What is Mesh?

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Mesh networking, whole home Wi-Fi, surround Wi-Fi—yes, there are new technologies coming to your home on which you’ll need to brush up. Today, we’re looking at these three terms, which are all different names for the same thing—Wi-Fi that expands the coverage in your home and creates coverage “bubbles” that will allow you greater freedom and more diversity with your home or small business networks.

What do you think about mesh networking? Fad or future tech? Innovative or inconsequential? Let us know in the comments section below.

Need more information about mesh networking or whole home Wi-Fi? Check out the selection of products at BHPhotoVideo.com

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I think the problem here is that this is not real mesh.

This is a standard hub and spoke network architeicture using one channel of the AP's wifi as backhaul between the AP and remote hubs. Real mesh means that the various hubs talk to each other, able to change connections if one remote hub goes down or if there is interferance.

On the negative side, you can get a lot of latency using REAL mesh - so that is why no one uses real mesh. Each time the signal bounces from one meshed remote hub to another, there is a tiny bit of delay.  Plus the signal path can keep changing - potentially causing additional latency and connection issues.

Instead, the various manufacturers are using hub and spoke and are juut calling it mesh. Whatever you want to call it, it works fine. The mesh term here is just marketing jargon. Ignore it.  . 

I have setup my own roaming networks in the past and used to do technical support for a fruit company for 6 years. The difference between a homebrew roaming setup vs something like the Eero system is that the Eero routers are aware of each other as well as all the devices on your network and rather than letting the devices figure out which base station to connect to (based solely on signal strength), the Eero system figures out total bandwidth draw, QoS AND signal strength and then pushes devices to the unit that will deliver the best OVERALL performance. Last week I installed a 3 pack of Eeros in my home and the difference is amazing. For the record, I am fortunate enough to have cat6 throughout my house so the backhaul is all wired, but I never had the quality of coverage I do now even when I had 4 'traditional' routers hooked up.

I've used a product called "Open Mesh" which is cloud managed for several years.  I totally love it.  Very inexpensive.  You can find it at open-mesh.com.  I am not affiliated the company.  

Open-Meah is more of a enterprise solution VS eero, Luma, Orbi ETC are  consumer based 

This is most definitely not "new" technology. Cisco & Motorola have been doing this with wireless for about 10 yrs. They have a wireless controller (Motorola RFS 7000 as an example ) that controls many access points. The controller handles all of the security, access and brains of the mesh network, and the access point is just a radio with antennas.
The issue with these systems has always been cost. $10-20k starting price is more than a home user is interested in.
The mesh kits I am seeing advertised now for home are still more pricey than I want to invest in. In theory, your controller / router should theoretically be a few $100 & the access points /radios under $100. Also, if they are going to offer it to the general public, there should probably be a set of standards that all the manufacturers use, so that the access points / radios are interchangeable among the brands.
Just my opinion. ..

And a very good opinion it is! Thanks for writing in. The new  flux of mesh wireless sytems is mostly consumer based (check out our article here and a review on the Luma system here) and they will definitely be priced for the home market. So far, each wireless kit will include a main router and two satellite nodes. It's becoming so popular that even Google has entered the mesh networking game with their own Google WiFi system.

this is not NEW technology; it has been used in the mining, defense, and public safety world for some time.  Some mesh devices are actually wearable.  Nice to see it making it's way to business and consumer grade applications, and it will become the norm in the not too distant future.

No, not new - we should have said "new to home users". Thanks for writing in. It is exciting technology, though, and we hope it takes off. Look for more coverage of mesh home systems soon.

How is this different than adding an airport express to an existing base station?

Using the AirPort products can be considered a type of Mesh networking when using more than one. They allow for extension of your wireless network with Ethernet, or completely wirelessly. 

It is understandable that contributors here are confused as to what this new technology is, as the article does little to explain it, but mesh technology is revolutionizing industrial applications today, particularly where transport systems and vehicles must remain in perfectly seamless contact with a network  throughout a long trajectory, with high levels of safety or other mission-critical reliability. Whether this technology will prove relevant to home users, remains, in my opinion, to be determined, but as price points continue to drive downward, it is incontestably the highest performance architecture for remaining in communication throughout any defined perimiter.

Well said Greg Faris! Home mesh technology manufacturers are hoping to provide more coverage at a lower price point than buying seperate routers and extenders. So far the applications have been seamless, but as more (and bigger) manufacturers jump into the fray, who knows where this technology can take us?

When will we see some product? Isn't this the same as we have now with the repeaters that are offered?

We've already seen and tested the Luma, and we have an eero review coming in the next fw days. After that, the Orbii is on the roster, so hopefully you can make an informed decision about purchasing a new mesh network home system.

 What    about  the  tadiation,  and  potential    cancer  it  can  cause.    Cell   phone  are  very  dangerous,  and  cause  brain  cancer,

This  was  provrn  in  Sweded,  and  Israel   How  much  will    this  system  cosy ??

There have been no repeatable studies which indicate that either cell phone or WiFi use will cause cancer when used within government limits. Despite the widespread adoption of cell phone and WiFi usage over the last 30 years, brain cancers have been decreasing, not increasing as one would expect if there was a cause. Do not be confused by alarmist claims, they are based on one-off studies published in Journals of Irreproducible Science.

Hi David -

This is a good question that concerns us.  Please feel free to explore this question further by visiting the website of: 

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health

I have already done this by adding an additional access point on the other side of my home.  Between the 2 wifi points I have full coverage of the home.  What makes this different from what I already have?

It's not exactly the same as adding extenders, Extenders or addtional repeaters in a home network can only re-transmit signals they have already received, while mesh nodes transmit the data in short bursts to each node on the network, This makes mesh networks a little more reliable - if an extender or AP goes down, the whole system goes down. If a mesh node goes down, the signal is still kept alive by the remaining nodes.

Agreed.  This communication does't explain anything new at all.  Wireless extenders have been around for a long time, so presumably there is something new here.  Netgear just announced and released Arlo Orbi which appears to use a third frequency range for AP to AP communication.  This sounds like a similar technology.

The best solution is still wired devices or wired WAPs on different non-overlapping channels using the same SSID.  The latter here allows mobility around the space without losing a connection as long as the site survey, design and implementation have been done well.

The win of a well implemented mesh technology for normal consumers would be to include the out of band connectivity between mesh nodes so as not to reduce performance and include some software & hardware to aid consumers in the proper placement of the nodes around the house.  This would allow people with a normal level of skill to expand their wireless coverage around challenging spaces with a minimum of effort.

how is this new technology? dead zone is just that a dead zone..direct connect to router and Daisy chain the nodes? so there's one node connection with the router and the others connect from the one node? that's messed up..never work..the one main node goes down the entire node system goes down....what's the advantages of using this?

Hello Randy and thanks for writing in. A dead zone is a dead zone, and directly connecting to the router will certainly solve connectivity issues, but a wireless mesh network system lets you create a wireless signal between the nodes, and as mentioned before, doesn;t fail when one repeater goes down. You can think of it as one central router and two mini-extenders, but that doesn;t show the advantages of mesh networking over tradtional extenders, like reslience, more relaible coverage, and the ability to create "handshakes" between rooms for those of us that wander from room to room with our mobile devices.

This add may sell people who are not familiar with technology and who knows, this may be the target audience. But for those who do understand, there is absolutely no information here. It is a nice idea, but how does it actually work is the question.

If I had more time, I might look into this more seriously, but not today.

We've looked into it for oyu, Ed. Check out our article here. And yes, this was an infographic for those not familiar with mesh.

This ad/presentation isn't going to sell anyone on MESH.  People want facts, specifications and performance numbers.  Today's customer is far more sophisticated and knowledgable - this is a mIssed opportunity by B&H.

Agreed. An unfortunate use of an infographic. "Everyone loves wireless networking." Really? And there is no link at the bottom of the graphic despite the prompt to learn more about Explora. I ended up Googling explora open mesh and found B+H's page "Open-Mesh Network Gear: a Brand Overview" https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/computers/news/open-mesh-network-ge... which is more informative, and brilliantly links to the Explora Open-Mesh products on B+H's website! Time for a stern chat with the SEO team.

When you carry your laptop or tablet from one zone into another, does it have to reaqcquire the router (or repeater)?  If so, how long and how much of an interruption does this entail?  And what is the end effect of a streaming connection?

usually, your laptop will try & hang on to the previous zone for as long as it can (and this can be detrimental to performance) eventually giving up and re-connecting to the nearest AP. Normally takes a second or so, so expect a bit of "dead" time when this happens.

Switching access points is up to the client entirely. Some devices switch seamlessly and are barley noticeable. Others can take a second or two to make the switch, and you may have a momentary loss of connection.  

please someone tell me that this equipment isn't using 2.4 ghz!

As of right now, we can tell you the Luma system acesses both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands.

Mesh is great where other options are not available (i.e. cabling)

Big downside is that unless you use a different backhaul method, any time you add a repeater to a Wifi network, you halve the throughput.

HAM RADIO operators have been installing MESH networks for years not only in homes, but around their cities expanding free WiFi.

Mesh has been around for a few years in the commercial area and especially in the education arena. The biggest adantage is that users can move around a large area and stay attached to WAN/LAN without dropping off when out of range of an AP. This home concept is similar. The drawing makes it seem as a big "new" thing of having multiple AP's in a home. Dead spots however, are still dead spots.

Anonymous wrote:

Mesh has been around for a few years in the commercial area and especially in the education arena. The biggest adantage is that users can move around a large area and stay attached to WAN/LAN without dropping off when out of range of an AP. This home concept is similar. The drawing makes it seem as a big "new" thing of having multiple AP's in a home. Dead spots however, are still dead spots.

So what is a "node" if it's not a bridge/repeater? And if you put a "node" in a dead spot (as you have in your example diagram), how can it communicate with the base router? it needs to be in a live area so it's range can extend to cover the dead spot. Your product may be wonderful but I am not impressed with the presentation

If the clients cannot pick up; the router, how do you expect these to pick it up?

Anonymous wrote:

If the clients cannot pick up; the router, how do you expect these to pick it up?

if the clients can't pick up, then you're in network terms you're "routed" ;-)

These devices are designed to be used in a daisy-chain fashion where the first node connects to the router, the second node to the first node (etc, etc)

Anonymous wrote:

Anonymous wrote:

If the clients cannot pick up; the router, how do you expect these to pick it up?

if the clients can't pick up, then you're in network terms you're "routed" ;-)

These devices are designed to be used in a daisy-chain fashion where the first node connects to the router, the second node to the first node (etc, etc)

That's not what the presentation says: "ALL nodes will connect to the main router..."

Mesh networks originated with the first responder community and establishing mobile hot spots with repairable mesh networks for interoperability between various groups, police, fire, Feds, during a fluid tactical emergency... Most homes with a strong wireless router would not require a mesh system unless you have a large property to cover... Tongi into more detail would require a bit more time...

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