A small revolution began to happen in the world of home networks last year. From professional backgrounds came the so-called mesh Wi-Fi systems, which bring mesh topology to our homes. What are WiFi Mesh Systems and how this will permanently solve all the Wi-Fi issues you may have, find out in this guide.
Table of Contents
Behind us is a time when home Wi-Fi was built on a “just work” principle, where it was enough to connect a few cell phones and laptops to it and achieve speeds sufficient to browse websites and videos from YouTube at 720p resolution.
Today, we want (and can) connect virtually all the electronics we own to our wireless network: cell phones, desktops and laptops, tablets, NASs, TVs, Android boxes , Chromecasts, AV receivers, portable players, smart speakers and light bulbs, LED strips, any kind of sensors and surveillance cameras, and even white goods – smart refrigerators are available now, and it is a matter of time before ovens, toasters and washing machines will search the Internet.
Not only to connect but also to use everything our internet connection has to offer. Lets not forget the fact that many of us have already switched to very fast cable and optical internet connections, with bandwidths of 100 or 200 Mbit / s, which we would like to use completely wireless.
Finally, there is the sheer convenience of using Wi-Fi without stretching network cables around the house. Moreover, in many environments (suburban dwellings, for example), drilling walls to bring quality and fast connection to the desired location is simply not an option.
The market is full of high-end wireless routers, but only few people decide to buy them, since we get the router for “free” from internet service provider
The solution to the problem is obvious – excellent Wi-Fi must be in place that cover all areas of our living space and provide high speeds and perfect stability everywhere. And it is precisely the kind of Wi-Fi that is now the easiest, fastest and best obtained with the so-called mesh Wi-Fi systems.
CURRENT WIRELESS STANDARDS
When you get an Internet service from one of your home providers (called ISPs, Internet Service Provider), you will get a router that the ISP currently has available. You will not be able to choose a specific model and its specifications – you are “doomed” to what you get.
While some ISPs here offer occasionally high-quality routers (for example, in some cases you may be stunned by some of AVM’s FRITZ! Box, Mercedes in the router world ), it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t know what you’re going to get, and what features and performance will be available to you.
First of all, we mean wireless performance – there are no major issues with wired mode, as a rule it can count on at least four gigabit network ports, quite sufficient to fully utilize the bandwidth available to us , and for all forms of internet streaming and fast data transfer locally, between devices in the home network.
Are you confused by cryptographic tags for wireless standards, such as 802.11 and 802.11ac? Good news – The Wi-Fi Alliance, the group responsible for this term, has decided to simplify them. That’s why the standard 802.11n is now called “Wi-Fi 4”, 802.11ac is “Wi-Fi 5” and 802.11ax is “Wi-Fi 6”. Here are the others: “Wi-Fi 1” is 802.11b, “Wi-Fi 2” is 802.11a, and “Wi-Fi 3” is 802.11g, so older wireless standards that we hope we will no longer meet. The logic is clear – more indicates a more advanced and faster standard
The router’s wireless capabilities directly determine what your wifi can be used for in your home and how well it will cover the space you live in. What is important to us are different parameters – what kind of wireless standards the router supports, how many high quality antennas are equipped, how it handles a number of simultaneously connected and active devices, and how it is placed in the room.
Although you can’t choose the router you get from your ISP, you can sometimes get lucky to get a really good device, like some of AVM’s FRITZ! Boxes. The better the router, the better chance you will have of wireless signal problems
Wireless networks, based on the 802.11ac standard, operate in the 5 GHz band, and the channel bandwidth within that band can be 20, 40, 80 or 160 MHz. By comparison, the 802.11n standard was limited to 40 MHz channel width. Why does it matter? Because doubling the channel width automatically doubles the theoretical bandwidth of the network, because we can fit more data inside the same channel. The 5 GHz band itself is cleaner than the standard 2.4 GHz used (and potentially causing interference and performance degradation), such as microwave ovens, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices, although the latter connect with low power and use other methods for actively combating contamination of the 2,4 GHz band.
Beamforming, a technology brought by the 802.11ac wireless standard, allows us to focus the signal on wireless devices instead of spreading it evenly across the room
Although bandwidth decreases Wi-Fi reach, the 802.11ac standard involves the use of beamforming , a signal processing technique that takes care that network devices, instead of transmitting signals in all directions, focus the transmit energy on the client. This increases the bandwidth of the short and medium range, while also canceling out to some extent the decrease in Wi-Fi range.
Compared to the standard 802.11n, also increased the number of spatial streams ( spatial streams ), with a maximum of four to eight. Spatial flows can be thought of as tubes containing frequency channels. The utilization of these spatial flows, however, depends on the device with which we connect to the router . For example, some 802.11ac-enabled cell phones can only use one stream, so their theoretical limit is 433 Mbit/s, regardless of the fact that the router itself may offer even more wireless bandwidth.
In addition, the 802.11ac standard improves signal modulation by increasing the modulation density from 64 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) to 256 QAM and introducing MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple-Input / Multiple-Output).
This technology allows you to multiplex packages for different users within the same channel. This is extremely important for simultaneously serving multiple devices – therefore, for the comfortable working of laptops, cell phones, tablets, TVs and other devices within the same wireless network. Not clear enough? Imagine having five thirsty members, and you have to bring a bucket of water for each of them. If you are strong enough, you will walk to the wells and take all five buckets at once – all your household will get everything they asked for at once, rather than serving them one by one.
Illustration of how MU-MIMO (Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output) technology works, compared to SU-MIMO (Single-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output). MU-MIMO has brought to the wireless networking world the ability for routers to communicate with multiple devices at the same time, rather than having devices “wait” for each other
The maximum bandwidth of an 802.11ac wireless network depends primarily on how the standard is implemented in the device ( router or access point ). If an 80 MHz channel width and two spatial streams are used, which is characteristic of mid-range devices, the theoretical maximum will be 610 Mbit / s. Higher quality 802.11ac devices can go up to 910 Mbit / s (80 MHz band, three spatial streams) or an impressive 2,400 Mbit / s (80 MHz, eight spatial streams). Things get even more impressive if the devices know how to use 160 megahertz channels. Then their maximum theoretical speeds range from 610 Mbit / s (one spatial stream) to 4,900 Mbit / s (eight spatial flows).
Let’s say that 802.11ac routers and access points are compatible with older wireless standards (802.11b / g / n). In other words, if you own a device that does not support 802.11ac, you will still be able to use home Wi-Fi, except in that case you will not be able to access its maximum performance and all the advanced wireless signaling and signaling technologies that 802.11ac brings.
RANGE AND SPEED ISSUES
Because of the way a radio signal travels through air and passes through obstacles, positioning the router in room is extremely important for home Wi-Fi performance. Unfortunately, since the routers are mostly bulky, ugly, and crammed with network cords and flashing LEDs, we tend to hide them behind a dresser with a TV, desk, couch or something similar. Many Wi-Fi signal quality problems can be solved simply by changing the location of the router .
Every wireless device has the best performance when in central room space and at the highest possible position, the blinking LEDs and the overall ugliness of the router make us hide them behind the furniture, destroying their wireless performance
Of course, there are many cases where repositioning the router will not be fruitful. Flats and houses with thick, concrete walls, especially reinforced ones, are very problematic in terms of range and speed of wireless networks. The same is true for homes where the router is located on one floor, and most clients (wireless devices) are on the second floor, as well as for rooms with an enormous size.
Some routers allow antennas to be upgraded. Better antennas automatically improve the quality of the wireless signal. It’s easy to check that your router has this capability – if it does, the antenna will simply be able to detach
If you are in one of these situations, or your wireless network lacks the desired range and speed for some other reason, you are probably aware of the fact that there are numerous options available to you to resolve the issue. The absolute best of these has come to households recently; in technologically advanced countries, it has been more intensively applied since last year, and this year, slowly and surely, it has begun to break into mostly homes. These are so-called mesh Wi-Fi systems.
If you are looking for the fastest, easiest and most stable long-term solution for improving your home wireless network, meshWi-Fi systems are just what you need. After more than a year of daily socializing with this technology, we can say without hesitation that this is the biggest and most significant shift in the best that has hit the world of home wireless networking in recent times.
MESH WI-FI SYSTEMS - SPEED AND EASE
Mesh topology wireless systems work in a way that all nodes communicate with connected clients, but also with each other. This dramatically increases the reach and speed of the wireless network and ensures smooth and automatic switching of clients between nodes (whichever is most convenient). For more powerful mesh Wi-Fi systems, communication between nodes is via a dedicated 5-gigabit link, on the wings of the 802.11ac standard.
Mesh Wi-Fi systems are a common name for wireless networks with the mesh topology. Mesh wireless network consists of two or more nodes ( node ), where the node is actually a wireless network device that communicates with the connected clients (your laptop, tablet, mobile phone or something else), but also with all other equivalent devices (nodes) in its environment.
This means that there is no restriction on mesh wireless networks that the wireless signal always comes from one central location ( router) and always ends at the repeater. There is basically no hierarchy, but each node functions as a data carrier for the other nodes. The nodes connect to each other wirelessly, and communicate throughout, with the goal of working together to provide high wireless performance and excellent wireless signal coverage.
All this you can imagine as if you have a wireless network with multiple access points ( Access Point ), between which your devices automatically transferred, depending on what their access point or node, at a given moment can deliver a better wireless performance. In other words, as you stroll through your home with your cell phone in your pocket, your cell phone will go from node to node on its own, without any interaction and without interruption, and always be connected to the node that provides it with the fastest wireless connection.
In addition to the principle of operation and overall performance, in terms of range and speed of wireless networking, another major advantage of home mesh Wi-Fi systems over all other such solutions is the ease of installation and deployment. Home mesh Wi-Fi systems are fully automated, and their configuration typically consists of connecting one node to any available port on the router , moving the other node to the desired location, switching on both nodes, and waiting a short time for them to connect wirelessly. They connect to each other in the 5 GHz band and the 802.11ac wireless standard.
All the user then has to do is turn off Wi-Fi on the routerreceived from your ISP (feasible within the router web interface and sometimes using a physical key on the router ) to connect to the wireless network that mesh nodes have created among themselves and – that’s all. Of course, if you want more detailed mesh wireless management options , such as changing your network name and password, this is also possible, and is regularly done using the mobile app. Many mesh Wi-Fi mobile applications also offer options such as viewing all connected devices, generating secondary wireless network for guests, and the like.
But if you don’t want to mess with any of it, no problem – meshThe Wi-Fi system will work without any additional configuration. Adding additional nodes is also trivial and comes down to placing them in the desired location and connecting them to the electricity; everything else will be played automatically. It’s a refresh in the world of online hardware, where device configuration takes a lot of time and nerves.
Many home mesh Wi-Fi systems place a strong emphasis on the compactness and aesthetics of the nodes, so that users do not have the urge to hide them, thus degrading performance. However, in practice, we have made sure that even secluded positions do not interfere with the establishment of high-quality Wi-Fi.
The potential of home mesh Wi-Fi systems is best illustrated by the fact that, in recent times, all relevant network equipment manufacturers have begun to make their own, but also names that are not traditionally associated with this world, such as Google.
Google has identified the easiest way to solve the problems of users who complain that their business smart speakers, cell phones and laptops are doing poorly on the wireless network – by selling them to us the little-known Google Wi-Fi, which is nothing but a mesh Wi-Fi system , composed of two nodes. At the same time, the wireless network works perfectly for such users, and Google saves extra money in their pocket and gains a satisfied user without necessarily knowing what they have bought and why Wi-Fi performance has improved so much.
Where has this technology been all these years, you wonder? Mesh systems have long been used in professional settings (large companies, academic institutions, hospitals, etc.) and for military purposes, and have not been popular in households solely for high cost. Many of them would still not be called cheap because they can cost several thousand kuna each. However, there are also much cheaper mesh Wi-Fi systems that cost less than $ 1,000. These are unlikely to throw you on a begging stick, and will permanently solve all your problems with home Wi-Fi and will be well worth the money you spend.
When you purchase wireless network devices, you will see labels such as 2×2 and 3×3 in their name or specifications. They are not only listed on routers and access points , but also on cell phones, laptops and many other types of hardware. These numbers indicate the number of antennas to receive and send a wireless signal. For example, if your mobile phone has a 2×2 antenna configuration, it means that its maximum wireless bandwidth, when connected to an 802.11ac network, will be 867 Mbit / s (2x 433 Mbit / s).
Of course, in order for this to be possible at all, it is also important that the router or access pointsupport at least an equal number of antennas for receiving and sending signals. With that logic, if we connect a laptop whose wireless network card supports a 2×2 antenna combination to a wireless router with 1×1 antenna configuration, the maximum wireless bandwidth will be 433 Mbit / s. This mark can sometimes be 3×3: 3. The third “threesome” denotes the number of spatial streams – the higher the number, the greater the theoretical performance of the wireless network. Note that antenna configuration and number of spatial streams are two separate concepts.
In other words, it is possible for the device to use a 3×3 antenna configuration while supporting only one (3×3: 1) or two (3×3: 2) spatial streams.
MAXIMUM THEORETICAL OUTPUT
An example of an AC3200 router
Another label you’ll come across when buying wireless networking equipment, often in the name of the device, is the AC1200, AC1900, AC2300, AC3200 and the like. We might call this the trade categorization of a device’s performance class, but by no means accurate information about the capabilities of the device you’re aiming for. Specifically, the letters “AC” tell us that the device in question supports the 802.11ac wireless standard, and the figure indicates its maximum theoretical bandwidth.
It sounds simple, but not quite – namely, the figure is obtained by summing the theoretical maxima in all the frequency bands in which the device can function. For example, if we have a routercapable of transmitting one wireless network in the 2.4 GHz band and one in the 5 GHz band declared as AC1900 does not mean that you will receive 1,900 Mbit / s wireless bandwidth in either of these bands, but that will typically be able to deliver 600 Mbit / s at 2.4 GHz and 1.300 Mbit / s at 5 GHz.
In addition, we reiterate that these are theoretical maxima. The word “theoretically” should be taken seriously, because the figures in practice are unworkable. With all this in mind, a higher declared number (all through the AC3000) generally means that the device can transmit wireless networks in three frequency bands ( three-band ) – one 2.4-GHz and two 5-GHz. Tags ranging from AC1000 to AC2900 are worn by dual-band Wi-Fi devices, one 2.4 GHz and one 5 GHz). However, for their specific capabilities and more precise specifications, the supporting documentation should always be read.