Tech­nol­ogy

Mesh net­works are an easy, speedy way of plug­ging Wi-Fi gaps.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - By Peter Grif­fin

Wire­less mesh net­works are an easy way to plug Wi-Fi dead zones.

Wi-Fi dead spots are the bane of our digital lives. Be­ing off­line is bad enough, but what’s worse is not be­ing sure whether you are con­nected to the in­ter­net as your web page fails to load or the buffer­ing sym­bol pops up in the mid­dle of a YouTube video.

De­spite liv­ing in an 80sq m apart­ment, I’ve been plagued by Wi-Fi dead spots. I blame the con­crete and steel lift shaft that backs on to one wall for block­ing my wire­less router’s sig­nal.

To solve the prob­lem, I first turned to a fancier dual-band router, which helped a bit, then a Wi-Fi ex­ten­der, which fi­nally sup­plied a re­li­able wire­less sig­nal to the smart TV in the lounge.

But wire­less ex­ten­ders gen­er­ally use the same fre­quency to both re­ceive and send sig­nals, which cuts net­work ca­pac­ity by half. I also kept hav­ing to re-sync the ex­ten­der with the router.

But my lat­est so­lu­tion seems like a keeper: a wire­less mesh net­work of three small de­vices through­out the apart­ment that elim­i­nates the dead zones once and for all.

Mesh net­works aren’t new but have only re­cently hit the sweet spot of easy in­stal­la­tion and high­per­for­mance that al­lows them to go main­stream. The new Google Wifi sys­tem ex­em­pli­fies what is pos­si­ble with mesh net­work­ing.

It took me less than 30 min­utes to set up a wire­less net­work with the Google Wifi gad­get and smart­phone app. One “Wi-Fi point” sits on top of my ex­pen­sive and now over-en­gi­neered router, which re­mains a key part of the net­work. Two other points are in the lounge and mas­ter bed­room.

The Google de­vices con­nect wire­lessly to each other to cre­ate a net­work that links lap­tops, phones and other de­vices to the point where the sig­nal is strong­est. As you move around, your de­vices un­in­ter­rupt­edly switch from point to point, just like cell­phone roam­ing.

All the Wi-Fi points need is power, though they also have eth­er­net ports so you can plug into wired broad­band jacks if you’ve been smart enough to in­stall them around the house.

The smart stuff hap­pens be­hind the scenes with the soft­ware that man­ages the net­work load and switches be­tween bands (5GHz or 2.4GHz) as nec­es­sary.

The app lets you eas­ily set up a guest net­work for vis­i­tors, and with a sin­gle tap, you can “pause” the net­work – a

sim­ple way to give ev­ery­one some in­ter­net-free time. I have up to eight de­vices run­ning on Wi-Fi at a time and haven’t had a drop out on Google Wifi in two weeks. Speed tests show I’m get­ting 99 megabits a se­cond across the net­work.

Google claims a three-Wi-Fi-point set-up should give up to 1200sq m of cov­er­age – pala­tial by my stan­dards, and just the thing to end in­ter­rup­tions to your googling and the king of search’s stream of on­line ad rev­enue.

A mesh net­work links lap­tops, phones and other de­vices to the point where the sig­nal is strong­est.

Feast of band­width: three Google Wifi points are claimed to cover 1200sq m.

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