What is mesh Wi-Fi? Here's what you need to know about the system that extends your Wi-Fi network
  • A mesh Wi-Fi network uses two or more satellite routers to blanket your home in Wi-Fi.
  • A mesh router is a more efficient and powerful alternative to installing a Wi-Fi extender.
  • Here’s an overview of mesh Wi-Fi routers and why you should (or shouldn’t) use one. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Most people are familiar with Wi-Fi dead zones — they’re a typical drawback in many home networks. It’s not hard to see why; your Wi-Fi router broadcasts the wireless network radially in all directions, and depending on where the router is located, there will be some portions of the home the signal can’t reach.

Walls and other barriers can interfere with the network as well. A mesh Wi-Fi network tries to solve that problem by using multiple router nodes, rather than just one, to blanket your home in Wi-Fi.

What to know about mesh Wi-Fi routers

Unlike a traditional Wi-Fi router, a mesh router uses two, three, or more satellite routers to deliver your wireless coverage. They work together to share the load, all sharing the same network and SSID. 

A mesh router system usually comes with two or three components that act as nodes — more nodes generally add up to better coverage and improved range. Depending on the router brand and model, one node might be designated as the main router and the others as satellites, or all the routers might be completely interchangeable. 

Regardless, one unit must plug into your internet modem or router, and then the remaining satellites get positioned around the house to ensure good coverage. Like a Wi-Fi extender, these mesh routers need to be positioned closely enough that they can communicate with one another — but far enough away that you can spread out your total coverage. 

The pros and cons of a mesh Wi-Fi router

Why should you consider getting a mesh Wi-Fi router? Here are the main advantages of using a mesh network:

  • A mesh Wi-Fi network is generally faster and covers more square footage than any single-unit router or a router with a range extender.
  • All the nodes on a mesh network broadcast on the same network and SSID, unlike many range extenders that force you to connect to different networks depending on the part of the house you’re in. 
  • Mesh routers tend to have modern network management tools, such as a mobile app that you can use to control all aspects of the network without logging into a complicated web-based console. You can also use the mobile app to control the network remotely. 

Mesh Wi-Fi has become popular in the last few years, but this kind of router is not always the best solution for every home. Here are some reasons why you might avoid a mesh Wi-Fi network:

  • Mesh routers tend to be more expensive than traditional standalone single-unit routers.
  • Depending on your home, the extra performance might not be worth the cost. If you have a small home with good coverage from a traditional router, a mesh router will not give you any added value.
  • You’ll have to contend with extra hardware. Each satellite unit must live on a table or shelf, and that can pose a problem if you want to keep your gadgets hidden.
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