As home WiFi usage explodes, mesh networks have you covered -- literally!
Bangalore, October 8 2018: When voice tools like Alexa and Google Assistant entered homes, riding on the back of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, they created an unexpected side effect: they strained our existing router-based WiFi networks and revealed 'black holes' we never knew existed.... odd spots in the home where one could not connect to the Internet. We have become more demanding: We want to roam in and out of rooms and bathrooms, while continuing to browse on our phones.
The good old router is not up to this challenge -- yes, you can add some range extenders, but they are a hassle, each of them requiring a new WiFi name otherwise called SSID or Service Set Identifier -- with its own password.
Which is why a new WiFi technology called Mesh networking is becoming a rage in homes where wireless Internet usage is intense. Mesh WiFi works with multiple node units, typically 3. Each one 'talks' to every one. They dynamically form a large wireless mesh, if one node conks out, the others step in to fill the gap, while the defective one self-heals. If the signal strength on one band falls the network switches to the alternate band to maintain a good connection. And most usefully, once the base unit of your mesh has been coupled to your incoming broadband, you can add additional nodes with a few clicks of a mobile app ... the same network name and password is handed on smoothly.
Mesh wireless when combined with another new technology -- MU-MIMO -- becomes even more powerful. MIMO is Multiple In Multiple Out, a wireless technology largely the brainwork of India-born Stanford University Emeritus Professor, Arogyaswami Paulraj. It is a technology for wireless communications in which multiple antennas are used at both the source (transmitter) and the destination (receiver) to improve what is called throughput. MU-MIMO is Multi User MIMO, which allows a WIFi router to communicate with multiple nodes at the same time. Mesh networks exploit this to establish connections between all the nodes, all the time.
The result of this combo: Mesh + MU-MIMO is that you can 'illuminate' an entire apartment even on two floors, so that you are connected everywhere -- to a central smart speaker if required. In recent weeks two leading WiFi providers, Linksys and D-Link launched their Mesh home networking solutions in India. We tried out both and describe them in our Product Pulse section.
The older router systems will still be around and cost a bit less. But today if your home has 2 or more bedrooms, a Mesh WiFi system will be the sensible way to go.