WiFi has become such a part of our daily lives that we often take it for granted in the home or workplace. At the same time though, many people have dealt with dead spots or problem areas where the signal just isn’t strong enough, despite having great speeds closer to the router. One household fix for this dilemma is to install a range extender, which catches the signal and pushes it further; however, this distance comes at the price of halving the speed of the connection in its distant reaches or even causing a bottleneck effect and slowing down the entire network. Additionally, range extenders create a new network, which must be signed into and switched onto manually, creating a hassle for the user.
To combat these issues, tech companies have developed a new method of full-home coverage called mesh WiFi. Mesh WiFi, also known as Whole Home WiFi, consists of a main router connected to the modem, and a series of satellites, or nodes, that rebroadcast the same signal at the same speed again. Each of these components connects to a single wireless network and share the same SSID and password, unlike range extenders. This means that the user also won’t experience as much lag, since the access points, or nodes, all broadcast the same signal, instead of having to route requests through multiple networks.
Users experiencing dead zones or slower connections could be dealing with too much distance between themselves and the router, or may be battling physical obstructions like brick walls, thick floors, or several walls. Additionally, interference from other devices could also be stifling the connection, even if the device, like a microwave, isn’t connected to the wireless network. On top of this, other WiFi networks and mobile devices could be clogging up the airwaves; as an article by Linksys states, “Think of it like a room full of people who are all speaking at once—nobody’s going to be heard very well.”
The main benefit to mesh networks is seamless coverage. Since there is only one name and password, moving from room to room won’t affect the buffering or result in a lost connection. On top of this, there’s no need to disconnect and reconnect to different networks as you move from one coverage zone to another. Users also enjoy that guest networks can be set up via a mobile app without compromising security, and that child locks and connection preferences can all be controlled remotely without the use of a computer. Nevertheless, the price point may be an obstacle for some users. While a typical router and extender may cost between $100 and $150, a mesh router and satellite retail between $250 and $300, with additional satellites being $150 to $200 each.