How to Set Up a Mesh Network

Get Wi-Fi in all those hard-to-reach places with a mesh network

A mesh network increases the range of your internet connection by placing several connection points around your home or office, with all of the points connected to and reinforcing each other. Instead of being limited by the distance from your router or having to log into an extender, your device connects with the nearest point smoothly, and the other units help route traffic to maintain speed.

What to Do Before Installing a Mesh Network

Before you install your mesh network, prepare your home for optimal results:

  • Internet coverage area: Determine the square footage of the area you want to receive Wi-Fi, including outdoor spaces like patios and front porches. A typical router offers greater distance line-of-sight than when the signal must pass through dense objects like brick walls or metal objects. Buy as many mesh nodes as you need to cover your network's intended square footage, accounting for architectural barriers to signal propagation.
  • Router location: Find the ideal location for the router. The best location is one where you have maximum reach in all areas you need Wi-Fi, with satellite nodes filling in the edges. Usually, this location is in the center of the house, but not near an obstruction like a fireplace.
  • Node location: Find the best location in your rooms for each satellite node. Nodes connect to electrical outlets. Nodes should also be away from possible sources of interference, such as cordless phones and microwave ovens.
  • Mounting nodes: If possible, measure a place to mount the node where it will be out of the way. Nodes that need to reach through ceilings should be placed higher up, while nodes that need to reach through floors should be lower down.
  • Mesh network specifications: Examine the specifications of each mesh network you're considering. Pay attention to the maximum range of each satellite node, and plan node placement to be, at most, two-thirds of that distance, if possible. You can always add more nodes to the network as needed.
network diagram

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How to Set Up a Mesh Network

Although each mesh network vendor's setup process differs in detail, all follow the same general procedure:

  1. After you choose a system, download its app to your phone.

  2. Unplug the router and connect the main node to it using an Ethernet cable. Reconnect the router and let it and the main node power up.

  3. You're prompted to log in to your account with the mesh network or create one if you don't currently have one.

  4. Scan the QR code on the bottom of the main node, or input a serial number, to link your account and the main node.

  5. Enter, as prompted, a name or location for the main node. Indicate the number of satellite nodes. Don't worry if you overestimate or underestimate it, as you can add nodes later.

  6. Plug in the nodes one at a time. As each node is added, you're asked which room of the house it's located in.

  7. After you add your planned nodes, go to each room of your house and any outdoor areas, and then check your network speed.

Why Install a Mesh Network?

The typical Wi-Fi router is designed to deliver a signal to a standard, single-family home. However, building materials, home design, and home size can often frustrate the most powerful routers. This fuzziness becomes evident when you attempt to use Wi-Fi at the edge of a router's effective range.

As appliances become smarter and phones, tablets, and computers use more data, a single router can struggle to keep up with all the requests at once, especially as those devices sit at the extreme edge of the router's range.

Mesh networks mitigate these common problems by distributing your router across your home. The key node of the mesh network is connected to the router and connects to other nodes as you install them. Nodes are constantly connected to each other and help each other move traffic over Wi-Fi signals.

If, for example, you stream music on your phone and walk through your house, instead of your phone staying in touch with the router the entire way, it would hand off that traffic to closer nodes.

This architecture limits connection losses and ensures the router doesn't become overloaded by too many requests at once. However, proper configuration is necessary to ensure the best results.

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