Meshing about with Mesh Wi-Fi

A topic we get asked about relatively frequently is Mesh Wi-Fi and what to choose. Home Internet and Wireless networks are absolutely commonplace and I think you would find relatively few homes without any kind of wireless network. Whilst it will never replace the speed of a cable the right application of Mesh can really boost signal strength reliability and connectivity throughout the home.

On our move we had a house with a bigger footprint and lots more walls and brickwork. The connection point for the incoming fibre was the front corner of the house so the Internet Service Provider (ISP) router connects immediately there. This means that by the time you get to the opposite corner of the house and even outside you’re likely to have lost the signal.

I’ve been planning a major revamp of our networking since the move. I have a big concern about the future of IOT security and how I can better lockdown the home. Most ISP routers are pretty good but they don’t provide a lot of functionality that I want for the future. For example, I’d like to create a guest network for family and friends when they visit so they aren’t able to connect to our core smart home, hopefully mitigating some of the attack vectors that might come on that.

What Mesh Wi-Fi do I get?! There are so many to choose from?

A KIOT Fan

It’s a great question and probably has a few factors to it!

  • Your skill level. I’m not a network specialist but I do know a little more about what I want and I want some advanced features but I don’t want a fiddly setup. Most vendors are there to be as simple as possible
  • What other things you might want from a mesh? Some mesh access points can also have zigbee hubs built in, pretty cool if you want to deploy connectivity around your house and you aren’t bound to an ecosystem like Phillips Hue
  • How many users, where they are and what type of activities will they perform? If its lots of streaming, you’ll want a relatively high bandwidth and throughput.
  • Are there some devices you’d like to wire in? I really wanted to wire in my PC tower. The results below were most impressive (best Darth Vader impression here)
  • Cost! You can pay the earth and for me there is a fine balance about practicality

I’m not going to list a system to buy as it changes fast. Updates get released and models upgraded. Some places to start: Google Mesh WiFi, Ubiquiti, Netgear and TP Link

For my project, I decided to get the TP Link Deco S4 model (part of the Deco range they have). It suggested the below which I think fits really nice for our use cases and provides 300megabits per second (mbps) on the 2.4 Ghz and 1200mbps on the 5 Ghz. Most routers have these 2 frequency ranges available. I decided NOT to make the jump to the high end and Wi-Fi 6 yet. My reasoning was one of cost and the possibility to upgrade in the future.

Image taken from the TP Link Deco S4 page, accurate as of December 2018

What about the deployment? Well it was extremely easy. Steps as follows:

  1. Download the DECO app from TP Link onto my smart phone
  2. Unbox the units
  3. Power the primary (root) access point next to the existing router from our ISP and connect it via Ethernet
  1. Run through the setup with Deco unit using the app. It was really simple when I used it, suggested all of the modes and input parameters to work with the ISP router.
  2. Setup the other mesh points about the house in the locations required
  3. I then disabled the 2.4 and 5 Ghz on the ISP router so I only had 1 network to manage
  4. Rejoin all devices to the new mesh (the painful part!)

I’ve really enjoyed how easy this one was to deploy. It was probably one of the easiest smart home deployments in terms of setup, with the most time consuming part cutting over all my devices to the new network, particularly things like smart TVs where it’s just an onscreen keyboard.

The speed of my main PC connection went from about 35mbps to 73mbps and also the connection experienced far less drop outs or dips in quality.

What are your thoughts on Mesh Wi-Fi? Has it benefitted you? Let us know!

4 thoughts on “Meshing about with Mesh Wi-Fi

  1. No more meshing around looking for signal. Great results on download speeds, that’s a sizeable difference. Looking forward to having a home that warrants Mesh WiFi! Great insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m bordering on luddite and had no idea about mesh wifi prior to this article – I’ve been experiencing a lot of lag and drop in speed particularly on work calls during the day when I am working from home in my spare bedroom – the connection is a lot better downstairs, i.e. next to the internet hub. What is the difference / benefits to a wifi mesh vs. an extender? (which is what my work IT advised me to get!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great question and thanks so much for it Kayleigh. When you say experiencing a drop in speed, do you think this is down to your internet connection or the Wi-Fi in your house? Worth checking your internet speed consistently if you can, https://www.speedtest.net/ is something I use. I would suggest a couple of devices in each location (so one test downstairs, one up) to give you some data to work of. If you have the bandwidth maybe at a couple of different times of day too. To use my home example, I knew it was my Wi-Fi not the incoming internet speed because I was getting consistently the same lower speed from my far away devices over multiple tests.
      The extender versus a mesh is an interesting one. An extender will pick up your existing network, amplify it and rebroadcast it. So you would probably call it ‘Home Wi-Fi Extender’ as a new network and connect your far away devices to that. Great if the devices are always in one place (like a computer) as it effectively creates 2 Wi-Fi networks in your house and you choose which you connect to. Upside is its cheap to buy usually, £20 level. Downside is you have to switch between those extenders and they can act as a bottleneck
      Mesh Wi-Fi on the other hand is basically like having 3 hubs that are optimised to talk and communicate to each other. It covers a significantly bigger area and acts as one network so no switching between different access points. Upside is very smooth communication and commonality of network but the downside is price! Typically £80-100 (or more!) depending on the system you go for.
      The real trade off is bandwidth and throughput. Mesh would almost certainly give you faster speeds and high bandwidth but is it far beyond the requirement when an extender might also do the job!
      Hope that helps as a quick reply and we’d be happy to talk more about it if you would like to.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That makes a lot of sense. We’ve done speedtests, and consistently (like with your example) we get slower speeds upstairs in the office, than when we are downstairs – the speed isn’t terrible, but in the current zoom culture it can be challenging when presenting files if the speed drops. When hubby works from home and we are both on work calls, whoever is upstairs might usually ends up dropping out of video calls / having interrupted connections. I like the sound of the mesh over the extender, as I know for me I move around the house throughout the day and changing connection points could be annoying – but as you say an extender could do the job so probably will start there and see what occurs! Thanks for the response – definitely has helped my understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

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