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Friday January 24th 2020

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Are You Mesh Networking?

Mesh Networking might solve your crappy WiFi at home.

Several years ago a start up proposed a mesh network for the whole world. Then they dropped the plan to just big cities. Then they ran out of money.

The technology did help with the $100 laptop project. Without mesh networking the entire thing wouldn’t work. Well the $100 laptop eventually failed too but for different reasons. Mesh networks create a virtual grid, similar to the electric network. Each device needs to know several routes to get to the main connections. Even if one or two routes fail, the network still works.

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Home WiFi has been a buggy headache. My home has TechShield© brand radiant barrier. This means my cell phone won’t work at all in the house, the TV antennae I ripped open my head on roofing nails to hide in the attic won’t work and finally, the bouncing signals indoors made my WiFi stupid.

All of that great energy savings is about keeping heat aka radiation in or out. Well it does the same for radio waves. When the WiFi bounced off the barrier it either freaked out and shut off, or amped up the power making the network painfully slow. My recording studio is surrounded with rock wool insulation which also has some properties that reduce radio energy making the WiFi even more spotty.

Adding nodes to my WiFi network helped, but I could never get even coverage. Occasionally the additional channels would gum up the whole block. If I didn’t have a previous life as a network engineer for a fortune 500 I would have just said the equipment was crap.

Recently though the companies that make WiFi boxes figured out that mesh networking on a small scale does work. So last year real mesh networking appeared for home and small office use. About to give up, I opened my wallet and bought yet another WiFi box promising the best coverage and speed available.

Mesh networking with Linksys Velop

I’ll be danged if it didn’t work. I replaced three Apple Airport Express routers with three Linksys Velop’s. At first the mesh software didn’t work so it was essentially a one for one replacement of the Apple devices. Coverage had hot and cold areas all over my house and yard. And then it happened.

The firmware update to use mesh technology came and Violá. The whole network is 300MBs almost perfectly distributed around my home. I have to agree with PC Mag, the Velop is now a winner. My cell phone transfers on WiFi and I don’t lose calls any more. The best part is the signal stops almost dead at the front of my garage. Even with a booster sitting in a car on the street I can’t connect. Before there was one “node” that was somehow working all the way down the block.

The mesh has given me better security, better coverage and way better performance. The software is a little over simplified for me. It works much better to manage the Linksys Velop Routers from my iPhone. Since installing this we have tested the Orbi and the netgear nighthawk pro with similar results. The Netgear did have an area right at the main router that had incredible speed boosts for gamers that the Velop did not have.

Obviously having 300 MBs network in the house doesn’t mean much if you have 1 MBs cable internet. I recently upgraded to 500 MBs ultra fast cable internet. If you have spotty WiFi, give mesh a try

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