Everybody wants a fast and reliable internet connection, whether it’s for work or entertainment, and frustrating WiFi drops can significantly impact your productivity. Large homes and premises with unusual layouts often experience poor wireless connectivity. A mesh WiFi system can help you extend network coverage and eliminate any dead spots. But will the system also reduce internet speeds?
Mesh WiFi systems can lower internet speeds in some instances and locations. In mesh networks, every hop or link between routers on the network often decreases the bandwidth by half. Many links also increase latency, which can cause dropouts in some situations, such as while streaming.
Mesh systems are robust networking solutions that help spread WiFi signals around large homes. But they’re not perfect for everyone, and the decrease in internet speed is an important factor to consider. Let’s take a look at everything you should know about mesh WiFi systems.
How Does Mesh WiFi Work?
Also known as Whole Home WiFi, mesh WiFi systems are networking solutions that combine multiple WiFi stations, working together to cover every corner of your home or office with reliable wireless connectivity. Unlike traditional networks that lose signal with distance from the router, mesh WiFi stations help create a constant wireless link.
In a mesh network, each node sends data to other nodes in the network until it reaches its final destination. Nodes are either mesh routers or satellites.
One node in a mesh WiFi system serves as the primary router and is hardwired into your gateway connection; the other nodes act as satellites, distributing the signal throughout the area. Collectively, these nodes function like a unified system with seamless data transfer.
As opposed to conventional forms of wireless networking, where devices all connect to a central router (on Amazon), a mesh network allows for greater flexibility and efficiency.
The user experience on this setup is comparable to connecting to a single powerful wireless router, with a consistent and robust WiFi signal throughout the house.
The mesh router and the satellite nodes communicate through a “backhaul.” The speed and quality of the backhaul connections control the maximum speed the satellites may supply to connected devices like laptops and other smart devices.
Which Node Will Your Devices Connect To?
Whether in the living room or backyard, your devices will connect to the nearest WiFi node in a mesh WiFi system. It’s all the same network, but your gadgets will connect most logically. This results in improved performance and decreased network congestion.
In most cases, mesh WiFi setups provide faster speeds and better coverage than a conventional router. They’re also easily scalable and customizable. If you’re experiencing difficulties with one area of your home, you can easily expand your mesh WiFi network and create the best networking setup for your needs.
What Is a Mesh Router?
A mesh WiFi system typically consists of a mesh router that connects to the modem, and mesh routers change the modem’s wired internet connection to WiFi signals. Mesh systems also comprise mesh satellites that extend the WiFi signal further inside the home.
Strategically placed around a home or business, the router and satellites generate an overlapping wireless coverage area, providing consistent and robust WiFi connectivity.
Mesh routers are the most crucial networking devices in a mesh WiFi network. The WiFi mesh router works with a modem to create a single, unified network throughout a home. It manages the network and connects to one or more mesh satellites.
Although you can use a mesh router without satellites, mesh satellites cannot be utilized without being connected to the main mesh router.
Does Mesh WiFi Slow Down Internet Speed?
Mesh Wi-Fi can slow down your internet connection in some areas of your premises. It is essential to remember that these lose speed with each hop or link between nodes.
Half of the original bandwidth gets lost at each network hop. This will result in an immediate drop in throughput. This reduced bandwidth will be most noticeable at the network edges or the locations farthest away from the resource users are attempting to reach.
Suppose your primary WiFi station is in the living room and you have satellite hubs in the basement and the garage. Your speeds will be slower in the basement because the primary router copies the data as it hops to the satellite in the garage.
The satellite in the garage then produces another copy that reaches the satellite in the basement. As a result, the data will take longer to get to your device via the basement hub.
Despite the sluggishness, it is still preferable to have a poor signal than no connection in the basement if you only have one router.
Does Mesh WiFi Cause Lag?
With many nodes between the router and destination device, mesh WiFi can cause lag. The number of hops increases the network latency or delays. When latency increases, specific applications, like audio or video streaming and Voice over IP, experience serious issues such as lag, dropouts, and stuttering.
On the other hand, mesh routers continuously change the route that data takes between nodes to the destination because the connection strength between router and node may vary. This increases latency unpredictability and causes bottlenecks in intensive applications like online gaming.
The easiest way to eliminate lag is by using a wired connection. Connecting a console or PC using an Ethernet cable (on Amazon) may not be convenient in all setups, but it offers lag-free connectivity.
When Should You Invest in a Mesh WiFi System?
Larger homes with numerous stories and walls can be challenging to cover with standard routers. Mesh WiFi is ideal for locations with multiple obstacles to a wireless signal, such as metal, brick or concrete. It also excels in areas too large for a single router or WiFi extender to cover effectively.
You need only two or three nodes to cover any WiFi dead zones when using a mesh network. Mesh systems are easy to expand with no additional Ethernet cabling. Most mesh WiFi networks are easy to set up through mobile applications.
Consider investing in a mesh WiFi system if you:
- Have a large residence or a premise with a complex layout
- Want Wi-Fi coverage in distant locations like the garage or annex
- Have many demanding internet users, such as older kids
- Use streaming services and subscriptions like HBO and Netflix
- Have high-speed internet connectivity but poor wireless performance
- Simultaneously use many wireless gadgets
Mesh networks distribute signals throughout your property for reliable connectivity even when you’re moving around.
However, installing a mesh WiFi system in a small apartment is overkill. If you live in a small home and experience dropped WiFi frequently, you could improve connectivity using a range extender or long-range router.
What Are the Advantages of Mesh WiFi?
Mesh Wi-Fi offers various benefits over conventional routers, such as:
- Easy installation and maintenance: Mesh WiFi networks feature automatic configuration to save you time.
- Fast connectivity: Since they distribute data evenly across all nodes, mesh networks can be faster than traditional routers.
- Increased reliability and range: If a satellite experiences weak signals, the system automatically switches to the closer satellite.
- Cybersecurity: Modern mesh routers have security features like content filtering and advanced encryption to keep your sensitive data safe.
Expanding a mesh WiFi system is easy by adding mesh satellites that expand the coverage area.
What Else to Know Before Purchasing Mesh WiFi
Before buying a new mesh WiFi router, consider the following factors.
Because mesh WiFi networks depend on multiple nodes across the coverage area, it’s crucial to plan how to place networking components. Consider the router or satellite design for added aesthetics. Most mesh network nodes are minimalistic and have elegant layouts. Go for models with neutral colors that blend with your interior decor.
Speed is a crucial consideration for any networking device. Invest in a mesh WiFi router that can handle your unique speed and bandwidth requirements. Always go for a router with more capacity than you may need because internet technologies are constantly evolving.
In a mesh network, the nodes don’t function as independent routers but as extensions of the principal central access point. Consider the coverage range and the number of nodes needed when setting up a mesh network.
Software applications control mesh WiFi systems. If you need specific features like parental control or firewalling, buy a system that caters to your unique networking needs.
You must install a mesh router in an optimal location for a successful mesh network. Install the router in a central location, away from potential obstructions, and at least a few feet above the floor. Any impediment in the router’s path can disrupt the mesh system connection.
Strategically arrange all nodes so your entire home or office can pick up the WiFi signal. It’s best to place nodes no more than two rooms apart from one another for maximum efficiency.
Explore the best mesh Wi-Fi routers (on Amazon) to select a model that matches your specific requirements. Our favorite is the TP-Link Deco Mesh WiFi System (on Amazon).