Wireless Mesh Network vs. Wireless Network Extenders

January 30, 2018

Wireless Mesh Network vs. Wireless Network Extenders

Many people ask what the difference is between a Wireless Network Extender that has been around for years and Wireless Mesh Networks which are fairly new and becoming very popular to build strong home wifi networks.  On the surface, they both seem similar in that they extend the network farther by placing a device that simply plugs into power farther away from your network router.  They are very different however.  Let’s look a little at how the Wireless Network Extenders work;

Many people that have purchased Wireless Network Extenders from Netgear, Linksys, Belkin, Cisco, or any other manufacturer can probably tell you that the performance really suffered with this device.  They can also attest to the fact that the Wireless Network Extender is setup as a separate Wifi Network.  In other words, you would have your regular wifi network, typically provided by your internet router, setup with a network SSID name such as “Our Home Wifi”.  You’re router would likely have a separate network SSID setup for the faster 5GHz band as well, labeled something like “Our Home Wifi – 5GHz”.    Now, the Wireless Network Extender has to create similar network SSIDS as well, so you would have as an example, “Our Home Wifi – Extender” and for the 5GHz broadcast from the extender, “Our Home Wifi – 5GHz – Extender”.  Wooo, thats a lot.  Lets recap:

1 Router + 1 Wireless Network Extender available networks

                    “Our Home Wifi”
                    “Our Home Wifi – 5GHz”
                    “Our Home Wifi – Extender”
                    “Our Home Wifi – Extender – 5GHz” 

With this setup, your device will have to change between these 4 networks to provide optimal speeds and data transfer.  Most devices will require that you physically change between these 4 networks as you roam around, as they will not do so on their own.  And remember, this is a single extender system.  If your house required more extenders, you would be adding more networks.


Now, with a Wireless Mesh Network, you create one big large network.  Whether you have 2 Wireless Mesh radios (think of the radio as the extender that gets placed around the house), or if you have 5 radios, there is only one network created.  To further help clean up the network SSID clutter, the Mesh Network will provide both 2.4GHz and 5GHz broadcasting on the same SSID name, so there is no need to create a separate 5GHz network SSID, leaving us with only one network SSID, “Our Home Wifi”.  Now there are some instances in which your devices will not work well unless we create a separate SSID for 5GHz, but this is fairly rare.

What we discussed above is already enough of a reason to go with Mesh over adding Network Extenders.  But speeds and latency are another big reason that Mesh is the way to go.  Wireless Network Extenders are single radio units and will cut your speeds in half, right off the bat.  Speaking of bat, I will use a baseball reference to help visualize why that is, and why Mesh is faster.

Imagine a baseball field with players all in position.  Every player has a ball and must send the ball to the catcher, who is the router.  The players are a mix of your devices and the Network Extenders.  The balls are the data being sent.  With a Network Extender system, the left fielder would throw the ball to the third basement, who must wait to receive the ball, once received, turn towards the catcher and throw the ball.  The catcher will then have to return the ball (data) back to the left fielder.  So he throws the ball to the third basement who waits for the ball, catches it, turns and throws to the left fielder.  Next, the Center Fielder has to send his ball (data) in, so he throws it to the shortstop, who has to wait to receive the ball, turn, and then throw to the catcher.  To return the ball (data), the catcher throws back to the shortstop who throws to the center fielder.  This will happen for each player.  Each time you go through cutoff man in the infield, which represents a hop through the Network Extender, the speed is cut in half.

With a Wireless Mesh System, the units are dual radio and sometimes more.  This means it can do more than one thing at a time.  In the baseball scenario, with a Wireless Mesh Network, all of the players throw the ball at the same time.  But this is no ordinary baseball team.  On this team, all of the players can catch the balls and throw the balls at the same time.  They do not have to wait to catch the ball, then turn and throw the ball, and then wait for ball to be sent back.  Everything is being thrown and caught at the same time.  It sounds like a free fall, and it sort of is, but in a controlled manner.  Just think how long it takes for all of the baseballs to get where they need to go in the first scenario, one player at a time, versus how long it takes in scenario number 2, when everyone just chucks their data all at once.

The end result is speeds through a Wireless Mesh Network are on par with what your ISP provides in most cases.  And because you can add them where signal is needed and not just where you can physically get wire to, there is no reason to ever be in a deadspot in your home again.  Some brand systems offer features that others do no, such as better parental controls or no limits on how many mesh radios can be added to a system.  We can help determine what is best for you and your home/usage.  Give us a call and say goodbye to dead wifi spots in your house.  With the amount of reliance on the home network in today’s home, you really cannot afford not to.


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