Your tablet won’t connect from that dead spot in the family room. Faces freeze during work video calls. Transactions hiccup when your customer is in a hurry. The kids groan when their games won’t load. When any of these things happen, you catch yourself asking: “Why can’t the WiFi just work?”
Face it. We’ve come to think of WiFi as a given. And even if we’re unsure how WiFi works, when it doesn’t cover every nook and cranny of our home or small business, the struggle is real. Especially now, when the internet and WiFi are lifelines tying us to jobs, shopping, e-commerce, and all kinds of entertainment.
Enter WiFi mesh networks—the most recent solution to sketchy WiFi, dead spots, and the ever-annoying “spinning pinwheel of doom.”
Why is my WiFi so slow?
First things first. You need to understand why your WiFi may be running slower than expected.
It doesn’t make sense, especially if you have a super-fast, fiber-optic internet service like Quantum Fiber. But even if your top speed is 940 Mbps, there may be reasons for slow WiFi that have nothing to do with your internet service provider.
First, there’s distance. WiFi uses radio signals to communicate with your smart devices. The farther you are from your router, the weaker the signal, which may be one reason for slowdowns.
The layout of your location can cause problems too. For example, thick walls, lots of metal, brick, or concrete can be tough for a WiFi signal to punch through.
Even a neighbor’s WiFi, your other wireless devices, or even appliances inside a home or business can create interference. Yes, we’re looking at you Mr. Microwave Oven.
Don’t forget about traffic—and not the kind on the expressway. More Internet of Things (IoT) stuff than ever is competing for your WiFi. Lights, thermostats, fridges, and video doorbells all fight with computers, phones, tablets, and TVs in the battle for bandwidth. Suddenly, that clunky, old router you stuck in some dark corner years ago can’t cut it anymore.
The mesh network: what is it and why is it better?
A WiFi mesh network (also known as managed or whole-home WiFi) is a connected group of access points (called “nodes”) arranged around a home or small business that all work together to spread a WiFi signal more evenly.
Think of your old-school WiFi this way. If you turn on one light somewhere in your home, it’s hard to light up the whole place. The further you move away from that light, the dimmer things get. Some rooms will be in total darkness. A WiFi mesh network is like installing individual lights in several rooms to light up the entire house.
Instead of just one router, there are two or more nodes in a mesh system. A primary node is hard-wired to the modem and acts as the router, sending the WiFi signal to the other nodes wirelessly. These satellite nodes boost and relay your WiFi. Mesh networks can blanket a house or business with WiFi coverage. Since more devices are transmitting the signal, and the distances between them are shorter, the WiFi signal stays stronger.
Upside: it’s really, really smart.
All the devices on a mesh network share the same network name and credentials. So, unlike systems like range extenders, there is no need to keep logging in and entering a password every time you move around the house and switch from node to node. Everything is on a single network.
The node system also uses artificial intelligence to learn how you use your network and which devices need more bandwidth. It then automatically decides the quickest, most efficient way to route your devices. These systems are so smart, they can even figure out how to optimize themselves to improve your WiFi experience. Sure, this sounds a little like “Skynet” becoming self-aware, but these machines are built for one thing: seamlessly keeping you connected to your WiFi no matter how much you move around.
Convenience is a plus.
Mesh systems like Quantum Fiber 360 WiFi let you set up, manage, and control the network using a mobile app. With the 360 WiFi Plume app, you can add and configure new nodes (or Pods). It even suggests the places in your house or business where they’ll work best. You can also create a separate guest password, block ads, specific devices, and set content controls—all with a few taps on a phone or tablet. Plus, in our world where secure WiFi is a top-of-mind concern, the app even includes an AI-powered cybersecurity feature to help protect your network and all the devices connected to it.
It even looks cool.
An unexpected bonus is the node design itself, which often looks anything but “techy.” Several models on the market look more like modern accent décor than WiFi gear—with soft edges, and no blinky lights, antennas, or tangled wires.
Who needs a WiFi mesh network?
Larger, multi-level homes or bigger business spaces probably benefit the most from a WiFi mesh network, but you don’t have to live in a McMansion or work in a multi-story business to use one. The beauty of mesh networks is that they work with the design of your space, not against it. Each mesh system can be customized to fit any size location. An average home or small business location can often get by with two nodes. Of course, the more square footage you have, the more nodes you’ll want.
Since WiFi mesh networks and equipment are still evolving, there is a wide range of prices. System costs can vary from $200 up to $1,300. The price tag depends on the sophistication of the gear and how many nodes you need. Today, several major internet service providers offer customers a WiFi mesh network product and service plan. You can lease the equipment for an extra monthly fee, have a technician install it, and improve your coverage without breaking a sweat.
Too much is better than not enough.
Our connected lives may not all be the same, but one thing is clear. We don’t just “get on the internet” anymore. It’s where we do almost everything. Households and small businesses that rely on many wireless devices will really benefit from today’s mesh WiFi networks. As more and more WiFi-capable devices become part of our lives, the need for these systems will only grow. There will be no such thing as having too much WiFi coverage