It’s a few years ago since Google launched the first consumer mesh networking solution, simply called „Google Wifi“. You could get up to 3 devices that build a mesh network. Since then there were a few others from Netgear, AVM and Linksys - and all of the named are quite expensive (250+ EUR).
What is a Mesh Network?
Simple answer: it’s just a wireless router system that delivers a constant wifi signal all over the flat/house with the same SSID and password. The benefit is that if a device changes the location and the signal gets weak it automatically adjusts to the next part of the mesh without any issues. You may experience a worse download rate once you change the „cell“ but the connection won’t disconnect. It’s like with current mobile networks using your phone (usually).
I don’t have a huge house but just a flat with about 80 square meters but my wifi router in the living room didn’t cover all rooms to provide a stable and fast wifi signal. My „solution“ was to place several repeaters in all rooms, set up as access points (the wifi repeater mode didn’t work out well). This way had a big disadvantage: the SSID changed from room to room so my devices always reconnected either automatically or I also had to do it manually - which was very annoying.
With the mesh network this is history. Devices automatically switch to the spot with the better signal without changing the SSID and while continuing to work with the same connection.
The mesh solutions named above are great but expensive. I just bought another that was less than half the price but also working great: the Tenda Nova MW3. This Chinese kit comes with 2 or 3 modules (I got the 3 module kit for 120 EUR). Each module is the same. Once you set up the first module it will act as a „master“, the router. The configuration is done via an app on your mobile device (phone, tablet) and offers all features you are used from a normal router - except DynDNS.
Installation is easy as pie. Just plug the module into a free power outlet, connect with the app, configure a bit and you are done. Connect the module to your modem or router (then run it in bridge mode that still allows the router to DHCP). The signal of a single module is very strong but I decided to install a second module in another room - done in seconds. You just have to use the app to add it by scanning a QR code on the device and within seconds the second module is ready to serve.
I even didn’t activate the 3rd module as the coverage is already overwhelming.
As I use DynDNS for exposing my local Plex media server I wasn’t sure if I can get rid of my router (this has DynDNS support built in) but I found a solution: as I run the Plex server on Linux there is a package called „ddclient“ that does the job. In the next days I will disconnect the old router (not that old and crappy to be honest) and run my network just with the Nova cubes.
Update: Removed the old router
Today the switch arrived I needed to manage the cable network. I also switched the IP range of the Nova to the "old" one and set up port forwarding which was also very easy via the app. Everything works like before - or even better
Update June 2019
I had to exchange my cable modem. For some reason the new one insists to be a router when exposing a IPv4 address. It also comes with DynDNS support. In this case I had to reconfigure everything (portforwarding, dyndns and IP ranges) on the modem. The Tenda is now running in "Bridge" mode and they act just like access points using IPs from them modem.