Is Mesh Wi-Fi Worth It?

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In the enterprise world, you only tend to talk about Mesh Wi-Fi when it’s an outdoor deployment. But in the small business and connected home space it’s a different story. It’s usually a conversation starter as network admins and home users hear about it so much. If you’re shopping at a box store, Wi-Fi access points (APs), or routers, have to support it.

Let’s look at some factors:

Simplicity - It’s a great way to get the Wi-Fi coverage that you need. Mesh Wi-Fi also delivers a seamless hand-off from AP to AP as mobile devices are carried throughout a space. It’s better than using extenders or repeaters. The way it works is that you need at least two APs that end up looking like a single network (or SSID). One AP (primary) is connected to your Internet router, and any other APs (nodes) connect to that first one – wirelessly.

Coverage - Keep in mind that there are basic deployment guidelines. The closer you place the APs to each other the stronger the Wi-Fi signal and the faster performance for devices – mobile and IoT. If you have a larger space it means that you’ll need more APs to get the coverage desired. If the space is fairly open, you can place the APs about 16 ft (5 m) to 60 ft (18.25 m) from the primary AP. Distance between APs will depends on obstacles, such as walls or metal.

Throughput - The last thing I want to mention is performance. APs in Mesh mode will use Wi-Fi to maintain their relationship to other APs. What this means is convenience comes at a small cost. Mobile devices connected APs that are nodes may only see about half of the throughput expected. It’s the nature of the beast.

If you’re only option is Mesh Wi-Fi it may be wise to choose an AP that delivers a little better performance. Instead of a 2x2, opt for a 3x3 AP where high bandwidth video and large files are constantly being used and require more bandwidth.

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Aruba Instant On - Smart Mesh for Indoor and Outdoor use

While Aruba’s family of Instant On access points can each be connected to a switch for optimal performance, our Smart Mesh implementation offers the convenience and performance needed where Ethernet connections are just not possible. Once you configure your primary AP you simply choose the option to configure additional APs over the air, and the APs are automatically set up in a Mesh Wi-Fi relationship. It’s as simple as that.

Each of the four indoor APs and our outdoor AP can participate in a Smart Mesh. There’s a 2x2, 3x3 and 4x4 option to satisfy any performance need. And because of our deep enterprise background, we have tons of experience building Mesh networks. In fact, even though up to 8 APs can be set up in mesh on a single network, we recommend using no more than 2 or 3 nodes connected to a primary for optimal performance.

For more about Aruba Smart Mesh check out the at-a-Glance.

And stay tuned for the Aruba Instant On Deployment Guide that is due shortly.