Wireless mesh systems vs dedicated access points (APs)

Wireless mesh systems vs dedicated access points (APs)

When expanding or upgrading your network, you will likely come across two popular options: wireless mesh systems and dedicated access points. Each has advantages and limitations, making choosing between them a crucial decision. In this blog post, I will explore the key differences, benefits, and considerations of wireless mesh systems and dedicated access points to help you make an informed decision for your specific networking needs.

Understanding Wireless Mesh Systems

A wireless mesh system creates a seamless and robust Wi-Fi network across a larger area, such as a home or office building. It consists of multiple interconnected nodes, often called mesh nodes or satellites, that work together to deliver Wi-Fi coverage. These units establish connections over the wireless network already being broadcast. Sometimes they use a dedicated radio. Other times they act as a client. Here are some key features and advantages of wireless mesh systems:

  1. Easy Installation: Mesh systems are known for their user-friendly setup. You typically need to place the nodes strategically throughout your space, and they automatically connect to create a unified network. This simplicity is a significant advantage for users without extensive networking knowledge.
  2. Seamless Roaming: Mesh systems allow devices to roam between nodes without losing the network connection. This is especially useful in larger homes or businesses, where uninterrupted connectivity is essential.
  3. Scalability: Mesh networks can easily be expanded by adding more nodes as needed. This scalability is ideal for environments where network requirements change over time.
  4. Self-Healing: If one node fails or encounters issues, the other nodes can reroute traffic, ensuring a more reliable network. If the nodes are close enough to each other the loss of one node may not have an impact.

The folks over at SimplyBits have this diagram outlining wireless mesh

Exploring Dedicated Access Points

Dedicated access points (APs) are individual devices that provide wireless connectivity to specific areas. Unlike mesh systems, they are not inherently interconnected, and each AP must be wired to the network. This can add cost and logistical challenges, especially in older buildings. Here are some key features and benefits of dedicated access points:

  1. Customization: Dedicated access points offer more control over your network configuration. This is particularly valuable for businesses and advanced users who require specific settings and monitoring capabilities.
  2. Higher Performance: In environments with a high density of devices or demanding applications, dedicated access points can deliver better performance than mesh systems. They can be strategically placed to optimize coverage and capacity.
  3. Scalability: While dedicated APs require more cabling, they can also be added as needed, making them suitable for network expansion. This is especially advantageous for businesses with specific coverage requirements.
  4. Security: With dedicated access points, you can implement more advanced security features and access controls to protect your network from threats.

If you want to read about some access points, check out my posts on the Alta Labs Access points.

Where do range extenders fit into this?
Range extenders take in the signal and simply repeat it out. Most range extenders are not seamless. Extenders almost always broadcast a new WIFI SSID. They also reduce the wireless bandwidth due to them using their signal to repeat back to the base station and serve clients.

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