We’ve talked about the many benefits of wifi on this blog before–ease of use with portable devices; flexibility in the workplace; and cost-effectiveness–but businesses can reap even greater benefits with a wireless WiFi mesh created by Ubiquiti’s UniFi access points. UniFi’s APs make it easy to configure a WiFi mesh that has greater coverage and less maintenance than a traditional WiFi network, plus fewer wired components to deal with.
Want to find out more about the benefits of a UniFi WiFi mesh network, how to set up a mesh network, and how it works? Keep reading to find all the answers.
What Is a WiFi Mesh?
Traditional WiFi networks are based around a central router with one or two wall or ceiling antennas to extend the network range. But these networks are often limited in scope and power, which results in dead spots and a small coverage area. To cover greater areas, it is necessary to set up another wired local area network (WLAN) with its own unique SSID.
Mesh networks eliminate that need, and installation of WiFi from Ubiquiti offers some of the best mesh hardware on the market. The UniFi mesh WiFi system uses powerful access points (APs) that communicate wirelessly and increase both the size and quality of the wireless coverage with one WLAN and one SSID.
This means you can install a reliable mesh network in almost any environment, regardless of obstacles that would tank a regular WiFi system. The mesh is also incredibly flexible, since the APs are easy to deploy on almost any surface and can be rearranged or scaled without disrupting the network.
Mesh networks also create very stable wireless coverage with less lag and/or downtime, because each of the nodes (or Access Points, or APs) connect directly and non-hierarchically with each other. This is because the system doesn’t depend on one node, or on one pathway, to transmit information, but uses the whole network to share the load. This creates a dynamic system that sidesteps failures and faults, and requires less maintenance than other topologies.
It’s important to remember that wireless mesh networks are simply a large-scale extension of a wired network. That means that the strength, stability, and security of your mesh relies on the strength, stability, and security of your central router and gateway.
Who needs a mesh network?
Mesh wifi UniFi installation is a great choice for those who want a wide-reaching wireless network with a minimum of easily maintained hardware and software:
- Campuses that want a stable WiFi connection across buildings and outdoors
- Buildings with obstacles that lead to tricky dead spots with traditional WiFi
- Homes that want total WiFi coverage, from kitchen to patio to garage
- Offices where much work takes place on portable devices outside of offices
Types of UniFi Access Points
A mesh network begins with its access points, UniFi offers two models: the base UniFi AC Mesh (UAP-AC-M) and the more powerful UniFi AC Mesh Pro (UAP-AC-M-PRO). These two models both offer weather resistance and mounting flexibility, but they have different shapes and specifications that help network administrators tailor their APs to the environment of coverage.
AC Mesh (UAP-AC-M)
- Compact and discreet size
- Included omni antennas; or fast-mount on another Ubiquiti antenna for custom pattern shaping
- Dual-band 2×2 MIMO technology
- Power options: Powered with PoE* or 24V passive PoE
- Speeds: 2.4GHz–5Ghz; 300 Mbps–800 Mbps
- Can be monitored with UniFi Network web application or mobile app
AC Mesh Pro (UAP-AC-M-PRO)
- Wider, flatter profile than AC Mesh
- Dual-band 3×3 MIMO technology
- Better weather and penetration resistance
- Omnidirectional antennas for excellent outdoor coverage
- Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports
- Power options: 802.3af
Both AP models can easily be set up and configured to the network hub using UniFi’s Wireless Uplink.
How does Wireless Uplink work?
Wireless Uplink has been a feature on other APs before, but its capabilities have been updated and expanded for UAP-AC-M and UAP-AC-M-PRO. This UniFi feature makes it possible for one wired AP to function as a base station for up to four other access points.
Here’s how it works:
- A factory default AP is powered up.
- That AP connects to another AP in range and becomes “adoptable.”
- The system administrator can then adopt and configure the new AP.
- Now, the AP can communicate with the network, relay data, and broadcast the SSID.
Each AP can then become a base station for other new APs, thus forming the “mesh” of the network. This means you can efficiently scale and customize the size and coverage of your mesh network, without introducing more wired APs.
Wireless Uplink makes it quick and easy to configure a mesh WiFi network with UniFi APs. However, there are some best practices to follow for the best results:
- Use Wireless Uplink instead of wired connections, or to get WiFi into difficult-to-access locations.
- Balance the load across the APs. If you have two wired APs and four wireless APs, link the wired APs with two each wireless APs instead of loading all four onto one base.
- If Wireless Uplink is not necessary to create a connection, or if it slows data speeds, deactivate this feature in the UniFi controller: Setting > Site Settings > Uncheck “Enable connectivity monitor and wireless uplink”.
Envision your network with the Map View
Another hugely helpful feature from Ubiquiti’s UniFi controller system is the Map and Topology (Beta) views.
This feature allows the user to upload a floorplan of their facility and record where their APs are in the physical space, as well as their wireless connections to each other.
The Map view also lets the user configure the APs simply by clicking on them in the map. It is an excellent tool for both visualizing the digital infrastructure and managing the different APs in the network.
Mesh WiFi UniFi installation is a painless and affordable process that businesses and homeowners can use to extend their WiFi network in outdoor space, physically difficult locations, and environments that pose too many obstacles for regular WiFi to get through.
This article covers the basics of a wireless wifi mesh installation. If you want to find out more about this system and if it might work for you, call The Network Installers for a free consultation!