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What is mesh Wi-Fi and do you need it?

Mesh Wi-Fi can provide reliable, fast network connectivity across a large area. In this article, we’ll explain what mesh Wi-Fi is, how it works, and whether or not it’s right for your networking needs.

What is mesh Wi-Fi and do you need it?

What is mesh Wi-Fi?

Mesh Wi-Fi is a network topography that uses multiple access points to broadcast Wi-Fi evenly across a large area. You can use it in your home, an office, or even a large public space — any location where a regular router might not provide reliable coverage.

A standard network uses one traditional router to broadcast Wi-Fi to nearby devices. For example, take your home network: you probably have a router somewhere in your house. The closer your connected devices are to that single access point, the better your connection is. That’s not the case with mesh Wi-Fi.

In a mesh network, multiple routers broadcast Wi-Fi from several locations throughout the covered area. That’s where the name comes from — you combine, or mesh, multiple Wi-Fi signals to make sure your connection remains equally strong in all areas. In an office, for example, you could have a mesh router in each room, allowing you to maintain a consistent signal strength wherever you go.

The important thing to understand is that a mesh network is not multiple wireless networks. It’s one Wi-Fi network, with a single password and SSID (or network name), broadcasting through multiple access points. You log in one time with one network key, and are then able to move seamlessly between mesh routers. Wireless mesh networks are also not the same as Meshnet tunnels, which are private networks that NordVPN users can set up between devices.

How does mesh Wi-Fi work?

Mesh systems work by linking multiple secondary routers, sometimes referred to as satellites or nodes, to a central router, or base node.

The base node mesh router is your internet gateway, through which data flows to and from the wider internet. The other nodes act as Wi-Fi signal boosters for the base node, communicating with the central router using wireless signals or Ethernet cables. If you’re connected to one of these satellite nodes, it will transmit your data to the base router, which then passes it on to the servers and websites with which you’re trying to connect.

Because all nodes use the same login credentials, your device will just connect to whatever one is closest. If the signal of a nearby satellite mesh router is stronger than that of the base node, perhaps because you’ve walked from one room to another, your connected devices will start using that signal instead.

What are the benefits of mesh Wi-Fi?

A mesh network offers several benefits, especially for large organizations.

Consistent connectivity

The big advantage of mesh Wi-Fi is that its signal is spread evenly across multiple areas, instead of radiating out from a single point. You could be on the other side of the building from the base node, without noticing a significant reduction in connection speed and stability. That makes mesh Wi-Fi a good internet access solution for offices and public spaces, where users might be dispersed across a wide area.

Easily scaled and adapted

One of the benefits of a mesh network is its scalability and adaptability. You might initially just want to cover one area of your building with a mesh system, but later, as the layout and scale of your workspace change, you could move your mesh nodes or add new ones. With mesh Wi-Fi, you’re not locked into one set topography.

User accessibility

Another good thing about mesh networks is their ease of use — because all the nodes are boosting the signal of the same network, you only need to log in once to gain access to all of them. If you were to cover your home or office with multiple separate networks, using numerous internet gateways, you would have to sign in to all of them. From the user side, mesh Wi-Fi is a much more accessible solution.

What are the disadvantages of mesh Wi-Fi?

Using mesh router systems has some disadvantages, of course.

Unnecessary for many users

Not everyone needs the kind of network range offered by a mesh router. A standard home Wi-Fi setup with one router and no other nodes is usually more than enough for most people, even if multiple users are connected at once. Unless you have a particularly large home and need the fastest possible connection in every room, you might be wasting money by investing in a costly mesh system.


Even a basic mesh router with one node will be considerably more expensive than a standard Wi-Fi router. Each additional mesh router can add hundreds of dollars in extra expenses. For larger companies, the cost of mesh systems can be easily absorbed, but individual consumers and smaller businesses may not be able to make this investment. Perhaps more importantly, they might not even need to, since mesh Wi-Fi’s use cases probably don’t apply to them.

Speed reduction

Since your internet traffic may have to travel through the nodes to reach the router, your overall connection speed could be slightly reduced. That’s an inevitable consequence of adding extra steps for your data to take on its journey. Of course, the slowdown might not be noticeable as you browse online, and it could be worth it to maintain reliable internet access overall. It’s something to consider, especially if you engage in speed-dependent activities like online gaming.

Mesh Wi-Fi vs. range extender

A range extender can be procured and deployed separately from the router it’s connected to, while a mesh router and all the satellite nodes usually come together as an out-of-the-box solution. Range extenders are almost always wireless, while some mesh access points use Ethernet cables.

A mesh Wi-Fi system is essentially a pre-configured router that is shipped with one or more range extenders. Mesh networks use range extenders, but using a range extender doesn’t automatically mean you have mesh Wi-Fi.