A new wave of wifi devices have been hitting the shelves over the past few months. They are designed to solve the problem of poor wifi reception when your main router is not up to the task of covering a large house / office. They use a technology called "mesh networking". So what is this technology, and do you need it?
Wireless Mesh Network technology
Despite the recent batch of device launches using this technology, wireless mesh networks are not new. They have been used by the military for some time. Also, electric meters are being installed that use this technology to bounce data from one to the other before finally reaching head office.
In simple terms, it's similar to wifi extenders that you've been able to buy for some time. However, these devices are much easier to set up, and overcome many of the quirks of using extenders. The wifi mesh units on your network all communicate with each other to ensure optimum coverage. Therefore extending the network is just a matter of buying an additional unit and plugging it in.
One additional improvement over extenders is that the mesh units all present themselves as one network. Therefore, your wifi device stays on the same network regardless of which unit you're connecting to.
Wireless Mesh Networks for Home Users
What IS new is the new range of consumer focussed devices that use this technology. The main contenders here at the moment are BT's Whole Home Wifi, Google Wifi, Netgear Orbi and Eero Wifi. These products all do pretty much the same thing, and that's to extend your wifi coverage using the techniques described above.
All these systems also offer smartphone apps that make managing your network a whole lot more user friendly than logging into a traditional router. Of course, for any technically minded people, this may not be entirely desirable, as they may need to get at the settings that these easy-to-use apps hide away. However, for most people, it'll be a big improvement.
However, these devices are not cheap. You currently need to spend at least £200 for two units from any of these manufacturers (and there would be little point having fewer than two).
Should I buy a Wireless Mesh system?
So, should you invest in one of these systems? If you're having wifi issues over a small area, then the answer is no. These units will not solve problems cause by huge local interference (either by other wifi networks close-by, or other electromagnetic interference). However, if you've had wifi reception issues over a large house or office when you're a long way from the main router, then it may well be worth looking into investing in one of these systems.