You bought a router and expected to have WiFi signals available in every corner. But it turns out there are always some spots that cannot be covered. That’s because the wireless network mainly relies on radio waves for data transmission, and as the distance increases, the signal strength will gradually deteriorate, especially when it penetrates through multiple physical obstructions like walls, doors, pipes, trees, etc. An average WiFi router that runs on a 2.4Ghz frequency can support a maximum transmission distance of 45 meters indoors and 90 meters outdoors (in a clear line of sight), which is enough to fully cover a small-to-medium-sized property. But since the WiFi signal can spread out equally in all directions, if you place the router in the corner, then most parts of the house cannot be covered at all.
But no worries. There’s a budget-friendly way to help you get WiFi available in every corner or specific room and location. By using the mesh system, you can get expanded coverage by installing extra units and tailoring your wireless network according to the shape of your house and network purpose to ensure complete WiFi coverage.
What is Mesh WiFi?
The mesh system is an integrated network system that consists of the main router that directly connects to your modem and two or three mesh nodes that act as satellites to bring seamless connectivity to every corner. The mesh router is the backbone of the mesh system to transfer packets to and from the mesh nodes (clients) and establish communication between these clients. Unlike the traditional WiFi routers, they all belong to a single wireless network and share the same SSID and password, so you can easily access one of these wireless stations wherever you are. It provides a wider coverage with less cost than the wired network. The mesh WiFi system is designed for places that suffer weak or incomplete WiFi coverage to repeat and boost up the signals during the transmission.
Installation Process: Though the installation process of each mesh system may differ, they all follow the general procedure: 1) connect the main node to the router with an Ethernet cable and power them up; 2) download the app on your phone and log into your account; 3) enter the serial number of the main node; 4) add the satellite nodes one at a time; 5) After each node is added, go to each room it’s located to test if it’s successfully connected.
Why is Mesh Network Better than the Traditional WiFi Router?
Mesh WiFi is relatively a new entry into the customer market. In the mesh system, the mesh router and satellite nodes behave like a single seamless network, so it’s a good option for homes with multiple floors or a spread-out layout. Signal issues can be easily addressed by the mesh system. Since all the mesh units (router and nodes) share the same SSID, which enables your WiFi devices like phones and laptops to roam between different mesh nodes, so you can connect to the closest mesh node directly without the need to search for the separate SSID for a particular unit. If you are in the living room, your device can automatically connect to the nearest mesh node located there, and when you move into the kitchen, the connection will also be changed simultaneously. And because the mesh nodes run on the same SSID, they can relay data more intelligently. They can use a 2.4Ghz channel to communicate with the router and use a 5Ghz channel to relay the packets to other mesh nodes.
On the other hand, the old-school WiFi router has to process the traffic on a single unit to send and receive the data on its own, so network congestion is a common issue in legacy networks. When a device communicates with a router, the signal has to travel the full distance from wherever it is to the router’s location. Worse still, since a traditional router can only support a limited transmission range, its signal strength will start to deteriorate and its network speed will also start to slow down when it hits some physical obstructions, so only a small fraction of WiFi signals can make it to the destination. An improperly installed router is a risk of potential financial loss and a bad user experience. Devices that are further away or out of the WiFi range will experience poor quality of service than those closer to the router. And even though some traditional routers support network bridging to expand the network range by connecting two separate routers, you’ll have to constantly switch between different routers when you change your location since they have different SSIDs.
The mesh system can be widely utilized in both residential and commercial applications, such as broadband home networks, enterprising networking, building automation, traffic systems and security systems. Actually, the list can go on and on. It provides a cost-effective way to increase the wireless Internet coverage throughout your home without installing new network cables. Moreover, it also plays a significant role in supporting real-time communications such as audio and video to give you the best network experience in video conferencing. It is highly scalable and customizable: you can install more mesh nodes to extend the WiFi range if the initial set isn’t enough to cover the whole place. Each unit can communicate with the main router and talk to each other directly, and it only needs an electrical hook-up to function. But please remember if your problem is caused by network congestion on the WLAN or a slow-speed and poorly placed WiFi router, a mesh system isn’t going to solve your problem.
Mesh WiFi System: Issues and Challenges
Even though the mesh system provides better performance, more wireless coverage and less network congestion than the wired network does, it is not without its own limitations and challenges.
#1 Network Planning Could be Complicated
As we mentioned previously, the mesh network is highly scalable (you can install more mesh nodes for an expanded coverage), but planning the mesh network is quite complicated. Based on the shape of your house, floor plan and layout, the position of every mesh node may differ. Before making an investment in the mesh system, you’ve to decide where you need to cover and check if you have any signal strength issues there. Considering the data rate is largely determined by signal strength, once you have a good idea of the area you want to cover, you need to evaluate the signal strength of the desired area and determine where it might be possible to place the units. You can easily test the strength of the WiFi network with your phone as long as it is internet capable: open the Settings on your phone and go straight to the WiFi settings to see the WiFi strength of your network. Or download an app such as WiFi Analyzer where the signal strength will be shown precisely in dBm to help you pick up the ideal installation site. Any signal strength between -67 and -30 dBm is quite enough, but once it’s lower than -70 dBm, the performance will start to degrade. And it probably won’t work at all when it touches down to -80 dBm.
And choose a spot that is ready for immediate installation. Data can be transmitted wirelessly, but remember you’ll still need power where you place the mesh node. Because each mesh node has to act as an access point or a router, it has to draw more power to function properly. Therefore you have to install it in some place where there are power outlets nearby to ensure the optimum functionality of your mesh system. If your mesh nodes are battery-powered, then you’ll need to design a proper network plan to make sure the device won’t run out of battery in the long term. Some mesh nodes can be wired into the network, while others only need to draw power through the wired connections. If you have wired Ethernet running to the locations where you want to install the mesh nodes, then you can choose a unit that provides the option to connect the device directly to the router through wired ‘Ethernet backhaul’. But some companies also develop some models that allow you to plug the wired devices into the Ethernet ports on the mesh node.
#2 Network Speed May Slow Down
The mesh system offers the fastest and most straightforward way to provide seamless connectivity over a large property, but still, it cannot 100% guarantee complete coverage throughout your home. It’s not necessarily the mesh system that slows the network speed. If your mesh router is connected to a lower-speed Internet connection, then there’s little you can possibly do to improve the speed. Actually, various factors can contribute to a slower network speed. To enable the mesh units to reach their rated speeds, the first thing you need to do is to reboot the system. Restarting your mesh units will force them to choose new WiFi channels that experience less congestion. Another simple way is to adjust the antenna of the mesh router. For coverage on more than one floor, the WiFi antennas should always be pointed at different angles. If you’re using a router with two antennas, you should position one antenna vertically and another horizontally. Then, you can also switch the frequency of your router from 5Ghz to 2.4Ghz. Even though the 5Ghz router supports a faster speed, it’s more susceptible to interference. It cannot penetrate solid objects like walls and doors as well as the 2.4Ghz band does. However, the 2.4Ghz band is better at delivering signals at a greater distance. Also, if your neighbors are also using the 5Ghz band, changing your router’s channel will allow it to operate on a different frequency, clearing up the interference issue.
#3 Challenges in Outdoor Deployments
A mesh network is a great option for outdoor applications to provide data connectivity wirelessly to areas that need access to security cameras, building access controls, etc. You have to make sure the mesh nodes or access points you use can withstand severe weather conditions. Another major problem in outdoor deployments is the power since power is hard to find in remote areas. It won’t pop up every time! Installing a new electrical infrastructure will normally cost a lot because the average power outlet cannot even stand the abnormal current exchange outdoors.
1) Choose a Waterproof Model
One of the common reasons for network failures is water ingress. If you need outdoor coverage for an extensive area, you may also want to choose a system that includes a weatherproof model. Rain can be extremely harmful to your mesh units when moisture gets into the connection between the devices and Ethernet cable. You need to choose a mesh system that features a high IP rating. The IP ratings are used to define how capable a network device can withstand the intrusion and ingress of dust, moisture, chemicals and other foreign particulates. The higher the number, the more protection you’ll get. For example, IP65 stands for complete protection against dust and low-pressure water jest, while IP54 stands for protection against limited dust ingress and water splashes. And the mesh system should be rated as at least IP66 to survive the inclement weather in harsh environments.
2) Power the Outdoor APs/Mesh Nodes with Outdoor PoE Injectors
The outdoor PoE injector is a PoE injector that is housed in a waterproof casing to protect the device from water damage. If properly installed, it can also be buried under the ground The PoE injector offers a practical and economical solution to transfer both power and data to the powered devices (PDs) on a twisted-pair cabling system at a maximum distance of 100 meters, eliminating the need for additional power cabling. Compared with the PoE switch, it offers a greater level of flexibility to install the network device in places where there is an AC outlet available. And the PoE injector can also be an excellent power supply unit in the mesh network setup. Once connected to a power source, it will simultaneously convert the received energy to DC power and send it to the mesh node. Since it shares the same working principle as the majority of PoE devices, it can identify whether the connected device is PoE-compatible or not and decide how much power is required by a power handshake.
Benefits of Using PoE Injectors for Building Mesh Networks
The PoE injector offers a highly reliable power solution to install the mesh nodes. Constant power delivery is guaranteed with an uninterruptible power supply from a centralized point rather than distributed wall outlets. Power conversion from AC to DC lowers the risks of power outages and overloads. And the point-to-point PoE connection reduces the chances of power failures, with a minimal impact on other connected devices. The PoE injector is a money-wise investment. It integrates power conversion (AC-DC power), power management (available only in standard PoE injectors) and power connection all in one small unit. Power consumption can be monitored in real-time with LED indicators. It takes fewer devices to get your PoE system running, reducing job stress. It is a great alternative to PoE switches when fewer devices are installed.
Recommended Product: 60W Outdoor Industrial Waterproof PoE Injector
This 60W outdoor industrial waterproof PoE injector is specially designed for high-power network applications installed in severe weather conditions and harsh environments. It is compliant with the IEEE802.3bt (Type 3), backward compatible with the IEEE802.3af/at, featuring a maximum power supply of up to 60W to help you set up power-hungry devices like high-performance wireless access points in hard-to-reach areas. It supports a wide input voltage range of DC 24~56V, and the inner regulator will boost up the power to the regulated DC 54V, which reduces the chances of voltage drop in long-distance applications. This PoE injector comes with a rugged metal enclosure (IP67-rated waterproof) to protect the device from breakdown and malfunctioning on rainy or snowy days. It also features a vast operating temperature range from –40°C to 75°C to survive the extreme temperatures in a changeable outdoor environment.
#4 Security Issues in the Mesh Networks
The mesh system opens up the network to multiple points of access, and at the same time, it opens up more opportunities for the cyber threats. Each mesh unit represents a possible point of attack. Even though the mesh WiFi system uses industry-standard levels of protection and encryption like the WiFi routers, it doesn’t necessarily come with advanced security features. The unauthorized users can enter the network from multiple points, or simply disrupt the entire mesh WiFi system by removing the mesh nodes. If a computer becomes infected and tunnels into the mesh network, it can pretend to be a trusted member of that network, disrupt the system and block the data flow. So regular updates are important for your devices and software to keep your mesh network as secure as possible and combat cyberattacks. And you can monitor and block some unauthorized traffic by enabling your mesh router’s firewall. And you can disable file sharing and ping requests from basic firewall settings to stop the hackers from stealing your private data.
Seek Professionals For Help…
If the above solutions can’t fix your problem, then you might need to ask a professional for help. Fastcabling is dedicated to providing network solutions for both end-users and SMBs. Our support team is always standing by for pre-sale and after-sale services to offer the most direct and immediate product & tech support. Build your own network now with our advanced network products that are manufactured and tested with industry-recognized standards and the highest level of quality.