Do you find your internet works fine in one part of your house, but lags or cuts out when you move to another area? WiFi extenders and mesh networks help to solve issues like spotty coverage and dead zones in your home, offering WiFi coverage that’s consistent and dependable. The main difference between a WiFi extender vs mesh network is how they connect to your network and devices.

A WiFi extender grabs the internet signal from the router and transmits it to another location, establishing a new network with a different network name that requires you to connect manually. A mesh network also extends the WiFi signal, but it does so by using pods strategically placed throughout your household that are interconnected on the same network. The pods transmit signals to your connected devices, such as your phone, laptop, or smart TV.

To access a pod on a mesh network, you don’t have to disconnect manually from the main network. The pods communicate with your devices and automatically switch to the pod with the best signal strength. Think of it the way a cell phone connects to the nearest cell tower as you roam.

Let’s look at how each operates to distinguish between a mesh network and an extender.

Woman deciding on WiFi extender vs mesh network

How WiFi extenders and mesh networks function

A WiFi extender is a small device that plugs into an outlet. The extender operates on the same band as your router to receive the WiFi signal and uses a second band to transmit the signal to your various devices. It acts as a bridge, letting you extend your WiFi signal for devices to connect via WiFi. But because the signal gets sent out via a new network, your internet speed could decrease by up to 50 percent when the signal reaches your devices.

A mesh systemsuch as Quantum Fiber’s 360 WiFi—begins with a router connected via an Ethernet cable to your modem. Satellite pods are plugged into outlets, grabbing the signal and expanding coverage. You can connect multiple pods to increase the WiFi signal coverage throughout your household. Each pod acts as a router, automatically sending signals from one pod to the next for seamless coverage. The pods also operate on multiple bands in order to be able to serve multiple devices more efficiently.

You can use a WiFi extender with a mesh network if you need more coverage. However, the extender will create another network you must manually access because it isn’t part of the interconnected mesh network. Your device’s connection will drop when switching from your router’s SSID to the extender’s SSID.

Person using their phone to check WiFi signal

WiFi extender vs. mesh network: Which should you choose?

Choosing between a WiFi extender and a mesh network depends on your coverage needs. Your home’s bandwidth usage and budget are major deciding factors.

First, let’s take a look at square footage. The biggest advantage of a WiFi mesh network is that it gives you seamless whole-house coverage, but you’ll need enough pods to cover your square footage. For homes under 3,000 square feet, a router and two pods should be enough. The more square footage you have, the more pods you’ll need. Once you install pods throughout your home, you can move freely from place to place without changing networks.

The mesh network will also direct traffic to optimize speeds to every device in your home. Expanding a mesh network is easy too. Simply add another pod that’s compatible with the system, and it will automatically be integrated into the network. Most mesh networks come with an app that allows you to manage your system.

Because they are just one device, WiFi extenders tend to be less expensive than mesh networks, but they have limited capabilities. An extender can be an effective solution when you need to reach one device, like a television streaming stick, in a room that doesn’t get a great signal. Plug it in, activate it, and connect the device to the extender’s specific network. If you show up in that room connected to a different network than what is being transmitted by the extender, you’ll need to change networks to access it.

Another disadvantage of a WiFi extender is the signal speed. Devices using the extender network won’t have as strong a signal as the main network.

Coworkers collaborating

Mesh network vs. extender: Which is faster?

No matter which solution you choose, your WiFi performance is only as good as the signal coming into your home. Extenders and mesh networks can transmit signals at greater distances but won’t speed up your service. For fast, dependable speed, consider fiber internet.

Do you have a household or business with multiple users on various devices simultaneously? Visit our blog to learn more about Quantum Fiber 360 WiFi and how it can provide reliable, robust coverage throughout.