Can my sister use my WiFi connection?
Set up mesh WiFi: this is how you bring WiFi to every corner of your apartment
This post originally dates from February 2019 and was extensively updated by us in January 2021.
A router is not always in the strategically most favorable place. If you want good WiFi coverage even in the last corner of your apartment, you sometimes have to help out. For a long time, powerline adapters, LAN cables or WLAN extenders were the only solutions. For some time now, however, there have been systems with which you can set up a mesh WiFi.
What is Mesh WiFi?
Mesh WiFi extends your home network with additional access points. The router gets help so that it no longer has to cover the entire apartment on its own. One, two or even more other radio-capable stations carry the network into the most remote corners of your home. The signal should remain as equally strong as possible.
A mesh WiFi is a kind of network in the network and is particularly suitable when the WiFi signal has to pass through several walls or ceilings, pipes or other impassable terrain and would lose a lot of speed on the way.
What Makes Mesh WiFi Better Than a WiFi Extender?
The great thing about Mesh WiFi: The other access points receive the same WiFi ID as your router and they use the same password. The speed remains the same everywhere. If you walk through the apartment with your smartphone, for example, the system constantly checks which station offers the strongest signal. In theory, it always dials into the network at the strongest station.
This is also the big advantage over WLAN extenders, which amplify the signal at the expense of the transmission rate on the go. An extender only sends and receives on one channel, so it has to split it up, while Mesh uses several radio modules.
What types of mesh WiFi are there?
In a "classic" mesh network, the access points use WLAN for both data transmission and communication with one another. The individual mesh adapters should therefore not be too far apart from each other. Two adapters are sufficient for small but angled apartments; three or more should be required for a whole house with several floors.
Powerline mesh systems, such as Devolo and AVM, are a little more recent. As an end user, you can enjoy the advantages of a mesh WiFi as normal. However, the stations communicate via the power line and also forward the network signals via it. Powerline mesh is particularly suitable for apartments in which the home network has to overcome thick walls and ceilings.
How does a mesh WiFi work?
A mesh WLAN consists of at least two components: a bridgehead and one or more stations. The bridgehead takes over the Internet connection from the router and passes it on to the stations. There are complete packages, for example from AVM or Netgear, in which the router is also the bridgehead. In most cases, however, such systems are retrofitted and are not compatible with one another; the bridgehead of the mesh WLAN is therefore usually installed in addition to the router in its vicinity and connected to it with a LAN cable.
The mesh WLAN stations are equipped with at least two radio modules (dual-band mesh systems). They send and receive the signals from the bridgehead and the other stations in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks. In addition, of course, they also take on the local router function: end devices can use it to access the network.
Triband mesh systems even use three radio modules: You can log in with your smartphone via 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz - as is probably the case with your current router. The individual mesh modules communicate with one another in the background via the third radio module. So this data traffic does not come from your bandwidth.
In the event that the system nevertheless reaches its limits: Individual systems have band steering: If a WLAN band is occupied or overloaded, the technology automatically switches to another band and gives you a higher bandwidth.
What is the best way to set up a mesh WiFi?
If you want to set up a mesh WiFi, the easiest way is to buy a complete set from a manufacturer. The devices are coordinated with one another, and installation usually takes a few minutes.
You shouldn't set up the individual stations of a mesh WiFi too far apart. On the one hand, because the access points have to make contact with each other, on the other hand, because ideally you want comprehensive WiFi coverage in your home. Rule of thumb: There shouldn't be more than a wall between two mesh adapters.
If you use a powerline mesh system, slightly larger distances between the access points are also possible. Here you can also set up the two adapters at the opposite ends of your apartment, as long as there is no dead zone in the middle.
When placing the stations, the same applies as for a router: You will achieve the best reception when the radio device is elevated and centrally located. If you have a station that does not have to be plugged directly into the socket, place it a little higher, for example on a chest of drawers or a shelf.
If only an installation in a socket is possible, do not place anything in front of it. The station should be able to radio as freely as possible. If that is also not possible, install the individual stations closer together.
Can I put together my own mesh WiFi?
Maybe you think: I still have an old router from TP-Link, a Powerline adapter from AVM and one from Devolo. Do I just switch them all together and my own mesh WiFi is ready ?!
Unfortunately it's not that easy. In order to communicate with each other, the devices need a protocol - and it must be the same on all devices. Each provider is currently doing its own thing with mesh WiFi software and mostly uses proprietary solutions that are not compatible with others.
With Easymesh, the WiFi Alliance has presented a standard that is supposed to make mesh WiFi systems compatible with one another. However, this is not yet the case in the 1st generation of mesh WiFi devices. In addition, no manufacturer is forced to use Easymesh.
There are open source solutions that the Freifunk initiative also uses for their mesh WiFi. In principle, you “only” have to install an adapted firmware on all desired stations and then make the devices known to each other. Not all router manufacturers allow this. Therefore: Building a mesh WLAN from your own components is possible in principle, but only with selected hardware and only for advanced users.
Which mesh WiFi systems are there?
Practically every network supplier today has its own mesh WLAN systems on offer. So here is just a selection:
AVM Fritz Mesh Set
With the Fritz Mesh Set, the Berlin manufacturer AVM offers a combination of Fritzbox router and a mesh station. Additional AVM Powerline stations can be purchased and installed in the network. AVM's combination solution is particularly interesting for those users who do not yet have a router or who want to replace their old one. Here you get everything in one fell swoop.
Since the software update to Fritz OS 6.90, AVM has also made older Fritz components mesh-capable. So, for example, you can update an existing Fritz Powerline adapter and integrate it into the Mesh WiFi.
Devolo Magic 2 WiFi next
With the Magic 2 WiFi next, the Aachen network supplier Devolo offers a mesh set that you can install next to any router. The stations connect via powerline. The system is therefore particularly suitable for thick ceilings and walls through which radio signals are difficult to get through. You can supplement it with a Next extension.
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Telekom Speed Home WiFi
Telekom also offers mesh components. A mesh WiFi can be set up with several speed home WiFi adapters. If you also own a Telekom Speedport router, the latter can be practically integrated into the mesh WiFi.
At first glance, the D-Link Covr-C1203 components (shop) don't look like a mesh system at all. If desired, the mesh access points to a router of your choice offer fashionable decorative objects. At first glance, the “big sister” Covr 2202 looks a bit more like a router, but it follows a similar design language.
TP-Link takes a comparatively open approach with the OneMesh system. You don't have to buy any new hardware to set up a network here. You can simply use wireless TP-Link SOHO components that you already have.
Google Nest WiFi
Google Nest Wifi is now the second generation of a meshed network from the house of the Internet giant. Google says that no further router is necessary, but a modem from your provider is necessary. Like many other systems in this list, the Nest Wifi components can also be considered decorative objects.
Network equipment supplier Netgear offers some meshed systems in its Orbi line, including the entry-level system Netgear Orbi RBK23.
Bluetooth mesh: finally suitable for the smart home
Does mesh WiFi also have disadvantages?
Unfortunately, having fun with mesh WiFi has one disadvantage: it is relatively expensive. You rarely get starter sets with two or three access points for less than 200 euros, some of the products presented here are significantly more expensive. If you really only have one other room that you want to provide with WiFi, consider whether a single powerline adapter or a WiFi range extender would do the same.
The power consumption of mesh WiFi is also considered to be high because the stations have to be on reception practically all the time. And there is also the disadvantage: in practice, the transfer of the signal from one access point to the next does not always work completely smoothly. Apart from that, the advantages predominate: a network that is basically the same everywhere, automatic dial-in of your device and only one WLAN configuration for your entire apartment. Have fun meshing!
Featured image: D-Link
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