What Is The Difference Between Traditional WiFi and Mesh WiFi Network?


If you’re not an IT professional, navigating IT products or services can be mind boggling.  We’re always happy to answer questions and help clients better understand the options available to them.

Recently, a new client asked a great question.  He wanted to better understand the difference between a traditional WiFi and a mesh WiFi network for his business.  We figure others out there may want more information too, so we’re sharing this great question and our answer, shown below.

Mesh networking, when boiled down to its essence is about eliminating single points of failure.

Traditional WiFi

In a traditional wireless network, you have a wireless hub (router, access point), that operates like the hub of a wheel. It provides a central point that facilitates and authenticates wireless communication.

In a small environment like a house or a single room office, where there are only a few connected devices, and uptime is not critical, these configurations are fine.  They are secure and manageable. They usually do what they are intended to do; provide network access to WiFi devices.

Their main weakness is that the WiFi router is a single point of failure. If that router has a problem, everyone gets kicked off the network.

They also are not scalable. If you are in a large space and the signal is weak, you may be able to rectify it with a range extender, but the router is still a single point of failure. There is also a logical limit to the number of range extenders you can put in place, because each time the range is extended, the available bandwidth is cut in half. Also, if any range extender goes offline it breaks everything else further down the chain of communication. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, as the saying goes.

Mesh Wi-Fi

mesh wifi like a chainlink fenceThe problems of traditional Wi-Fi have been negated with the advent of mesh wireless networks. To keep with the analogy of a chain, a mesh network operates more like chain mail. All of the links (access points) work together to form a large area of coverage. If a single link in the chainmail were to break, its structural integrity is left largely intact.  Instead of one access point and one point of failure, mesh network access points all link together. If an access point goes offline, connected devices simply switch to another access point and the mesh self-heals.

They are ideal for large coverage areas where you need to push a Wi-Fi signal further and where failures of individual access points will not affect the uptime of the network as a whole.

Suitable environments include anything from a larger homes and office spaces that a single router can’t blanket in signal, to vast commercial spaces such as warehouses, conference centers, nursing homes, hospitality businesses, hotels and more.  This WiFi solution can scale as large as whole towns and cities, or as small as single family homes.

WiFi Solutions For Large Areas

A router alone can push out WiFi signal a few hundred feet.  A repeater can push half signal a few feet more. A second repeater’s signal is too weak and spotty to be useful in the real world. This is why we never recommend repeaters.

Our recommended WiFi solution for larger areas is to create a mesh network, because signal strength stays strong across every access point. See the illustrations below to understand how WiFi repeaters fail and mesh WiFi works better.

Traditional WiFi With Repeater

WiFi Repeaters Drop Signal -diagram

Mesh Network

Full Signal Strength WiFi Solution Diagram

You can expect to pay more for a solid system of access points, and in this case, you absolutely get what you pay for.

WiFi Solutions & Installations in Toronto ON

Are you in Toronto ON and in need of a better WiFi solution?  TUCU offers IT networking solutions, including WiFi for business installations in Toronto.  Schedule your free consultation to learn how we can help you.
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