Mesh is a kind of network topology. Network topology refers to the arrangement of nodes and connections of a network. Different types of network topologies include bus, star, ring, mesh and tree. Mesh network topology can employ either a full mesh scheme or a partial mesh scheme.
In the full mesh topology, each node in the network is connected directly to every other node. However, in a partial mesh topology, only selected nodes are directly connected. These selected nodes could be the ones that exchange most of the data in the network.
Wired & wireless mesh networks – How it works?
In the past, when wireless technology was not widely available, wired mesh networks were costly to deploy. This is because each node needed a physical connection to every other (or a subset of nodes).
This also made reorganising the network very cumbersome. Wired mesh networks were too difficult to deploy in outdoor open spaces where wired networks could not reach.
However, these days, wireless mesh networks have gained immense popularity. They have removed the physical and financial barrier of the previous wired networks.
Use of wireless mesh networks has made internet readily available in open places such as concerts.
Wireless mesh network kits are readily available in the market which consists of a few or several routers. Although, these routers do not look like conventional routers, and also they behave like nodes.
So, one of these nodes acts as a gateway and connect to the internet via modem. Whereas, other nodes communicate with each other on mesh topology.
In short, rather than relying on one single router, now you have access to several routers or nodes having equal potential and internet speed. Also, these nodes will automatically decide the nearest possible node which is providing best internet speed based on your device location.
Advantages of wired or wi-fi mesh networks
Mesh networks provide a decentralised network topology. When compared to a star topology, which requires all clients connect to server (a star-shaped network where each network is connected to a central server), mesh network offers a major advantage as there is no single point of failure. So, when a node in the network fails, another node takes its place.
Mesh networks (particularly wireless mesh networks) are very useful in locations that do not have wired Ethernet connections. Some examples of this would be outdoor events, remote areas (such as a desert), transportation settings such as trains, etc.
Speed and Availability
Since this topology does not have a central server, local packets do not need rerouting. This makes communication much faster.
Mesh networks are immensely used in cases where wireless signals get blocked such as thick walls. Mesh networks also grow to become very fast as more nodes are added to the network.
Wi-Fi mesh network v/s range extender
Both mesh networks and range extenders are used to serve the same purpose, i.e. to ensure widespread availability of wireless networks (primarily Wi-Fi).
The main difference between the two concepts is that range extenders fixedly retransmit signal whereas mesh networks transmit data more dynamically.
The most prominent disadvantage of a range extender is that it is intelligent enough to connect your device to the nearest node with best internet signal strength.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi network does this job like a charm, and you may not have to choose manually the best possible contender based on the internet speed. Range extender may work well for a house which is not very big and has mostly static devices like a desktop or PC.
Whereas, if your house is big or multistory and also if you have mobile devices then Wi-Fi mesh network is for you. Also, using range extenders require a smaller number of devices than mesh networks.
Using mesh networks at home
If you are looking at a method to extend Wi-Fi signal in your home, then you have a look at pros and cons of both the mesh network and range extenders.
In a mesh network, different nodes communicate with each other, amplifying the network at each hop. This provides more consistent coverage of the wireless network where the user will get equal bandwidth at any corner of the place.
With range extenders, the connection strength decrease with distance. Also, unlike Wi-Fi mesh network routing, a signal cannot bypass thick walls using range extenders. The advantage of network healing is not available with range extenders.
Mesh networks, however, are costly to deploy and only useful in vast spaces. It is recommended to implement just in areas that are larger than 2000 square feet to get the best out of a mesh network.
Mesh networking in Consumer space
Mesh networking is very new in consumer space. Recently, many consumer-friendly mesh networking kits have been launched in the market.
Some of the kits include Ero, Luma, Netgear Orbi, and Google WiFi. These kits promise to kill Wi-Fi dead zones in your homes and cost anywhere between $300 and $500.