Increase WiFi coverage for a large home or office

Your home doesn't need to be a mansion to find that the WiFi doesn't reach as far as it should, and it can be the cause of endless frustration and problems. 

There is an answer to this problem however, and having WiFi everywhere possible

They say englishman's castle is their home, and your home is something to be proud of and it can reflect your achievements in life and you as a person.

But no matter how you change it to reflect you as the owner often you find yourself let down by the WiFi resulting in dead spots where there is no signal, poor performance or strange dropouts where everything is fine one moment but the next it's gone.

This can often turn into a money pit, where you upgrade your router, buy boosters or repeaters, look for other solutions in attempts to solve the problem but without really understanding why the problem exists.

So Let's look at what is going on…why not to use repeaters and why Mesh can be a good fit.

Barriers to Great WiFi

It's important to understand that even air is a barrier to WiFi signals, so walls floors and ceilings are just larger obstacles achieving a to great signal but often Thick walls are only one part of the equation.

WiFi is not the some total of its parts…

In fact WiFi is actually the smallest of its component parts. This is why a more powerful router won't help you achieve greater distances or performance. 

Your mobile may be able to hear it perfectly fine but when it tries to reply your mobile only has a little voice. And it's those quiet devices that keep your range small. This is because of a very complected sounding method called CSMA/CA or Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance.

At its core CSMA/CA is the reason that WiFi can support many devices at the same time, and this works by each device listening to see when it can talk. 

It's like being in a room full of people if everyone talks at once it's very hard to hear one person CSMA/CA sets down rules so that only one person talks at a time.

The reason this affects range? If your mobile only has a small range then it can't hear other devices and everyone is trying to talk at the same time again.

Repeaters can make this worse

Repeaters work by listening and then repeating what they have heard. That is increasing your range at the cost of performance which actually many people accept because it's still faster than their internet package.

But there is a side effect your actually also making it harder to “hear” other devices increasing the odds that your device will be talking at the same time as someone else.

Why Mesh WiFi Systems

Mesh systems use devices called access points which are the boxes that contain the radios that send and receive WiFi signals. There are different types of Mesh systems so let's just look at this particular situation

Mesh systems are also used in high reliability and self recovery situations, They allow you to upgrade or remove and replace Access Points while still keeping the Network active with no down time for users.

Much like a repeater a Mesh system will listen for information coming in, and then send it out but there are two key aspects that make them better than simple repeaters…

  1. They work on different channels so each of your access points are independent and can only hear devices that want to talk to it.
  2. There is a dedicated way for them to talk back, Some systems use different frequencies or dedicated radios, but they will have a different way to talk to each other than to user devices.

It is important to keep Mesh channels as free from other use as possible.

When you put this together it means that Mesh networks are nowhere near as susceptible to CSMA/CA and because of this you get the range and the ability to handle obstacles. 

Wired or Wireless

Many mesh devices are wireless in nature, this makes them super easy to install and configure, and in many cases you just need to plug them in.

Some devices though give you the option of wiring them directly into the network by ethernet cable which gives you

  • Performance - Wired networks are much faster than Mesh networks especially when they are using multiple hops to move the data,
  • Power - Some mesh devices can be powered over network cable which makes where you place them much more flexible.

What can you do now?

Mesh systems are readily available and range from cost effective, easy to install all the way up to expensive and complicated. 

It's important to assess your needs when choosing a system.


Mark Stringer

Lord of Tech, Whisperer of Wi-Fi, Finder of Solutions and Provider of Managed Services and Support.