Fixing spotty internet using Mesh Wi-Fi

TL;DR - having slow internet speed due to Wi-Fi dead zones - consider upgrading to Mesh Wi-Fi network.

Have you ever experienced great Wi-Fi connectivity in one room of your home, while the internet is almost dead in other? Or your Zoom calls keep dropping forcing you to move from one room to another in search for better signal strength. I hear you, I’ve been there and you definitely are not alone.

“Gifer.com – Slow Wi-Fi is worse than No Wi-Fi

Spotty home Wi-Fi are nightmare, especially right now when everyone is WFH. Luckily there’s an easy fix? “Mesh Wi-Fi“!

What is Mesh Wi-Fi?

A mesh Wi-Fi network gives you a seamless wi-fi connection all over your house and your outdoor spaces. It’s easy to install and manage, and is fast becoming top choice for enhancing wi-fi experience at a low cost.

Mesh Wi-Fi Vs. traditional Wi-Fi – what’s the difference?

In a traditional Wi-Fi network, your phone, laptop, voice assistant, security sensors are all connected to a one single router, and all the communication passes through that one single equipment. Also the distance from router matters, so farther you are from the router, weaker the signals.  The general rule is that if you double the distance between the router and device, internet speed drops by one-third of its original strength.

A Mesh Wi-fi, allows you to have multiple Wi-Fi points in your house, so you’re never far from one. The key to mesh networks is that it uses multiple, small routers, commonly called pods

The main pod gets plugged into the modem. The secondary pod(s) pick up the wireless signal from main and extend it to the area around where they’re placed. These secondary pod don’t rely on direct communication with the main, instead they rely on each other to deliver a strong Wi-Fi signal.

I recently upgraded my old Gateway modem (modem and router combined), to eero 6 mesh router. It utilizes latest Wi-Fi 6 technology to deliver faster speeds, increases the signal efficiency, and reduces network congestion from multiple devices competing for signals. My setup consists of 2 pods providing up to 3,000 square feet of wireless coverage.

Scratching the itch of my nerdy curiosity, I did comparative tests between the traditional router (ARRIS SBG6950AC2) and mesh router (eero 6). eero 6 delivered breakthrough increase in internet speed and overall Wi-Fi coverage. Below are test specifications and results from different areas of my house.

  • My house is around 2200 sqft, split across 3 levels (main lvl, 1st floor and basement).
  • The routers themselves (Arris / eero) were kept at main level at the exact same spot.
  • To be accurate with results, I ran these tests around midnight when there was no bandwidth congestion from any other device.
  • All tests were done using speedtest.net.

Download speed (Mbps)

With traditional router Wi-Fi signals were poor in basement and 1st floor. With eero the drop was insignificant.

Upload speed (Mbps)

In almost all scenarios, traditional router out performed erro with upload speed.

Conclusion

Mesh Wi-Fi routers did a great job of maintaining a steady connection, and never dropping me once. The upload speed was disappointing, however this is not a big concern as majority of our online activities need more download than upload speed. So overall, I’m a fan of my mesh Wi-Fi setup.

Also, this isn’t an eero sponsored post, and there are tons of other great Mesh Wi-Fi devices in the market such as Google Nest Wi-Fi, Netgear Orbi. So shop around, try them at your house. Just don’t settle for slow internet.

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Update (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency)

The new “Mesh Wi-Fi” continues to rock at my house, and I haven’t noticed a single drop in last one month. One interesting observation was how eero handles different bands (2.4GHz / 5GHz). It does this single SSID that broadcasts simultaneously on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. This ensures all my devices are able to automatically connect over most suitable band depending upon their location, without the need to manually selecting the band. So now, I just have one single Wi-Fi network. Pretty cool, isn’t it!

Author: Varun Dhawan

Hello dear reader, I'm a DevOps Engineer based in MN, US (beautiful land of 10,000 lakes). I am perpetually curious and always willing to learn and engineer systems that can help solve complex problems using data. When I am not engineering or blogging, you’ll find me cooking and spending time with my family. Varun.Dhawan@gmail.com

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