Mesh Network / WiFi
Mesh networks are a network of interlocked routers called nodes, or points. These nodes work with one another to supply internet coverage over a broad area, something a traditional home network can’t provide.
In a regular home network setup, there’s a single router provides network/internet coverage as far as it can reach, through walls, out the door, up to the stairs, etc. Mesh networks consist of multiple routers that each provide coverage but is still a single network since each is also communicating with the other nearby nodes.
The result is a single network that has far better coverage than a single router can provide. A mesh network can deliver internet access anywhere the nodes can reach, like through a three-story house or even across several city blocks.
Mesh networks can easily, effectively and wirelessly connect entire cities using inexpensive, existing technology. Traditional networks rely on a small number of wired access points or wireless hotspots to connect users. In a wireless mesh network, the network connection is spread out among dozens or even hundreds of wireless mesh nodes that “talk” to each other to share the network connection across a large area.
Mesh nodes are small radio transmitters that function in the same way as a wireless router. Nodes use the common WiFi standards known as 802.11a, b and g to communicate wirelessly with users, and, more importantly, with each other.
Nodes are programmed with software that tells them how to interact within the larger network. Information travels across the network from point A to point B by hopping wirelessly from one mesh node to the next. The nodes automatically choose the quickest and safest path in a process known as dynamic routing.
The biggest advantage of wireless mesh networks — as opposed to wired or fixed wireless networks — is that they are truly wireless. Most traditional “wireless” access points still need to be wired to the Internet to broadcast their signal. For large wireless networks, Ethernet cables need to be buried in ceilings and walls and throughout public areas.
Mesh networks, only one node needs to be physically wired to a network connection like a ADSL or Fiber Internet modem. That one wired node then shares its Internet connection wirelessly with all other nodes in its vicinity. Those nodes then share the connection wirelessly with the nodes closest to them. The more nodes, the further the connection spreads, creating a wireless “cloud of connectivity” that can serve a small office or a city of millions.
Wireless mesh networks advantages include:
- Using fewer wires means it costs less to set up a network, particularly for large areas of coverage.
- The more nodes you install, the bigger and faster your wireless network becomes.
- They rely on the same WiFi standards (802.11a, b, and g) already in place for most wireless networks.
- They are convenient where Ethernet wall connections are lacking — for instance, an outdoor concert venue, warehouses or transportation settings.
- They are useful for Non-Line-of-Sight (NLoS) network configurations where wireless signals are intermittently blocked. For example, in an amusement park, a Ferris wheel occasionally blocks the signal from a wireless access point. If there are dozens or hundreds of other nodes around, the mesh network will adjust to find a clear signal.
- Mesh networks are “self-configuring;” the network automatically incorporates a new node into the existing structure without needing any adjustments by a network administrator.
- Mesh networks are “self-healing,” since the network automatically finds the fastest and most reliable paths to send data, even if nodes are blocked or lose their signal.
- Wireless mesh configurations allow local networks to run faster because local packets don’t have to travel back to a central server.
- Wireless mesh nodes are easy to install and uninstall, making the network extremely adaptable and expandable as more or less coverage is needed.
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