Question Would a mesh network be massively overkill for me?

Harlem

Active Member
Hey guys. I've recently been changing around my house and decided I want to put the router in another room.
My big problem is, having my PC connected to internet wired is a must, but the router will be in another room.

My house is just a standard 3 bedroom Semi detached, nothing huge, nothing small.
I know home plugs seem to be the obvious choice but after looking into a mesh network it seems that these things just give a much better wireless signal no matter the size of the house.

Realistically, I'd only need one, I guess I could stick a second in my shed so I get better coverage outside.
I'm with Virgin, so get 500mb, do I'd like to pass that through as much as possible.

If so, what should I look for in a network.
I first looked at the Amazon eero, but at £249 for a pair of 3, it seems quite expensive compared to the Tenda MW3. I assume there is a big difference in quality?

Thanks guys!
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
"Mesh" has become something of an abused term and has now been so mangled by the marketing departments that it is virtually meaningless.

Any Wi-Fi solution that cannot be delivered using a single hotspot has to be delivered using multiple hotspots creating a "cellular" coverage pattern. It could be argued that any cellular coverage pattern is a "mesh" system. "Mesh" is not some woo woo that magically somehow "does Wi-Fi better" than other systems, it's just a fleet of multiple Wi-Fi hotspots (even if it is as few as just two) just like any other Wi-Fi system with multiple hotspots.

The "trick" with multiple hotspots is hot one establishes the "backhaul" link between devices facilitating each hotspot and the rest of the (wired) network. Best backhaul is achieved using "proper" wired ethernet. Next best is probably Powerline/HomePlug technology, though it's fickle had highly dependent on how good the signalling conditions on you mains electricity circuit is. It used to be that least good backhaul is to also use Wi-Fi. However, now that Wi-Fi is getting faster it can be argued that Wi-Fi backhaul can do pretty well compared to powerline. Though cabled ethernet still beats both hands down if "speed" is your thing.

All Wi-Fi is is facilitated by devices called "Access Points" (AP's.) There's an AP built in to a SOHO Router, Repeater, Homeplug, Mesh node, "Disc," Mi-Fi, Q-Box and anything else that "does Wi-Fi." Whilst the feature set between one AP and another can vary greatly, the fundamentals of how they work at a basic level is the same - an AP is and AP is an AP, whatever it might be built in to; they all transmit the same "kind" of radio energy. For the SOHO use case, what basically differentiates all of these devices from each other is how they achieve their backhaul links as discussed above.

Just to muddy the waters even more, some "mesh" systems can use wired backhauls, some cannot, some have separate radios for the backhaul and client access signalling (often called "tri band") some do not and so on. A lot of them offer some features that used to be the preserve of enterprise systems whereby the nodes "talk" to each other to do useful stuff like automatically establish the radio channel plan, pre-stage some of the roaming hand-off and share information about which AP can "hear" each client the best in order to try and "steer" clients towards use the "best" AP and a management platform (often an "app".) But this is by no means universal.

As a buyer, one cannot assume anything about a so-called "mesh" system - it's up to us to check the specification forensically.

I think about the best thing we can say is that they are designed to easily automate setting up a multi-hotspot cellular coverage pattern where people cannot or don't want the hassle of installing proper cabled backhaul links or use powerline type technology.

For those "mesh" systems that can use Wi-Fi for the backhauls, they are essentially the same as Wi-Fi "Repeaters" albeit with some extra bells and whistles for client steering (probably.) But just like Wi-FI Repeaters, if you are going to deploy nodes that use Wi-Fi backhaul, some care is required in their physical positioning as the mesh nodes need to be "in range" of a good signal from each other as well as the area they are meant to provide client coverage for. (Of course, cabled/powerline backhaul does not suffer this issue.)

"Mesh" has it's place (like all these technologies,) but they are not silver bullets.
 
Last edited:

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
I know home plugs seem to be the obvious choice but after looking into a mesh network it seems that these things just give a much better wireless signal no matter the size of the house.
Homeplugs are very unlikely to give you the speeds you require to match the 500Mbps VM service. Typically even with the fastest 2000Mbps ones, you would normally expect around the 200Mbps mark at the top end. You might get lucky but most of the testing in reviews get these levels.

Have a look here


It is quite frustrating that they can still advertise them like they can. For starters they are advertised as duplex speed, so if we sold switches in the same we would advertise them as 2Gbps switches...

They are fine for normal VSDL Broadband but VM and internal networks really show up the limits.

I personally would look to run a hardwire cable from router to PC and to other access points.

I would recommend UniFi as they work well, not the cheapest but their controller software allows you to monitor and change a lot of settings but only if you want to. A lot of the off-shelf "mesh" solutions are plug and play but that does not allow you to tune it.

With VM it is essential you have as much control as possible, otherwise you will be overpaying for their service.
 

psychopomp1

Member
Try a single router and see how you get on before potentially wasting money on a mesh system. My router - Netgear RAX200 - sits in a corner of our 4 bedroom detached and easily provides full Wi-Fi coverage in every room. I see wifi Speedtests of over 250 Mbps on a BT 330/50 fttp line, on all ac clients. Once I upgrade to BT 1 Gig FTTP, I’m expecting around 600 Mbps over Wi-Fi ac and close to 900 Mbps over Wi-Fi ax.
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
@psychopomp1 are you hitting 330 though?

If you are "only" getting over 250Mbps then you wouldn't expect to get 600Mbps on AC.

I am slightly concerned that we are driving for a headline figure now and in reality, we are very much getting diminishing returns. What are you going to use the additional bandwidth for over 330Mbps?
 

psychopomp1

Member
Sorry I meant I‘m getting at least 250 Mbps over Wi-Fi but usually see around 300 - 310 if I’m not too far away from the router. On a 330/50 openreach fttp line you will never see the full 330 Mbps in speedtests due to overheads - real world speeds max out at around 310 Mbps, wired or wireless.
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
Ah ok its not like VM which overprovision by 10% so you "always" get the advertised speed.

Curious though, what are you going to use the extra speed for?
 

psychopomp1

Member
On Openreach lines - whether ADSL, FTTC or FTTP - maximum throughput is always slightly less than the sync rate.

The BT 1 Gig service will mainly be used for work, I download/upload many TBs of data each month so that extra speed will come in very handy.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
All the networking tek. we encounter here has a "duplex mode," - it's either "half-duplex" of "full-duplex."

Full-Duplex means "can transmit AND receive at the same time" - DSL and ethernet can do this, though ethernet can also operate half-duplex (maybe DSL oes too if the signaling get really bad, but I've never checked.)

Half-Duplex means "can transmit OR receive, but not at the same time" - Wi-Fi and HomePlug/Powerline (and human conversations) are half-duplex. Ethernet can fall back to half-duplex in adverse conditions and some older ethernet equipment is also half-duplex (sometimes as a legacy of the days before switches got invented.)

Duplex mode describes an operating paradigm, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the "speed" cited for networking equipment. The "half" in half-duplex doesn't not in any way imply any kind of mathematical operation.

However, that operating paradigm, including the duplex mode, can have a huge effect on the perceived "speed" observed, including that from "speedtests" (which measures something different from the numbers cited on the data networking specs.)

If HomePlug vendors are using the shabby trick of summing the upstream and downstream link rates together to claim their kit is faster than it really is, this is reprehensible (some switch vendors did this years ago, but soon stopped when IT pros called it out as a con) but none of the admittedly few HomePlug spec sheets I've looked at do this - they all cite link rate.

The substancial point ChuckMountain makes about not expecting HomePlugs to cope with 500mbps throughput, I'd agree with - I'd want plugs at least four times the link rate of the throughput I want to achieve (5-6 would be better) due to all the protocol losses Homeplug suffer, even in ideal conditions when they do actually sync up close to their max. speeds. And the more plugs you have, the more ways that potential throughput gets sliced and diced.

Maybe an AC based Wi-Fi solutions would do better, but if you are really "worried" about speed then you wouldn't be using either and you'd get the drill out and install some UTP cables and drive gigabit ethernet down them.
 
Last edited:

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
@mickevh I inadvertently missed full out of my duplex comment. I personally this is unscrupulous of the manufacturers.

The link speed of powerlines often reports substantially higher than the actual achieved throughput again quite deceptive.
 

Similar threads

The latest video from AVForums

Podcast: New TVs, Samsung Q800T Soundbar review, IFA latest, Movie and AV News, B+W Brad Pitt
Top Bottom