Internet connectivity is moving from a luxury to a necessity. With the ubiquity of devices available to almost everyone like laptops, smartphones, smart watches, and health trackers, and the extensive growth of the internet of things, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who can do without a solid, constant connection to the internet.
The problem is, network infrastructures may not always provide the coverage needed, with many areas having limited or poor connectivity. This is where wireless mesh networks come into play.
In this article, we will explore wireless mesh networks and the best wireless mesh routers available in 2019.
In a regular wireless network, the network clients (devices that connect to the internet) all connect to the wireless router, which transmits information to and from the internet.
In a wireless mesh network, the network clients connect to each other as well as one or several wireless mesh routers, each of these clients or routers acts as a node.
The network protocols guide the information from any node in the network to the gateway – which is the router that transmits the information to and from the internet, called backhaul – by directing it through any number of nodes in the network, choosing the fastest route.
In contrast with Wi-Fi extenders, the whole network has a single SSID, allowing you to seamlessly connect from any covered point and leverage high bandwidth due to the presence of several routes. There can be several gateways providing connection to the internet.
In order to set up a wireless mesh network, you’ll need at least one router with mesh network capabilities. You’ll also need to set up nodes, which will probably need to be other mesh routers. Fortunately, many manufacturers provide their routers in sets (usually of 3) that you can use to set up the network. You can always add new nodes if the need arises.
In most of these systems, a primary node will need to be latched on to the modem you already have (which is embedded in your regular wireless router) through an Ethernet cable. You may need to disable your old router’s WiFi signal, which can be done from your router dashboard.
Additional nodes in the network usually only require a power outlet and to be placed where they can access the network transmitted from the primary (wired) node.
We will now explore different brands of wireless mesh routers and mesh network setups.
The Linksys Velop Mesh Routers come in two flavors: Dual-band and tri-band.
Dual-band wireless devices transmit radio waves over 2 frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. As you probably guessed, the 5 GHz band is able to transmit information much faster than 2.4 GHz, but many more devices (especially older ones) will transmit over 2.4 GHz.
Tri-band routers transmit one 2.4 GHz band and two 5 GHz bands. This makes them capable of reaching speeds well over 4000 Mbps.
This is the most economical system reviewed! The TP-Link Deco M5 may not be as powerful as other models, but it may be the best option for someone wanting to ‘try out’ the technology but not willing to invest a lot of money into it.
It may feel like a huge transition from what we’re used to in the world of WiFi, but wireless mesh networks may very well be the future of internet connectivity, being able to connect – not only homes – but entire cities.
As it becomes more available, it will inevitably become more affordable and will find its way into most homes, commercial zones, and hopefully provide ubiquitous internet connectivity all over the world.