A clear advantage is that you will have a single username and password for all mesh nodes. This means that it does not matter where you connect from, since the SSID will be the same, and also the same password to access the wireless network. It is very useful for always staying connected and being able to pick up a mobile phone or laptop, for example, and move around a large area where a Wi-Fi Mesh system is installed. It is much better than having different repeaters that connect to a router to carry the connection to other places. The performance will be superior, and without a doubt, we will have fewer problems in a large space.
Other strengths of a WiFi Mesh system compared to a WiFi repeater are:
- Wi-Fi Roaming: we can go from one node to another in a completely transparent way, without interruptions in the wireless connection. Automatically when the WiFi client moves away from the node with which it has a connection, and approaches another, the network will make it “pass” quickly to the new node. This will provide us with a great user experience, because we will be able to maintain VoIP calls or video calls.
- Band-steering: although our recommendation is that you separate the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks to know at all times which frequency band you are connected to, we have this functionality with the aim of having a single SSID and password in all nodes, to greatly facilitate the connection and that the Mesh network is in charge of connecting us to one frequency band or another.
- Ease of management and configuration: WiFi mesh systems are very easy to set up, in fact, you generally only need to set up the main router and then the nodes will connect automatically without us having to intervene.
As you can see, the improvements of a mesh WiFi system compared to a WiFi repeater are quite important.
Why it is better to use Mesh systems than repeaters
Consider that a Mesh system is composed of multiple satellites or nodes, which are connected to each other, while the repeaters, even if you put several in the house, will connect directly to the router. As soon as you get too far from the router, that repeater will not receive enough signal so that you can connect without having cuts or speed problems. Also, if you connect the repeater to another repeater, the bandwidth will decrease a lot, this does not happen with WiFi Mesh systems that are simultaneous triple band, or if those are interconnected by Ethernet network cable.
Another advantage is that you will have an easier time connecting if you move from one place to another. For example, if you need to improve the network of an office or workplace, the name and password will be the same. You will not have problems to move from one place to another and stay connected to the network.
Now that you know what a Wi-Fi Mesh system is, we are going to see what we can do to configure it in our home with different assumptions.
What to do to set up the Mesh system
Keep in mind that when you buy a Wi-Fi Mesh system, one of the devices will act as main router while the rest will be the nodes or satellites. That router will act the same as your operator’s does. That is, it will have NAT, QoS, DHCP server, you will be able to configure parental control and other features that routers usually have.
The problem is that, when connecting it to the main router, to that of the operator, we are going to have double NAT and double network, which are basically the one created by the Mesh system router and the one you already had with your main router. To prevent this from happening, it is best to configure the Mesh system in AP mode and deactivate the Wi-Fi network that you had with the operator’s router. The vast majority of Wi-Fi Mesh systems also allow a configuration in “access point” modethat is, they will only provide WiFi connectivity and will not function as a router. This operating mode is perfect for cases in which you cannot replace the operator’s router with a Wi-Fi Mesh system.
Configuration with the operator’s router (if allowed)
Currently operators such as Movistar have a Movistar Smart Router WiFi 6 router that supports Mesh functionalities if we use its own repeater that is also marketed by the operator. Other operators such as Orange or Vodafone also provide Mesh solutions with a router plus a repeater that has Mesh features (WiFi roaming and band-steering).
These types of solutions are perfect for those homes where the coverage received in some rooms is very poor, so that we can connect without problems. The only thing we must take into account is the price, and it is possible that the operator forces us to pay a certain amount of money for the repeater, and then if we unsubscribe we have to return it.
There are cases in which the operator charges a subscription to be able to have its Mesh network, as is the case of Vodafone and its “Super WiFi”. By paying an additional fee per month we can have a Mesh network in our house so that the user experience is the best possible.
Although carriers provide mesh solutions for high performance, it will work best for you to buy your own equipment and not use carrier equipment, because equipment from manufacturers like ASUS, AVM, D-Link, and others will give you the best performance.
Configure a Mesh network by removing the router from the operator
There are operators like Movistar and O2 that make it very easy to replace your main router with your own. In this scenario we have two possible options:
- Remove the router with integrated ONT and put a router with integrated ONT but with support for Mesh, like the AVM FRITZ!Box 5590 and FRITZ!Box 5530 that we have tested previously.
- Put the operator’s router in bridge mode or “bridge” and put a neutral router with support for Mesh, such as those from ASUS, AVM, D-Link, TP-Link, NETGEAR and many other manufacturers.
In the first case, our recommendation is that you buy a AVM-router, both the FRITZ!Box 5590 and the FRITZ!Box 5530 models are compatible with almost all FTTH operators in Spain. This manufacturer has a powerful Mesh network based on high-performance Mesh repeaters, so you can use the FRITZ! Box 5590 router as the main device, and then start configuring repeaters like the FRITZ! Repeater 6000 or the FRITZ! Repeater 1200 AX to take the Internet connection wherever you want.
In the second case, the most important thing is that the router that you put has the public IP address, so as not to have double NAT problems. In this case, there are very powerful solutions from the manufacturer ASUS with its extensible routers or directly buying ASUS ZenWiFi, which is the manufacturer’s family of WiFi Mesh systems. You could also opt for the AVM brand with its FRITZ! Box 4060 routers and FRITZ! Repeater 6000 repeaters or the FRITZ! Repeater 1200 AX that we have previously mentioned.
Of course, the solutions of D-Link with its EAGLE PRO AI family They are also a very good and very cheap option, since we can buy each node for approximately 60 euros. Finally, solutions from manufacturers such as TP-Link or NETGEAR are also highly recommended.
The most important thing about the second option is that deactivate the WiFi network of the operator’s routerwith the aim that you do not have interference problems.
Configure a Mesh network without removing the router from the operator
In this case, what you are going to do is configure the router of the Mesh system in Wi-Fi hotspot mode. The main manufacturers, such as D-Link, ASUS or AVM, will allow this option without problems. You are going to do without that NAT, QoS or DHCP server and what you are going to have is a device with Ethernet ports and linked to the rest of the satellites. You will not have the problem of double NAT.
To set this up will depend on the exact model you have. However, it is usually similar. For example, in the case of ASUS this function is called “WiFi hotspot mode“, while D-Link names it as”bridged mode«. In the image below you can see the example of D-Link:
As soon as you have configured this feature on the Mesh system router, you will seamlessly retain the carrier’s router network. You will not have services that you do not need, such as the DHCP server. You will simply now have different devices to which you will be able to connect.
You should keep in mind that in this mode you will have the following:
- Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi network, which will allow you to configure the SSID or network name, password, channels and other options. You will be able to do all this wirelessly.
- You will also be able to configure the Ethernet backhaul. This serves to interconnect the different nodes via Ethernet cable and thus achieve better performance.
- In addition, you will be able to access the Mesh system network through the web configuration whenever you want. The main router will provide the private IP address.
One tip to keep in mind is configure all satellites of the Mesh system with the main Mesh router. Once you have done this, you switch the router to AP mode. It is also convenient that you update the firmware to the latest version to make sure that everything will work correctly.
You will also have to do some important configuration in the carrier router. In this case what you are going to do is disable the Wi-Fi network of the operator’s router. You will have to turn off both the Wi-Fi network of the 2.4 GHz band and the 5 GHz band. The wireless network of the operator’s router does not have Mesh functions, you will not have Wi-Fi roaming or band -steering to move from one band to another dynamically. For this you will have to access the configuration. It will depend on the model, but generally it is through the address 192.168.1.1. There you will have to put the corresponding data to access. If that is not the default gateway, you can find it by following these steps:
- In Windows, go to Start and access the Command Prompt
- Once there you execute the ipconfig command
- You will see the default gateway, which may be something other than 192.168.1.1
In the case of the Movistar router, both in the HGU and in the Smart WiFi 6, just when you enter you will find the option to deactivate the wireless network. You can also go to Advanced Settings to disable it in both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. In many routers you will also be able to enter directly from the mobile application to access the configuration.
You can also locate the private IP address of the Mesh router if you enter the operator’s router, in the clients of the DHCP server. There you should see multiple IP addresses, basically one for each node you have in the Mesh system. One of these addresses is the one that acts as the main one and with which you will be able to access the firmware and carry out the configurations that you need.
In short, as you can see set up a Wi-Fi Mesh system with the router of the operator. You have to carry out a series of steps to get everything to work correctly. As you can see, having this type of device is very useful to improve wireless coverage at home. You can have a connection in any corner of your home and it will improve the signal that you would have if you only used the operator’s main router.