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Mesh WIFI networking is AWESOME... bullshit

I was on Ars Technica today reading about heavyweight mesh WIFI networking gear that promises better WIFI in your home.

The article makes some excellent points against these products, but it hides the failings deep.  I guess writers don't want to knock their advertisers.  Here I point out Ars' hidden arguments against these mesh networking products.

1. The Ars Technica article says, "like I discovered when I tested Eero for the Wirecutter, multi-hop here works, but it’s best avoided if you don’t absolutely need it". Stated more simply: avoid Mesh networking unless you absolutely need it or don't care much about performance.

2. The article says "some client devices actually perform worse when overwhelmed with too much signal."  Actually, all client devices perform worse when overwhelmed with too much signal.   Unsurprisingly, noise in the radio spectrum is a serious problem when dealing with radio communications.  The more powerful transmitters you have hanging around, the more noise devices will experience.  And that means more retries and slower performance.

3. The article says that that all these mesh routers are "still a lot more expensive than a standalone router, and most people's homes can be served fine from a single, good standalone router"

Furthermore, it is clear that Ars failed to led its readers through many other limitations of mesh networking:
  • Better placement of their atrociously-placed "base unit" would likely permanently solve all of their coverage issues using a single traditional router.
  • Adding nodes is going to lower overall network reliability.
  • Adding nodes is going to increase inter-node traffic, thereby increasing radio noise and lowering network performance.
  • Adding nodes is going to increase network installation, administration, and maintenance efforts. 
  • Adding nodes is going to increase cost.
I've installed WIFI access points in a number of 1, 2, 3 and 4  level homes that were up to 4,000 square feet in size, and with over 30 WIFI clients.  A single, properly placed mid-tier WIFI access point easily covered each property with great performance and reliability.  I have never had the need to install more than one access point on a residential property.

WIFI problems are almost always due to:
  • poor placement of the base station
  • poor (outdated or 3rd rate) equipment
  • poor channel selection
Mesh networking has its place:  Maybe you like to play with WIFI.  Maybe you live in a very large steel and concrete house and proper placement of gear is impossible.  Or maybe your house has numerous wings and outbuildings, but you can't afford proper wiring and would like to pursue a passable, less reliable solution.  Then, just maybe, a mesh network might be an reasonable option.

But the for the vast majority of home users, a mesh networking product is a complete waste of money and time.  Save your money and save the headaches.  Mesh networking products are bullshit.