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How Does a Mesh Wi-Fi System like Ubiquiti Amplifi Work?

Are you looking for information on mesh systems? Then check out this guide with Ubiquiti that will provide details on how this system functions.

A network switch with cables plugged in to several of its ports

 

The UK's average internet speed is only 64 Mbps. The good news is, our connection quickens as technology improves. Innovations in Wi-Fi mesh systems improve internet speeds. 

One standout option is the Ubiquiti mesh system. But why are mesh networks better than old-school Wi-Fi? Learn how they work, then discover how these systems can solve your problems. 

How Does Wi-Fi Work?

First, a quick refresh: how does Wi-Fi work in the first place? When you connect to Wi-Fi, what happens?

WLAN and SSID

Wi-Fi works by creating a small network. A modem or gateway connects this network to the wider internet.

Within a home, building, or campus, Wi-Fi components create a wireless local area network (WLAN). Every WLAN has a Service Set Identifier (SSID).

If you're at Starbucks, you may want to connect to Starbucks' Wi-Fi. Technically, you're connecting to the WLAN Starbucks set up in its shop. 

Once connected, your laptop receives information from the network. It turns this information into electrical pulses that display the internet. Wi-Fi sends this information with radio waves. 

Radio Waves

Wi-Fi is like a radio system. A radio system broadcasts information from a station to radio towers. If you're in range, you can tune into the station you want to hear. "Tuning in" lets your radio receive the signal broadcast on a specific band.

Wi-Fi also broadcasts information. Wi-Fi creates a system that sends data from point A to point B via frequency bands. Then, your smartphone can "tune in" to the frequency.

Today, most Wi-Fi products send information via the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz frequency bands. These bands carry information the way tributaries carry water in a river. 

Information Packets

A frequency band carries the information from the transmitter to the receiver. Engineers call a unit of information in transit a "packet." The packet includes the payload (the intended message) and instructions to deliver the packet.

Networks call these instructions "control information." Routers and access points read control information to get the packet where it needs to go. 

Wi-Fi Components

The Wi-Fi system in your home has six key parts. These parts work together to connect you to the internet and let you download files. Conventional Wi-Fi networks and Wi-Fi Mesh systems both use these parts.

1. User Devices

User devices are what you interact with directly. Smartphones, laptops, and printers are all user devices. 

Portable user devices include a radio NIC or chip card, that lets the device connect to Wi-Fi. However, you may need to install a card on a non-portable device, like a desktop computer. 

2. Modem

A modem brings the internet to the Wi-Fi system in your home. It also sends information from the system to the wider internet. 

The wider internet is connected in a wide area network (WAN). A modem has an IP address that identifies it in the context of the WAN. 

Typically, an internet service provider (ISP) connects a modem to the WAN with cables. Fibre optic cables enable faster internet connection speeds than Ethernet cables. 

A modem sends information to a router. It transmits information packets wirelessly or via ethernet cables.

3. Router

The router takes information packets from the modem and sends them to user devices or access points. The router sends the packet to its destination via the best possible route. 

The router uses standard protocols to discover the best possible route. IEEE sets these standards.  

4. Gateway

A gateway is an optional part. A gateway is both a modem and a router. This lets one device transmit information from the WAN to your devices efficiently.

5. Access Point

An access point receives the signal from the router on Wi-Fi frequency bands. Then, it transmits it.

Access points can carve a more direct path for information packets. This lets routers send information to a user device more efficiently, which increases your internet connection speed.

Access points are wired or wireless. Routers connect to wired access points via cables.

Wireless access points are more common. But, they require fine-tuning. Professionals must install them. 

6. Transmitters and Receivers

Transmitters turn electrical signals into radio waves. Receivers do the opposite.

In a Wi-Fi network, a transmitter modulates the signal to send information. Routers and access points contain transmitters. 

All Wi-Fi network components incorporate receivers.

Some components use antennas. Omnidirectional antennas broadcast a signal in a general radius. Directional antennas send information in a specific, precise direction.  

Transceivers can both send and receive information. Wi-Fi parts might use RF module transceivers or antennas.

Security (WPA3)

Wi-Fi Protected Access III (WPA3) is a security protocol that encrypts data in transit. When the data reaches its destination, the receiving device can decrypt the data with a key.

WPA3 eliminates previous security protocol vulnerabilities. It also mitigates other risks inherent to WPA and WPA2. WPA2 is still safer than WPA. 

What Causes Wi-Fi Connectivity Problems?

There are two critical problems with Wi-Fi connectivity. The internet speed can be slow. And, you might periodically lose your connection, especially when you're on the move. 

Slowness

Internet speeds slow when the system tries to send too much information through a single frequency band. If a Wi-Fi system has poor bandwidth, it can't handle a significant volume of information. 

The more devices connected to a WLAN network, the more information the system has to route to the correct destination. 

Your connection may also slow if the router or modem is out of sync with the network. The router might get stuck on extraneous information.

Or, its signal might not reach the receiver precisely. This poor signal direction causes slowness and disconnection. 

The process of converting and directing information might also cause the gateway to overheat. This slows down decryption and transmission.

Disconnection

Your device might abruptly or periodically disconnect from the network. This can happen if something interrupts the signal. And, it happens if the signal becomes abruptly weaker. 

Distance, solid objects, Bluetooth devices and microwaves can all interrupt Wi-Fi signals. A router might abruptly devote its power to a single channel or process. This also weakens its signal. 

Wi-Fi Mesh Solves These Problems

Wi-Fi Mesh is a WLAN system with unique access points. Within a Wi-Fi Mesh system, wireless access points have the capacity to re-broadcast the Wi-Fi signal.

This re-broadcasting capacity maintains the signal's full strength across a wide range. One Ubiquiti Wi-Fi mesh system lets users connect to the network throughout a six-kilometre radius

Strategic Placement

When you install a Wi-Fi mesh system, you can choose where to put the access points. You can place access points along a route that evades disruptive obstacles.

Some access points include directed antennas, which let you aim a signal around a barrier. Barriers might be kitchen appliances or concrete walls. 

Smart Nodes

Wi-Fi Mesh access points, called "nodes," are smart. These nodes can transmit information through the system via the most efficient route. The nodes calculate and choose routes independently for each information packet.

Wi-Fi Mesh networks adapt to disruption and damage. If a specific access point is blocked or broken, the mesh network simply moves information around it. 

Multiple Bands

Wi-Fi mesh networks can typically choose from among multiple frequency bands.

This way, it can direct information through the band that has the least traffic. This prevents the system from overloading a single band, which, in turn, slows internet speeds down.

Wi-Fi Mesh vs Range Extender

Range extenders are the cheapest way to expand your Wi-Fi's radius. But, they're not "smart" devices. They can't decide to transmit information via a better route. 

Unlike mesh access points, range extenders merely repeat the Wi-Fi signal. Range extenders do not broadcast.

Typical range extenders create a second SSID by default. Wi-Fi mesh creates a large network with a single SSID.

Ubiquiti Mesh System 

Ubiquiti Inc. launched its Wi-Fi mesh technology in 2016. The company patented its mesh's dynamic decision-making process. Ubiquiti's unique smart node system is UniFi mesh technology. 

There are two popular Wi-Fi Ubiquiti mesh systems on the market. Ubiquiti produces the Amplifi mesh system line and the UniFi line of products. Amplifi is Ubiquiti's most accessible line. 

Ubiquiti Amplifi HD

Ubiquiti put three Amplifi HD systems on the market. The systems vary in range and bandwidth. The Amplifi Mesh Wi-Fi system has the following specs:

  • Coverage radius: 10,000 - 20,000 sq. ft. 
  • Frequency bands: 2.4GHz, 5GHz
  • Antennas: six on the cube (three per band), plus one per node (adjustable)
  • Security: WPA, WPA2
  • Bandwidth/speed (theoretical): 2.35 Gbps - 5.25Gbps

This system offers dedicated band control. This means you may override the node's dynamic function to route data along the path you prefer. 

It doesn't offer USB ports. So, Ubiquiti Amplifi isn't the best choice for your home office.

Ubiquiti Amplifi Mesh: Gamer's Edition

The gamer's edition of the Ubiquiti Amplifi mesh system has an intuitive user interface. It includes an app that guides you through setup in minutes.

You can also purchase extra nodes to extend coverage even further. The Gamer's Edition of Ubiquiti Amplifi mesh has the following specs: 

  • Coverage radius: 20,000 sq. ft. (+500 sq. ft per extra node)
  • Frequency bands: 2.4GHz, 5GHz
  • Antennas: six on the cube (three per band), plus one per node (adjustable)
  • Security: WPA, WPA2 
  • Bandwidth/speed (theoretical): 450 Mbps (2.4GHz band), 1300 Mbps (5GHz band)

Ubiquiti's Gamer's Edition system has pre-set Quality of Service (QoS) settings optimized for online gaming. It prioritizes bandwidth for the game connection. This means it serves the gamer's information before any other data. 

Mesh Wi-Fi systems at CCL

If a mesh Wi-Fi system sounds like the right kind of setup for your home, then explore CCL’s range of mesh Wi-Fi systems today.