Wireless internet routers enabled us to free ourselves from ethernet and coax cables long ago. But as our need for more internet bandwidth has grown with each new convenience, our home networks have gotten more congested.
When you add up all the mobile phones, tablets and laptops floating around your home, then consider the cord-cutting streaming TV services and smart home IoT devices, it’s not hard to see why. Currently in the U.S., there are an average of eight networked, or smart, devices for every person. That number is expected to climb to 13 devices per person by 2022.
Conventional WiFi routers simply cannot handle what we throw at them in our daily lives. Signal congestion caused by all these connected devices results in poor internet performance. That’s on top of natural signal dispersion over distances and through the walls in your home. But these challenges are pushing development of better WiFi technologies that can serve all the devices in your home.
Switching your home internet from a traditional WiFi router to a new mesh-style WiFi system can improve the internet experience across your entire home, on every device. Here is a primer on how it works.
What is mesh WiFi?
A typical WiFi router’s signal weakens as it spreads through the home, leaving noticeable “dead zones” where your devices drop off the network. These usually lurk in corners at the edges of your home where the signal simply cannot reach. Mesh WiFi, on the other hand, blankets your home with overlapping signals that cover those previously dead spots and share the demands all your connected devices put on your internet.
Sounds complicated, but it’s not.
Most mesh WiFi systems can be set up in minutes. The main WiFi router hub connects to your modem, just like traditional WiFi. But instead of having a single point of signal distribution, several small nodes that plug into a regular wall outlet transmit their own signals, giving your home full coverage at full internet strength. All the pieces are part of a single network, with the same IP address and password as the hub. It’s like having all the benefits of a sophisticated home network without needing an IT degree to set it up.
Do I need a mesh WiFi router?
Probably. Most traditional WiFi routers are meant to cover up to 1,300 to 1,500 square feet. The average size of homes built today in the U.S. is more than 2,400 square feet, so unless your home was built 50 years or more ago, you’re most likely a candidate. (Even at 1,500 square feet, your home will have aggravating dead spots.) As a bonus, mesh WiFi nodes are designed to be experienced but not seen. With most systems, there are no obtrusive antennas or blinking lights to interfere with your home’s décor or ambiance.