Wi-Fi has become a nearly ubiquitous feature of the modern-day office, and for a large portion of today’s businesses having reliable internet coverage is downright critical to getting the job done. And of course, when it comes to Wi-Fi, having the signal to reach across the entire facility is ideal, leaving no areas uncovered or struggling with a spotty internet connection that could hamper workers’ productivity.
But what is the best way to ensure full Wi-Fi coverage throughout an office? While there is a range of methods for getting an internet signal to reach all corners of a business’s property, the two most popular by far are the Wi-Fi range extender and a newer technology called the mesh network. Read on to learn where each of these solutions stands in a range of important categories and to get a better idea which might be the best fit in your office.
- Wi-Fi Range Extender Functionality: One of the primary differences between Wi-Fi range extenders and mesh networks is seen in their primary functions. A Wi-Fi range extender, which is sometimes called a Wi-Fi booster or a Wi-Fi repeater, extends the coverage area of an office’s Wi-Fi router by connecting to the existing network and repeating the signal. In most cases, receiving the signal being relayed by the Wi-Fi range extender requires switching to a different network on the device being used as the extender will broadcast a new network name.
- Mesh Network Functionality: A mesh network, on the other hand, employs numerous devices called “nodes” spread throughout the office to broadcast a single seamless network. With a mesh system in place, users are not required to manually switch between networks as they move around as the extended network has a single name. Further, on a mesh network, devices will automatically connect to the node providing the strongest signal as the users moves around.
- Wi-Fi Range Extender Coverage: Wi-Fi range extenders are a good solution for providing broader connectivity and eliminating dead zones in smaller offices because they can typically extend the range of a network by 300 to 2,000 square feet.
- Mesh Network Coverage: Mesh networks are a better fit for larger offices because they provide full-office coverage and can typically provide a signal covering 2,000 to 5,500 square feet. And by adding additional mesh nodes to the office’s mesh network, the Wi-Fi signal can be extended even farther.
- Wi-Fi Range Extender Setup: Setting up a Wi-Fi extender can be challenging for users who are not especially tech-savvy, largely because most are made to work with routers made by different manufacturers. Because of this, manual configuration is usually required for the extender to work with the specific brand of router already being used in a workplace.
- Mesh Network Setup: Mesh systems, on the other hand, utilize a collection of nodes that are all made by the same manufacturer, which generally eases the setup process. In fact, to simplify and speed setup, most mesh systems offer an associated, user-friendly app that walks users through the entire process from start to finish.
- Wi-Fi Range Extender Speed: Mesh systems tend to have a big advantage over extenders in this area, largely because Wi-Fi extenders, while broadening a network’s reach, can often bring speeds down. This is because extenders usually employ “half duplex” technology, meaning they cannot send and receive information simultaneously. For this reason, half duplex devices must take turns “talking,” and because extenders are repeating the signal they receive from the router, they exacerbate the problem because they must repeat everything they “hear” after the router is done “talking.”
- Mesh Network Extender Speed: Mesh devices, on the other hand, typically have multiple channels they can employ to send and receive information at the same time. This eliminates the “half duplex” issue and helps the mesh network preserve high internet speeds.
- Wi-Fi Range Extender Flexibility: An office can have more than one Wi-Fi extender installed, but each will only repeat the signal from the base router — they cannot further extend the signal off of one another. So, if an office has multiple dead zones within relative proximity of the base router, setting up multiple extenders (each of which would cover one of the dead zones) could solve the connectivity issues.
- Mesh Network Flexibility: Mesh nodes, on the other hand, can continue to be added to a mesh network to further extend its signal.
- Wi-Fi Range Extender Price: This is an area where Wi-Fi extenders shine if they can adequately meet a user’s needs. A high-end Wi-Fi extender typically costs somewhere in the range of $50 to $80. Further, extenders work with a user’s existing router, so no additional investment is needed in that area.
- Mesh Network Price: Conversely, starting a mesh network requires that the entire system of base station and nodes be purchased at once and high-end systems generally range in price from $200 to $500. Additional nodes for further extending the network usually cost between $100 and $200.
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