Mesh networking aims to change the industry, but to be absolutely honest, it has already been around for the past couple of years even in the consumer space. Smaller brands have started selling wireless mesh networks, but these are often offered only by startups and smaller players and were not officially available for sale locally. It was only recently that big established names like Linksys and Netgear started introducing their own mesh networking systems and the general public started taking notice of alternate networking solutions.
From a networking business industry perspective, the concept of mesh networks have been around for much longer.
Mesh networking simply refers to a wireless distributed system. In other words, all mesh nodes can cooperate and contribute to the distribution of data in a network. This is particularly useful in solving the problems of dead spots in homes.
It gives homes and businesses the ability to have multiple access points (nodes), and these access points can cooperate to expand Wi-Fi coverage. What is unique and attractive about mesh networks is that only a single SSID is broadcast and it provides seamless roaming across an area.
How does this differ from range extenders? Range extenders are really only signal boosters. They work by amplifying an existing Wi-Fi signal. And if your Wi-Fi signal is already weak to begin with, what good is amplifying that signal?
To make matters worse, because of the way that range extenders work and the fact that these devices can only transmit and receive data one at a time and not simultaneously, bandwidth is typically cut by at least half.
In addition, range extenders broadcast a separate network of their own and often using another SSID. This means users might need to manually toggle between networks when moving around their homes to ensure they get the best connection.
Another disadvantage of range extenders is that they only expand the network in a single direction. You cannot add a range extender on top of another range extender to further extend the network. However, you can with mesh networks, but more on this later.
Mesh networks, on the other hand, are far more sophisticated – which also explains their higher costs. Rather than simply amplify or boost a signal, a mesh networking kit often consists of two or more routers or nodes. One of the nodes will be used to connect to your existing router or modem and will broadcast Wi-Fi like any other router, and you can expand coverage simply by adding more nodes to the network. Data will then be transmitted through these nodes to reach your client devices.
An important thing to note about these mesh networks is that unlike range extenders, these nodes communicate amongst each other using Wi-Fi, which makes them considerably speedier. Some mesh networking kits even have a dedicated network used solely for backhaul communications and this can boost performance even more.
So, if you are considering expanding your network, a mesh network may be the way to go!