When using the wifi for the internet connection at home which has multiple floors and thick walls in between, one cannot run away from internet dead zones, poor connection and solutions like Mesh WiFi actually designed to resolve these connectivity problems. Image source: Hello Tech
The pandemic that most of us work and attend classes from home truly tested the robustness of the logistics at home and this included the internet connection and also arrangement on shopping for groceries and food. The good thing is we had installed fibre optics internet way before the pandemic hit our shores but over time, as more devices hooked to the internet and some areas of the house encountered wifi dead zones, we had to look at a solution for this.
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What Is a Mesh Wi-Fi System?
The internet provider started to offer an internet package with mesh wifi in the midst of COVID19 lockdown and I guess it is because there are now more users logging into the internet and performance started to lag. I had an internet repeater which helps to some extent but the connection in the 2nd bedroom was still bad.
What is mesh wifi anyway?
Designed to blanket your home with wireless coverage, Wi-Fi systems are a hybrid of sorts, made up of several networking components. There’s a main router that connects directly to your modem, and a series of satellite modules, or nodes, that you place throughout your house.
They are all part of a single wireless network, and they share the same SSID and password. Unlike range extenders, which communicate with the router via the 2.4GHz or 5GHz radio bands, most Wi-Fi system satellites use mesh technology to talk to the router and to each other.
Each node serves as a hop point for other nodes in the system. This helps the nodes farthest from the router to deliver a strong Wi-Fi signal as they are talking to other nodes and not relying on one-to-one communications with the router.
Not all Wi-Fi systems use mesh networking, however; some use a dedicated radio band to communicate with the router and with each other. As with mesh, the dedicated band frees up the standard-use 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for client use.
(Source: PC Magazine)
Pros and Cons of Mesh Wifi
Before I finalise my decision on whether I keep on struggling with my wifi repeater which does the job but not satisfactorily or should I go ahead spending with the internet provider’s mesh wifi package offer or wait out for another solution, I considered the pros and cons of using mesh wifi (which incidentally is not cheap).
- Improved coverage: The main benefit of a mesh network is extended coverage. In larger properties with a lot of square feet, investing in a mesh setup will remove annoyances such as coverage blackspots.
- A boost in reliability: As your device will connect to the nearest satellite node rather than a central point of access, this helps ensure that no matter where you are on a property, you are less likely to experience drops in connectivity.
- Additional controls: Once a mesh network is active, many vendors will allow users to control their router through a mobile app. This could include keeping an eye on network traffic, rebooting, or even turning off the Internet entirely — perhaps an appealing prospect for those with children.
- Initial expense: In general, mesh devices require a more expensive outlay to setup. While a device’s hub and one satellite might not be too costly, if you want to take full advantage of what a mesh network can provide, you may need to buy more — and the cash required to do so can add up.
- More than one: Setting up a mesh network means you will need more than one power outlet. For each satellite you add, you will need to ensure there is a power supply and that you’re happy to have them dotted around your property, as attractively designed as they can be.
- Speed: Mesh means coverage over speed. In some cases, mesh networks — especially at entry levels — will not provide the same speeds you can expect from typical wireless routers.
Unifi Mesh Wifi Offer
Most homes are running a fibre optic from Telekom Malaysia for obvious reasons – it is widely available and the coverage is better than the rest. For 100 Mbps, it is offered for RM129 per month without Mesh WiFi (for that one need to add another RM15 to RM55 per month). TIME’s fibre optic is better and cheaper at RM99 per month for the same 100 Mbps but it is not widely available. Their 500 Mbps package comes with free Mesh WiFi.
Maxis also provided a fibre optic connection for RM129 per month for 100 Mbps and even come with a Wifi-6 router (TM only provides a WiFi-5 router) but then again, they ride on TM’s backbone for the connection. And after I had terminated my rough relationship with Maxis and Astro a long time ago, the last thing I want now is to go back to Maxis when I can easily opt for TM’s Unifi.
Telekom Malaysia is offering these:-
- Deco M4 (1 pair)
- RM15/month for 24 months
- Expand WiFi coverage up to 3,800 sqft, ideal for 2-4 rooms
- Fast and stable connections for multiple devices
- Equipped with MU-MIMO technology
- Block inappropriate content and restrict time spent online
- Assign priority based on devices
- Deco X60 (1 pair)
- RM55/month for 24 months
- Expand Wi-Fi coverage up to 5,000 sqft, ideal for 3-5 rooms
- Faster and reliable connection for up to 150 devices
- Equipped with the latest OFDMA and MU-MIMO technology for simultaneous transmission
- 3 years anti-virus license
- Block inappropriate content and restrict time spent online
- Assign priority to different online activities and devices
- In-app speed test to easily check Wi-Fi connectivity
- Best to use with Wi-Fi 6 devices
TP-Link Deco M4 AC1200 Mesh WiFi System (2 pack) on Lazada sells for RM479 which works about RM20 per month and on Shopee sells for RM366 which works about RM15 per month. TP-Link Deco X60-AX3000 Mesh WiFi System Deco X60 (2 pack) on Shopee sells for RM1,169 which works about RM49 per month.
I was sure that 2 packs of Mesh WiFi will not be enough as one needs to be connected to the router and another at the middle of the staircase. The best option will be to get 3 packs of Mesh WiFi which mean a higher cost.
TP-Link Deco M4 (3 packs) is selling for RM1,739 or RM72 per month (assuming 24 months contract) and TP-Link Deco X60 (3 packs) is selling for RM579 or RM24 per month (assuming 24 months contract) at TP-Link’s webpage.
Tenda Nova MW3 Mesh WiFi
I then found Tenda Nova MW3 Mesh WiFi online which was selling for RM279 for 3 packs on Shopee. It was comparative with Deco M4 in terms of coverage and RM300 cheaper – Tenda MW3 at 3,300 square feet whilst Deco M4 at 3,800 square feet and both are AC1200 Dual Band router.
With MU-MIMO technology, MW3 supports more WiFi-enabled devices. And the smart QoS intelligently allocates bandwidth to ensure smooth streaming, gaming, downloading and uninterrupted video chat at the same time.
MW3 offers a data rate up to 1200Mbps and prioritizes 5 GHz network access, allowing you to enjoy lag-free 4K HD videos.
The Tenda MW3 comes in a nice solid box with 3 beautiful looking nodes (beautiful enough to put on showcase as a decoration item) and power sockets for each of the nodes. The colour white is a nice touch and presents calmness. It is quite light and easy to place at various points in the house as long as there is a power supply.
The setup seems pretty easy and this can be done within minutes or so I thought. The problem was that the Tenda app which one uses to do the setup is too simple and the instructions were not comprehensive enough. I initially thought that the first node needs to be connected with the modem. But when I did that, I keep getting the message that the node is not connected to the internet. Thinking that the node was damaged, I tried with the 2nd and 3rd nodes but I got the same error message.
It is actually easy to set up the Tenda MW3 Mesh WiFi provided that there was proper documentation given but instead one had to do trial and error before knowing what to do and how to setup. I am pretty sure that the performance would have been greatly improved if I had the newer WiFi 6 router.
After tweaking for some time without any success, I tried and connect the node with the WiFi 5 router and suddenly the node showed that there was an internet connection. The next problem was setting up the 2nd and 3rd nodes – I know I need to place one halfway up the staircase but there was no electric socket for me to power the 2nd node. So I got myself an extension from the first bedroom – it was ugly but it was workable. Placing the last node was easier as I had an electric socket at the prayer place.
I wanted to confirm that there is a substantial improvement over the dead internet zones so before I set up the Tenda MW3 Mesh WiFi, I did the internet speed test using the Speed Test app from Ookla to record down the baseline speed at various points of my house where we usually use the laptops.
I did another round of speed tests once I connected with the Mesh WiFi to capture the new speed. I have to say that the improvement was impressive and positive.
Benchmark (without the Mesh WiFi and sitting next to the main router on the ground floor)
- Upload Speed: 101.00 Mbps, Download Speed: 54.00 Mbps
Dining Area (Ground Floor)
- Before: Upload Speed: 68.44 Mbps, Download Speed: 41.33 Mbps
- After: Upload Speed: 93.00 Mbps, Download Speed: 51.50 Mbps
Kitchen Area (Ground Floor)
- Before: Upload Speed: 15.40 Mbps, Download Speed: 5.91 Mbps
- After: Upload Speed: 82.00 Mbps, Download Speed: 31.40 Mbps
Prayer Area (1st Floor)
- Before: Upload Speed: 38.60 Mbps, Download Speed: 40.80 Mbps
- After: Upload Speed: 92.30 Mbps, Download Speed: 54.50 Mbps
1st Bedroom (1st Floor)
- Before: Upload Speed: 66.80 Mbps, Download Speed: 30.40 Mbps
- After: Upload Speed: 85.20 Mbps, Download Speed: 53.50 Mbps
2nd Bedroom (1st Floor)
- Before: Upload Speed: 15.90 Mbps, Download Speed: 11.80 Mbps
- After: Upload Speed: 77.50 Mbps, Download Speed: 52.50 Mbps
The main reason for adding the Mesh WiFi in my case was to resolve the dead internet zones on the first floor where my kids’ rooms are located – they will be connecting their laptops to the internet for school work and for online tuition. The internet connection between the nodes is seamless and is quite good.
Connectivity at the ground floor where I had hooked up Android box and using it when I am working from home is not an issue. If we need more internet bandwidth, there is always an option to the WiFi 5 router to the newer WiFi 6 router and subscribe to higher speed from the internet provider. Of course, we can also hook up LAN cables to the router or the Mesh WiFi nodes for a stable connection.
In the meantime, of course, I need to look at ways to hide the ugly electrical wiring for the nodes which is a contrast with the beautiful nodes. The only inconvenience at the present is switching on the power to the nodes at the staircase and upstairs whenever my kids need to use the internet for school work and online tuition and reminding them to switch the nodes off after they had finished their online work.