Home Ideas Three Reasons to Upgrade Your Mesh Wifi System for Wi-Fi 6

Three Reasons to Upgrade Your Mesh Wifi System for Wi-Fi 6

three reasons to upgrade your mesh wifi system for wi fi 6

Installing mesh wifi in my home was a game changer. I no longer had to work on top of my router, or worry about wifi calls dropping off in my kitchen. My home, built with the same ethos as a Faraday cage, a home that had challenged any tech the cable company sent my way, had finally been conquered. It went so well, I convinced every person I know that mesh would solve their coverage problems at home—and usually, I was right. Mesh wifi points came down in price, and I bought a few more to bolster my signal. I had not, until shiny new mesh routers arrived from Google, considered that there was better wifi to be had. I was, as usual, wrong.

What is mesh wifi?

First, let me explain what mesh wifi is, for the uninitiated. Wifi generally comes into your home through a modem. In all likelihood, there is a cable somewhere that comes in from outside, and ultimately dead ends at your modem, which you either own or lease from your internet provider. You could plug your computer into your modem using a cat5 cable, and get the same internet speeds the modem does, which should be the speed you pay for from the internet provider, since there’s nothing diminishing that signal yet.

These days, modems are also usually a router, although you could have a separate device—and a router is what makes wifi possible. A router takes that signal from the modem, and sends it out horizontally as wifi. Each router has a different range, but they are hampered by obstructions like appliances or other giant pieces of metal. Thus, devices like repeaters and extenders were invented, which you could put elsewhere in your house, and it would pick up that signal and extend it, but in doing so, it diminished the signal. So you had “less” wifi, but over a larger space.

Mesh is a different idea—it’s a series of points, one of which is connected to your modem, and it redistributes wifi where it’s needed most at any time. These points create a network, so you gain a greater area of coverage. There is some debate about what these devices are called. Technically, they’re called routers, but once in place in your home, you’d consider them wifi “points.”

With a newer system, you won’t need as many points

I upgraded to newer Google Nest wifi routers (Nest WiFi Pro, $319.99 for a three-pack), and went from five points to three, instantly. In fact, I likely don’t need all three. The coverage is fantastic (2200 square feet vs. 1500 square feet for the original Google wifirouters I was replacing), penetrating into every possible space with no regard for obstructions.

Aside from newer hardware internally, which will cover more area, new routers use the newer Wi-Fi 6 standard (802.11ax). If your routers are more than three years old, they’re likely just Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). Wi-Fi 6 has much faster throughput speeds so it can transfer data much more efficiently. This can help with network congestion and even reduces your power consumption, which is a real bonus. Wi-Fi 6 does this using a method not unlike mesh—it looks at what your household is trying to do with wifi, and then assigns channels to each device, putting wifi power where it’s needed, and pulling it from channels that don’t.

There’s boosted capacity, too, not just at 6Ghz, but at 2.4Ghz radio frequency service, which is the frequency servicing most of your smart-home devices. Additionally, Wi-Fi 6 can use predictive technology to figure out when you’ll likely need wifi, and appropriate battery for it, which is going to save your battery life overall on devices that need it. This should translate to longer battery life for video doorbells, cams, and anything else wireless relying on batteries. 

Newer mesh devices are more secure

Wi-Fi 6 devices support WPA3 encryption (the latest data security standard), and much beefier password protection. Wifi signals don’t broadcast over a broad spectrum and go directly to clients, which eliminates a huge risk exposure, and 256-bit encryption algorithms work to make it harder to hack in. 

Mesh networks generally update themselves, which means you’re getting cybersecurity updates as well. To provide even more security, mesh systems make it easy to spin up a guest network, sometimes more than one, and change the password or issue temporary passwords. This keeps your home network insulated from guests having access to devices on your home network and poking around. 

It’s not a painful process to make the switch

No matter how excited I was by better wifi, I was reluctant to make the switch. Even though I live alone, I have a bazillion smart home devices, four hubs and my coffeemaker connected to my current system, and the idea of reconnecting them all gave me palpitations.

I’m happy to relay that the process was unexpectedly smooth. I remained in the same ecosystem (Google) and decided to keep my SSID and see if that would help. It took longer to mount the new routers than it did to re-associate all my devices. All mesh systems will now have an associated app that will allow you to control the wifi, and that app will help you set up the new system. It won’t feel different from setting up a new smart home device. 

Once my wifi reconnected with the new modems, I began to get notifications about various hubs and devices, and in each case, I just had to go in and reauthorize the connection. If the SSID or password had changed, I’d have needed to change the settings. As reluctant as I am to admit it, it turned out to be a good experience overall; it forced me to clean house and delete devices that were long offline or had been excised from my place.

Recommended products

Ultimately, the switchover was a good thing. Remember back when I explained above how your signal, coming into your modem, is the strongest signal possible, because there’s nothing to diminish it yet? The signal is diminished as it’s broadcasted out via wifi, depending on where you are, but there are speed tests that you can access to see how your wifi speeds compare to what you’re paying for. The cable company doesn’t have control over it once it leaves your modem—this is just for you. I was really pleased with how the speed jumped, not just on downloads, but on uploads. The newer devices simply did a better job of broadcasting the signal from the modem.

In the weeks since the switchover, I’ve noticed less streaming pauses, less outages of my smart home devices and Zoom has not dropped out once. 

Source: LifeHacker.com