Mesh Wi-Fi 101: How Does a Mesh Network Work?27 comments
Most of us are doing everything we can these days to get more out of our home Wi-Fi networks. More people are relying on home broadband to connect to work, school and entertainment. It’s important to make sure that the Wi-Fi signal in your home is strong and reliable. If the single router you’re using isn’t delivering a decent signal, or if your home has dead spots, multiple floors, dense walls or other structural impediments, think about installing a mesh Wi-Fi network to boost your reception.
What is mesh Wi-Fi?
A traditional Wi-Fi router—the one you have in your home now—blankets an area with a signal but its reach is limited. If a home or building is 3,000 square feet or more, or has brick, metal or concrete walls, floors or even doors, the signal from the main router may not reach certain areas, creating dead zones. Another possible problem is interference. Devices such as your microwave, a cordless phone or even a baby monitor can interfere with the Wi-Fi signal. If you have neighbors close to you—such as in an apartment complex—there may be interference from their devices, wreaking havoc on your Wi-Fi signal.
Mesh Wi-Fi is a system made up of a router and satellites that you place throughout your home. You’ll then have multiple Wi-Fi access points to provide extended coverage throughout the home. For example, a mesh Wi-Fi router broadcasts a signal to multiple satellite devices. As you move throughout your home, the mesh network will know whether to route your connection through these satellite devices. The result is you’ll experience more consistent speeds and a seamless home broadband experience with few, if any, dead spots.
Besides delivering a strong signal to all areas of a home, another advantage of a mesh Wi-Fi network is that it operates like a single, seamless network, automatically connecting mobile devices to the network. Those devices remain connected as they are moved around the house.
Security is also better with a mesh network because most mesh setup kits come with additional security protocols that include automatic security checks as well as firmware updates.
Mesh network or range extender?
Wi-Fi range extenders receive your Wi-Fi signal and then amplify it. In a large space where a Wi-Fi signal struggles to reach every corner, a range extender can diminish the overall performance of your network and even create bottlenecks. In addition, you might also have connection issues when you move from the main router to the extender because the Wi-Fi extender usually requires that you have two network names—one for your Wi-Fi router and one for your extender—and also two different passwords. This means your device will have to switch from one network to the other as it moves throughout your home.
Selecting a system
If you decide a mesh router is the best solution for you, there are quite a few options to choose from. Mesh routers cost anywhere from $100 to $700, depending on the type of system you select. (They’re more expensive than range extenders, which are under $100.)
CNET recently evaluated the best mesh Wi-Fi systems for 2021 and noted that consumers have a much bigger selection to choose from than they did just a few years ago. Nest Wi-Fi received CNET’s best pick award for its affordability, speed and setup. Specifically, CNET notes that Nest’s mesh system offers a two-piece setup with enough signal strength to provide coverage for a 5,800-square-foot location. Tom’s Guide also gave Google’s Nest Wi-Fi a favorable review, noting its excellent performance, easy setup and inclusion of a built-in Google Home speaker in the mesh system.
The Netgear Orbi Whole Home was selected by CNET as the best value for a mesh Wi-Fi system. Tom’s Guide also ranked the Netgear Orbi as a favorite for its great performance and lower price.
Most mesh Wi-Fi systems use a mobile app for setup. The app will guide you through the process and help you select the best places to install your satellite devices throughout your home. It will also help you detect dead zones. Depending on which system you purchase, the setup app may also offer some additional features, such as helping you manage your Wi-Fi system, install parental controls or provide guest access.
Once you’re ready, here are a few things to consider when setting up your mesh Wi-Fi network:
- The main router, which will be connected to your cable modem or DSL router and which provides the internet connectivity to all the other satellite devices, should be installed out in the open (not in a closet or cabinet).
- The satellite devices should be placed about halfway between the router and the dead zone you’re trying to fix.
- Place each satellite device close to a power outlet and keep it off the floor and out in the open.
If your home has some Wi-Fi dead zones that are causing you aggravation, a mesh Wi-Fi network might be the ticket. It could make a big difference in your household’s streaming video, multi-player gaming or work-from-home experience.
Does Frontier have a mesh wi-fi solution?
Absolutely! And it’s state-of-the-art. Every new Frontier Fiber internet customer will receive the eero Pro 6 mesh system, ensuring that you can set up a seamless network to have strong, fast, stable wi-fi. And you’ll be able to connect your Wi-Fi 6 devices and get great performance out of them. Ready for Frontier Fiber? Check here to see when it’s coming to your neighborhood.
Product features may have changed and are subject to change.
Hi Doris, great question! My first suggestion would be a buried category 5/6 Ethernet cable, one rated to be buried, between the two buildings. The reason for this is you could attach a network switch or another access point in the out building but have no worries about the radio waves having trouble penetrating exterior building walls. That can be very difficult, especially if those walls contain any metal or stone/brick work. Depending on distances, for wireless, you would probably want the access point and adapter to be in windows (invisible to radio waves) with direct line of sight between each building. This could be done with off-the-shelf network hardware or even Wi-Fi mesh devices with one located in the window of each location. I would actually recommend finding a value added reseller like Geek Squad through Best Buy to assist you, they’re well-equipped to help with these types of solutions. ^Michael
Can the EERO 6+ work well with Frontier FiOS TV and Internet and is it compatible with Apple devices?
Hi Don! Good questions! The Eero mesh devices are industry standard Wi-Fi devices, so they will work fine with our Fiber services and Apple devices. In fact, we’ve partnered with Eero and provide Eero hardware to our customer in both promotions and upgrades to existing service for a small fee. Our fiber TV service does require one of our compatible routers to be connected, but Eero, or any other mesh can be added, and it’s a common setup. ^Michael
Just installed an Eero system and per Eero direction, need to bridge the model/router. Please advise
Hi Len, no two set ups are the same so without knowing more it’s difficult to say for sure if there is a need for setting your router to bridged or making any other changes. The concern is your network doing what’s called ‘double nat or natting’.
NAT stands for Network Address Translation and it’s the technology that allows one internet connection to be shared among several devices in your home. Internet addresses are a unique commodity and your Internet connection only provides one. Your router then makes a network of private addresses available for many devices to use. With one router being daisy-chained to another, this ‘One to Many’ address relationship is made twice. For most Internet activity like streaming, email, surfing, this will have no negative impact. One type of user that can encounter issues are gamers and game systems, they don’t like double nat and it can cause problems connecting to or hosting game sessions.
The simple fix is to just remove any unnecessary devices. The router we provide is necessary if you have our TV service or phone connected to it and you won’t be able to bridge it in either of those scenarios. However if it’s only operating as a router before another router (your main Eero), the best solution is to simply remove it. ^Michael
Hi Ann, that’s a good question and I think it may reveal something we missed when discussing your service upgrade! We do have a promo that provides one of the Eero 6 Pros for some qualifying offers. If you already had our fiber service and upgraded your speed the Eero mesh would not be included for no charge but we still offer it. We offer the same device that Amazon (Eero is an Amazon brand) sells for 229 single and 599 for a 3 pack at 5 dollars / month per device. We can also provide you with support for those you get through us. If this is something you’re interested in just let me know and I can have a team member contact you by email. ^Michael
I bought a mesh router system not long before switching to Frontier. I don’t have the Eero router. It’s an Arris. My main complaint is that I want to limit access on certain devices – like limit night time hours, restrict to only certain web sites, and other parental controls. I don’t see a way to do that. I don’t know if I can hook up my router and use it’s controls or what other options I have.
Great question, Curtis. It can be a bit complicated to set up, but you should be able to use an existing mesh with another router/gateway that provides the additional features you’re referring to if your mesh system does not. A relatively simple feature, like limiting hours, is common in off the shelf hardware. Parental controls that dynamically filter content typically requires specialized hardware often with a service subscription so that they stay up-to-date on new content to filter. We don’t have any specific recommendations, but there are numerous options and many reviews online showing comparisons and capabilities. ^Michael
I installed a TP Link Deco AC1200 Wifi Mesh to the arris router now I get good speed to my main deco but the satellite decos I loose speed by 70% , How do I improve speeds to the satellie deco’s ? Also do I need to disable my arris router wifi?
Hi Alex, that’s a good question! Let me start by suggesting that yes, you would want to disable the wireless radios in the Arris router. It’s possible that interference from that is contributing to the link speed / signal drop between your mesh access points (APs). Other sources of RF noise and walls, large appliances, or any other obstructions are contributing as well, and those aren’t so easy do away with. Most wireless mesh systems use directional antenna arrays to make links between each AP, using the antenna that gives the highest strength link to the other APs. Unless you set them up with full unobstructed line of sight and there is no other RF interference present, you’re going to see a reduction in signal strength and therefore network speed between them. The way to avoid that is to connect them in a way that RF interference and physical obstructions have no impact, with Ethernet cabling. You would need to verify with your particular system, but most that I’ve worked with fully support linking with Ethernet and once they see each other over a wired connection they communicate over that with one another. It can be a bit tedious to run cable, but it’s something I recommend, not only for connecting up mesh APs but also for any other stationary devices in your home. Ethernet is superior to Wi-Fi in every possible way, save for one, mobility. If the device stays put, wired is better. Some devices you wouldn’t even think to wire can be wired. There’s even USB power supply Ethernet adapters for Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire sticks, and the performance increase is noticeable! Hope this helps! ^Michael
I am looking at changing service providers soon, and I have an existing Linksys Velop Mesh System. I do not wish to purchase or use your provided system because the Linksys system I have has four different nodes placed smartly through out my home and allows for a lot of reach throughout my home based upon the layout. My question is this, can I use my existing Linksys Velop Mesh System with your Frontier provided network, and will your one Eero, that you provide free of charge- from reading your fine print, act as a modem to plug in my Linksys system? I am asking because I keep getting different answers when I call to inquire changing my service to you all as my new provider. I do not want to get up-selled’ later if I schedule to change my service and all of a sudden find out….”Oh, you need 3 more additional Eeros,” of which I will be charged for later- monthly from my understanding. ***Additionally, there is no charge for using the one provided Eeros correct? And, do you also charge any additional fees for streaming? These questions cannot be answered smartly by your representatives, and it would be nice if someone could please answer these basic questions. Thanks, awaiting your response.
I like how I posted a question about the Linksys Velop system and using it smartly and you all deleted my question….Seriously? Absolutely unprofessional too say the least.
Hi Adam, we moderate our blog comments because we receive a lot of spam posts. As you can see above, your question was not removed, it just wasn’t yet visible as it was posted pretty late in the evening on Friday night. With new service, 500/500 includes 1 Eero, Gig includes 2, and 2Gig includes hardware from Sagemcom. You’re welcome to use your own mesh, however we cannot provide support for 3rd party hardware. You should be able to connect it without using the provided Eero, but ideally you’d let us set it up with the Eero first, then remove it and switch to your hardware and hold on to the Eero if it’s needed for troubleshooting. We do not meter your bandwidth usage in any way. So unlike some cable providers, we have no caps, and that includes with streaming. Good questions! If you have any more feel free to ask away! ^Michael
Recently had Fios installed by Frontier.
Loving it except for a small problem of dead zones in the back of our one level house. What WiFi extender options do you recommend?
Hi Frank! That’s a good question! Depending on the options, your new Frontier Fiber installation is typically completed with one or two Eero 6 Pro devices. These are full-featured mesh routers, so if your install has just one another can be easily added to your network expanding coverage. You can purchase Eero 6 Pro devices directly from Amazon or we can rent you one for 5 dollars per month. If you’re interested in more information feel free to reach out to us on Social Media on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! ^Michael
how can my desktop (which is connected to the frontier router ethernet) see what is connected to the mesh network, what settings should i make sure is in place. I noticed on the wireless controller menu option on frontier modem/router it has the option for Total control wireless or wifi easy mesh, not sure which one to set
Hi Lawrence, this is a good question. In your current configuration you’re daisy-chaining routers, which means the network segment for the LAN ports on the NVG is a different segment or IP range versus the one on your mesh. This is why your wired computer on one cannot see the wireless devices on the mesh and vice versa. The easiest way to solve this would be to connect your wired Ethernet device(s) to the open port (s) on your mesh router. If you need more you would need to add a switch which are pretty inexpensive for the Gigabit Ethernet variety. If the mesh you’re using supports a bridge mode, that may work as well. This would make the mesh devices function as access points only, and they would not assign IP addresses. They would pass all of that to the NVG. If that works, all your devices would be on the same network segment. With either set up, if you haven’t already, I would also recommend disabling the WiFi functions of the NVG and let the mesh do all the wireless heavy lift. Having them both active and broadcasting means they’re competing / interfering with one another. Hope this helps! ^Michael
I have an Orbi Mesh system with my existing cable modem service. I’ve signed up for Frontier fiber. Will my existing Orbi system work with the Frontier service?
Hi Dan, good question! Yes, you can use your own network hardware with a couple of minor caveats. We wouldn’t be able to provide any direct technical support for that hardware, that would fall to the manufacturer’s technical support being the main one. We partnered with Eero for mesh and provide 1 or 2 access points (depending on plan) plus additional ones as needed for coverage for a small monthly recurring fee. Mesh systems are not cross brand compatible in most cases so you wouldn’t be able to mix them together. And finally our fiber uses a different technology from cable so your Docsis cable modem would be retired (if you own it) since it’s incompatible with our tech. ^Michael
A couple of months ago I had my Internet upgraded to 500/500, they installed a Arris router. I have a large home so my wifi through the house is terrible. Do I need an Eero router to add a mesh system or can I add the eero beacons to this router?
It definitely sounds like you could benefit from having a mesh network in your home, John! Whether you would keep your Arris router in place while adding a mesh is really dependent upon if you have wire line voice service with us that connects through the VoIP adapter built into that router. If you do, you would keep that router in place and connect your mesh to it, otherwise you could remove that router and replace it one of the mesh devices to act as the gateway. If you’re interested in using Eero devices though us, you can reach out to us through Social Media (links below) alternatively if you wanted to investigate the many options available at retail, you can do that too! One additional thing you may want to consider since you mentioned having a large home is to build a fully connected mesh by wiring your home with Ethernet at every location you will have a mesh access point rather than having the mesh devices communicate wirelessly. While a mesh does perform just fine with the access points linking wirelessly, it will perform much better with them connected to one another over Ethernet. Hope this helps! ^Michael
I just upgraded to an Orbi 750 system. Prior to that, I had a Netgeat wireless router with 2 extenders. My speeds were not good. It was time to upgrade. I have a Frontier Router/Modem device, an Arris model NVG468MQ. I have both internet and phone service coming out of there. I need the phone service, however, Netgear said it would be better if I could run the Ethernet directly into my new Orbi router. Is there another device offered by Frontier that would replace the existing router to accommodate this? Or can I still run the Ethernet through the Frontier router as a pass through to my router and turn off the Frontier WiFi?
Hi Katherine, thanks for the question! Your Voice over IP land line service is delivered to the Arris NVG468MQ’s integrated voice adapter and I’m sad to report we don’t have an alternative way to deliver that. Netgear is correct, it’s always ideal pass your traffic through fewer routers and in the absence of the voice line directly from the optical terminal to a single gateway router would be better. There are two possible solutions that involve all devices, you have hinted at one of them. That is leaving your connection as is but disabling the Wi-Fi on the NVG468MQ. This can be easily done by browsing to it from 192.168.254.254, the sign in credentials are printed right on the router. Once signed in you just need to click “Wireless” from the header menu followed by “Wireless Controller” on the left category menu. The body should then present you with a radio button to select disable and then simply press apply at the bottom. Once done you will no longer see the wireless broadcast from the NVG468MQ and it won’t be competing or interfering with your Orbi mesh for frequency space!.
The second option is a bit more complex and dependent on custom settings within your Orbi devices. I cannot even say for sure that their configuration would support this and it’s something that Netgear would need to assist you with if so. You would start with disabling Wi-Fi on the NVG468MQ as described above. The next step would be to stop your Orbi system from being routers. You would need to disable the integrated DHCP server and then connect the LAN side, not WAN/Internet interface, of the Orbi to one of the LAN ports on the Arris router. You may also need to change the IP addresses of the Orbi equipment to match the network of the NVG468MQ. This will solve for going through multiple gateways and make the Orbi mesh system continue doing what it does best, providing a Wi-Fi mesh, but it would no longer be doing any of the gateway router duties. ^Michael
i don’t have fiber yet because they don’t offer it in my area. can i still use the mesh if i have frontier dsl?
Hi Randy, great question! Yes you can, the mesh technology doesn’t discriminate when it comes to your connection type and we can even set you up with Eero devices at a great monthly rate versus buying them directly from Amazon at retail, though if you’d prefer to do that you can! If you’d like to know more about adding Eeros to your account with us please connect with us using the Social Media links below! ^Michael
We switched to Frontier in January with the new fiber cable. Do we already have a mesh system from you?
Hi Donna, we’ve partnered with Amazon to provide their Eero mesh Wi-Fi as an option to our customers. Given your installation happening just earlier this year I believe we would have set you up with 1 or 2 Eero Wi-Fi 6 Mesh units. If not, it’s something we can certainly help out with and for that I would suggest connecting with us through Social Media at the links below. Thanks for the question! ^Michael