already the first timid attempts to create wireless mesh networks for “civilian” purposes. The mesh network topology is used in the energy sector, satellite communications, for establishing communications in the corporate sector and at public events. But now we are specifically interested in Wi-Fi Mesh. What is it?

What is Wi-Fi Mesh

Wi-Fi Mesh is a type of wireless mesh network(also a form of wireless ad hoc network) built on the 802.11 standard. One Wi-Fi Mesh router works exactly the same as your regular Wi-Fi router. Technological “magic” begins when at least one more mesh node appears on the network.

Scheme of operation of a Wi-Fi Mesh of three nodes in a house of several floors. TP-Link illustration

For your smartphone, tablet, laptopWi-Fi looks like one “monolithic” network. Switching between nodes of one modern Wi-Fi Mesh system occurs “seamlessly”, almost instantly, without interrupting data transmission - at this moment the video chat on Skype or Viber will not be interrupted, in contrast to the “router + repeater” setup. It’s similar to modern mobile communications - you don’t wonder if your smartphone has switched to another cell when you’re talking on the go or watching a YouTube video while sitting on the train.

Deco Mesh Wi-Fi and regular Wi-Fi. TP-Link illustration, annotationsgg

The number of home mesh network nodes can beincrease up to tens, unlike a combination of a conventional router and repeater. In mesh systems, there is no problem of the data transfer rate dropping by half with each subsequent connection. Each mesh node is a router, they are equivalent, and you can increase the number of nodes without compromising the speed of access to the network. Do you need Wi-Fi Mesh, why is it better than “regular” Wi-Fi without “Mesh” - let’s figure it out.

What affects the quality of Wi-Fi and what are the advantages of using Wi-Fi Mesh at home

You are familiar with the situation when the connection to your home Wi-Fi is unstable and intermittent. There are several reasons for this, let’s look at them briefly:

  1. Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices workingIn the same frequency range within the range of your router or access point - for example, a large number of wireless devices operate in the 2.4 GHz range: from routers, radios, Bluetooth mice and keyboards, Bluetooth headsets and speakers, to smart phones. household appliances (for example, TVs or refrigerators with Wi-Fi).
  2. Obstacles between the signal source and the client and the distance between them. The radio signal weakens when passing through walls, furniture, mirrors, people, even air.
  3. Signal strength is not better.For example, in an apartment building, powerful radiation from a router will lead to interference with reflected signals and interfere with the signal of a neighbor’s router. And each neighbor has his own powerful router. As a result, a lot of interference occurs, which deteriorates the signal stability and data transfer speed.
  4. Quality of equipment and its setup. In some cases, just one smartphone running on the old protocol can slow down the data transfer speed of the entire network.

Modern Wi-Fi Meshes solve all these problems to varying degrees.

Common causes of slow Wi-Fi and solutions to these problems

Source of the problem
Solution for regular Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Mesh Solution

Impact of other Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices
Selecting a free channel in the router settings, switching to a mesh “noisy” range

In addition to selecting the least noisy channel, Wi-FiThe mesh system allows the client device to connect to the nearest mesh node with a stronger signal. If the problem is not solved, you can add another node, or change the placement of existing ones

Obstacles and distances between the signal source and the client

Choosing the optimal location for the router, installing repeaters at the cost of reducing access speed, moving closer to the router

Adding a node to the mesh network, or optimal placement of existing ones

Signal strength too high

Reducing the radio signal transmission power in the router settings, or physically (increase the distance, unscrew the antenna, etc.)

Self-configuring system. The client device automatically connects to the nearest mesh node with the best signal level.

As you can see, Wi-Fi Mesh has all the advantagesregular Wi-Fi, but is practically free of its disadvantages: both physical limitations and setup problems. Any mesh system has one drawback: it costs more than a regular router (after all, you immediately get several regular routers in one box). But there are exceptions here: TP-Link Deco M4, which is reviewed ongg, and TP-Link Deco M5 (review), also sold as a setfrom two routers, and separately. For example, one Deco M4R functions as a regular router or access point. But once you connect another one (if you buy it later), your regular Wi-Fi will turn into a Wi-Fi Mesh.

In addition, Wi-Fi Mesh of a wide varietymanufacturers look very stylish. This is not a fashion statement, and is important not only for aesthetic reasons. Placing the router near the power line, in a corner, or near the wall itself, in the far corner of the apartment and other attempts to hide an ugly “horned” device affects the quality of signal transmission. A beautiful Wi-Fi Mesh node does not spoil, but complements the interior. You don’t have to hide it and place it in a more advantageous place, from the point of view of network design, and safely put it on display.

This material was created with the support of TP-Link, a network equipment manufacturer.

TP-Link Deco P7: mesh system with Powerline support for large houses and apartments (read review).

TP-Link Deco P7

AC1300 + AV600 Home Hybrid Mesh Wi-Fi System

TP-Link Deco P7 - mesh-enabled systemPowerline technology. Thanks to Powerline and wireless connectivity, the Deco modules work as one unit, providing high-speed Wi-Fi and seamless roaming. Sold in a set of two or three modules from which you can build a new one, or expand an existing mesh network.





Internet through concrete

TP-Link Deco M5: compact scalable mesh system (read the review).

TP-Link Deco M5

AC1300 Home Mesh Wi-Fi System

Wi-Fi Mesh Deco M5 modules provide stablenetwork operation and seamless roaming for client devices. The system is sold in a set of one, two, or three modules, any of which will become part of the existing one, or the basis for a new mesh network. From Deco P7 differs lack of support for technology Powerline.




Aesthetic and technological

TP-Link Deco M4: entry-level mesh system (read review).

TP-Link Deco M4

AC1200 Home Mesh Wi-Fi System

Wi-Fi Mesh Deco M4 can work asrouter, access point or Wi-Fi signal amplifier. Sold in a set of one, two or three modules, from which you can build a new one, or expand an existing mesh network.





Your first Wi-Fi Mesh