How mesh Wi-Fi networks work

Amazon eero 3-unit mesh Wi-Fi network system
Amazon eero 3-unit mesh Wi-Fi network system

Mesh network Wi-Fi systems for home use are constantly gaining in popularity. Most probably due to the ease of installation compared to using Wi-Fi extenders in order to obtain stable and strong Internet connectivity in every room of a house.

Moreover, a mesh Wi-Fi network system, such as the Amazon Eero or Nest Wi-Fi, solves the problems of too many Wi-Fi devices connecting to a router, a weak signal and poor wireless coverage throughout a house.

In September 2019, Eero, owned by Amazon, was the first company to introduce home mesh Wi-Fi networkss .  Since then, other major networking companies, such as Netgear and Linksys, are providing Amazon with competition,

What are mesh Wi-Fi networks?

Wi-Fi extenders just extend a main router’s Wi-Fi signal, but do not boost that router’s speed. Mesh Wi-Fi networks create a Wi-Fi network that is separate from a main router’s Wi-Fi.  Moreover, you can manage a mesh Wi-Fi network by using  a smartphone app instead of  through your main router’s more complicated web-browser-based configuration page. Using an app makes changing settings a simple matter since you can see an overall view of your mesh network.

A mesh network usually comes as a package of 1 to 3  devices called points

A mesh network usually comes as a package of 1 to 3  devices called points that you place in different rooms to fill gaps in the wireless internet signal. (You can usually buy extra points.) One main Wi-Fi point plugs into the main router through an Ethernet cable.  You place the 1 or 2 other points a sufficient distance from the primary point. In order to function correctly, each of the other points must fill an area with a stable and strong Wi-Fi signal.  In other words, no matter where you are in the house, the Wi-Fi signal that your device receives, be it a tablet, laptop or other wireless device, is the same.

No separate logins for each of the points

The best aspect is you don’t need separate logins for each of the points – the signal from the points is accepted by all Wi-Fi devices as if it comes from the same source. An improvement on using a Wi-Fi extender that is less easy to set up and more difficult to get the same quality of Wi-Fi coverage by using techniques such as using  a Powerline connection that makes use of the mains electricity system. Moreover, a mesh network communicates internally and often among its points to ensure the best Wi-Fi coverage. A Wi-Fi extender can only communicate with your main router and even if you set up multiple Wi-Fi extenders, they don’t communicate with one another as do the points of a mesh network.

Set up and use a mesh network

As mentioned, setting up and managing mesh Wi-Fi networks is pretty simple.

The number of additional points you require depends on the size of a house, the materials  it is made of (some materials are more impervious to a Wi-Fi signal than others) and where in it you want a strong signal.  In a small apartment or house, you may be able to make do with just a main router. For a medium-sized house two points may be adequate while three points may be adequate for a larger house of around 170 to 420 square metres [200 and 500 square yards respectively].

For example, four points running in a house with three bedrooms could be necessary because you have an outside building  that requires a point of its own.

A third point gets its signal from the second point

Another example –  if you set up the first and second mesh points in your house, you shouldn’t need to place the third point close to the first point, since it will get its signal from the second point that you set up, thereby creating a much larger range than would be possible with Wi-Fi extenders. In that setup, you not only get a better Wi-Fi signal, you also get the fastest speeds without signal degradation throughout your entire premises.

 A free Apple iOS or Google Android app with mesh devices

Moreover, most brands of mesh Wi-Fi networks brands provide a free Apple iOS or Google Android app with their devices, which makes the setup as simple as possible while also providing optional management settings that enable fine-tuning.

Features such as parental controls that restrict Internet access and/or block access to adult websites are usually part of most mesh packages .

Remember that it is best not to enable Wi-Fi on your main router in order to use a mesh Wi-Fi network. You just connect the primary point to an Ethernet connection on that router and then it connects to the other mesh points by its own Wi-Fi.  All modem-routers provide the means of disabling or enabling their Wi-Fi facility in their web-based configuration page.

Reviews and instruction videos

An example of a mesh Wi-Fi network – Asus AX6600 ZenWiFi AX Mesh | Unboxing and Review.  – Search for instruction and review videos of the mesh setup that you might buy. Moreover, there are usually useful purchaser reviews on sites such as Amazon.

 

Cost prohibitive compared to using Wi-Fi extenders

Note that mesh Wi-Fi systems can be much more expensive than using Wi-Fi extenders. For example, a set of three Eero units cost £559.00 (up to coverage of 500 square metres) in May 2022 on Amazon, with additional single units costing £209.00  each.

Anyone who knows or who has found out about router settings could set up Wi-Fi extenders to serve a house and do it for less than £300 with decent networking equipment. But, if you want to avoid making that kind of effort,  due to the ease of its installation, the extra cost of a mesh Wi-Fi system is the best solution.

About Eric Legge 269 Articles
I am an experienced PC technician who has been the owner and sole writer of the PC Buyer Beware! website since 2004. I am learning all the time in this very dynamic, ever-changing field.