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Mesh vs Access Point

Trying to understand this technology...

 

Keeping things simple, where is the application for each? Long range? Wide range? Local, inside a building/ courtyard?

I've done some searching but really not understanding the fundmental difference between MESH application and AP application.

 

Are they the same...just different??  LOL...


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Established Member
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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

A good use case to show the differences;

I have a outdoor patio, I hung a screen and use a projector to have movie nights in the evenings. The wireless signal from the UAP-AC-PRO inside my house was pretty low getting to the projector outside. I installed a UAP-AC-M on the back wall of my house. Now I could have used another PRO, but there are two problems with it.

1. The eave of my house back there is ~30 feet off the ground and I do not do ladders unless I absolutely have too.
2. The PRO is way overkill to service a couple of cell phones, a tablet, and a projector. In addition mounted at that height most of my signal would be going to my neighbor's.

Using a UAP-AC-M let me install the AP down low, provide GREAT signal to just my yard and was cheaper than a PRO.

You can see my little install here;
https://community.ubnt.com/t5/UniFi-Stories/Home-improvement/cns-p/2123408

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Emerging Member
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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

it could be described as two different types of technology that are used by different devices, but with regard to Wifi,the main difference is the uplink. 

 

An Access Point is a simple wifi device, normally used in commercial setups, that it's only job is to be basically a Wifi switch, take a LAN connection and allow it be accessed by wireless devices. Consumer devices tend to have multiple roles, Router, Modem, Switch. Now an Acess Point needs a connection to the LAN, in normal situations this is done by a network cable. 

 

Mesh technology utilizes the wireless uplinks to expand networks even further and have no set path back to the main point. Newer access points utilize this method to increase wifi coverage in both consumer and commercial setups. You usually have one main point that is connection via LAN by traditional  cables, and nodes connect to the main point wirelessly, only requiring power instead of a dedicated line. 

 

In larger setups a device can hop across several Mesh nodes before actually getting back to the main point. But in Wifi setups the entire mesh network is normally broadcast as one single network. 

 

Other technologies is mesh networking to improve thier networks, a perfect example is smart home devices, that use Zwave or Zigbee radios, a Zwave light switch that is out of range of the main hub will send and receive signals to other Zwave devices within range until the signal reaches its destination. 

 

Hope this helps. 

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

The UNIFI MESH access points are weather proof for direct outdoor mounting, a few of the non MESH access points are weather resistant and can be mounted outdoors provided they are under the eaves of the roof.

Other than that with the recent changes in the firmware to wireless uplinking there is no difference between the MESH and normal APs. Excepting of course the normal differences in each of the AP's design like the amount of clients supported, number, gain of antennas, and spatial streams.
Established Member
Posts: 1,989
Registered: ‎03-31-2017
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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

A good use case to show the differences;

I have a outdoor patio, I hung a screen and use a projector to have movie nights in the evenings. The wireless signal from the UAP-AC-PRO inside my house was pretty low getting to the projector outside. I installed a UAP-AC-M on the back wall of my house. Now I could have used another PRO, but there are two problems with it.

1. The eave of my house back there is ~30 feet off the ground and I do not do ladders unless I absolutely have too.
2. The PRO is way overkill to service a couple of cell phones, a tablet, and a projector. In addition mounted at that height most of my signal would be going to my neighbor's.

Using a UAP-AC-M let me install the AP down low, provide GREAT signal to just my yard and was cheaper than a PRO.

You can see my little install here;
https://community.ubnt.com/t5/UniFi-Stories/Home-improvement/cns-p/2123408
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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

@plongson  The only thing that I can add to what has already been said,  generally speaking,  AP's are hardwired back to your switch.  so if you have 4 AP's at your home/office, each one of them will be hardwired back (aka longhauled)  with a mesh setup,  you can have one main AP hardwired back to the switch and the other three are all connected to the main one wirelessly.

 

Lots of great advancements in mesh with the recent firmware updates.

 

Pro for mesh:   you dont need to pull as much cable,  i.e., you can get more coverage becase your 2nd or 3rd ring of devices can be beyond ethernet length limits.  You just need power for the downstream devices.

 

con (ish) of mesh,  if you have 4 AP's and devices on all of them (random example) and each AP is doing 20MB of data.  in a mesh setup,  that 20MB per AP is being pulled from one single main device,  so your one master AP will be moving 80MB.

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

To All.... GREAT explanations! THANK YOU! This why this forum is so amazing! The replies cleared my head and answered my questions. Now, I just don't know which one to mark as a solution...LOL

 

Again, THANKS!

Paul 

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

Question for you as I'm looking at the exact same situation. What kind of junction boxes, weatherproofing, etc did you use to close up the hole from your house. Also, it appears you ran the Ethernet cable directly outside bypassing conduit, did you purchase an outdoor rated cable or not worry about it? 

 

Thanks

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

I run outdoor APs pretty often, and I use outdoor/direct burial CAT6. In some cases, it's still run in conduit (at least portions of it), but it's designed to hold up to years in the sun or snow, while riser-class cable is only intended for indoor use and will usually fail in 5 or 6 years or less if outside. If you don't know how to terminate bulk cable, I'm sure you can find places that will make custom lengths for you. You can use cheap pull string and run it along your proposed path to figure out the length, then add a bit of extra length in case you need to move it, reroute the cable, or whatever..

 

20180507_120602_HDR.jpg

 

Here in California, we typically run the cable from the house through the crawlspace, out a vent hole, and bury it (often in conduit) where it crosses the path of traffic, and then from there, it just depends on the situation. In this install, I used some split-loom to protect the cable behind the rosebushes that are planted against the brick base of this trellis, and then bare once it's on the wood and can be tightly secured against it. I use aluminum cable clips and stainless #8 x 1" wood screws to secure the cable, as these will last forever even outdoors. There's a clip behind the top of the service loop you see to hold up the coil of cable - it's secured to the clip with a zip tie.

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

I wonder if multiple APs setup will have a single SSID or different SSIDs?

 

Most of the consumer mesh network devices advertise that wireless devices do not need to switch from one SSID to another when the wireless device is in a location where it is suppose to be in the same network.

 

A practical case would be me walking in the house with two Wifi extenders and a router running, I will be standing next to an extender but my phone is still connecting to the router's SSID with a very weak signal. Will UniFi's multiple APs have the same problem?

 

I would also like to know a typical pros and cons when constructing a network consisting both UniFi APs and UniFi mesh.

 

And by the way, are UniFi APs / Mesh not compatible with AmpliFi products?

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

Multiple AP's in the mesh setup share the same SSID so you can as your devices move from AP to AP they connect to the one with the best signal automatically. When I'm testing my mesh setup I use the Topology map and view client connections and watch the device as it hops from AP to AP as we move about.

Most (or perhaps all, I'm not 100% certain) UniFI AP's support meshing. For my mobile WiFi setup I use UAP-AC-M's because they are setup outside. At home I use multiple UAP-AC-Lite AP's in a mesh setup. This works until I get time to run cable to each AP location.
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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

I just recently started looking at the AC Mesh. Would this work in an area of homes where there are a lot of trees? I really need a solution to provide an IP for each house but, be able to mesh a bunch of houses together, below these tall trees. I cannot justify sticking up a thousand dollar pop only to do a couple of houses because of the trees. How many homes could I supply internet to, by running a mesh network? The houses are close together and each mesh could easily jump from one house to the next.

 

Just looking for an economical solution.

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

Mesh is not a wonder pill. Mesh is just similar to yesteryear's WiFi extender with much of the same trade-offs such as degradation of throughput (around 50%) for every hop and subjected to interference. Mesh has been around as old as 802.11a (5GHz) days. In fact, there are so many variants in current day's mesh, most are not the true mesh (think spider-web where each AP connects to multiple APs).

What kind of throughput are u expecting? 10Mbps? 30Mbps? 50Mbps?
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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

Throughput is not really a question yet, it would be more the result of deployment. Not to overload any one node but, be able to get er done, is key. My thought is run the access points (ac mesh) on 6 to 9 houses and have the central house the host house sending backhaul. Maybe I would need a pop at the host house; not sure at this point. I just have not got that far yet in the thought process. I realized the 50% degridation so, I will have to open up the connection a bit for the packages that will be available to these customers, to start anyway.

 

Here are a couple of photos of what I am dealing with.

 

Photo 1 is the norm. lots of very tall trees. Getting below the canopy is the way to go. Distance from each house is 25 - 75 feet. White dot represents ac mesh. Central (green square) or the best house with LOS to ap represents ac mesh with an antenna to conduct backhaul.

1.jpg

 

Photo 2 is also typical here and these homes are 10 - 20 feet apart but very little in the way of trees. Not a problem doing PTMP here.

 

2.jpg

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

"Mesh" is a group of access points that attempt to work out a "topology" connecting all of the "nodes" back to the central router or switch. At least one node must be wired to the network. Typically, only one node is wired to the network, but all of the systems that I've seen will support any combination of wired and wireless. The mesh nodes can wirelessly forward packets from node to node if necessary, until the packet reaches the client. Systems very in sophistication. Some systems work similarly to the ancient Greek relays where a listener receives a packet, then rebroadcasts the packet. This sort of node can listen or send, not both simultaneously (effectively cutting speed in half). At the other end of the spectrum, a node will contain multiple radios and can simultaneously listen and send. Some units will use 5G as the "backbone" while servicing clients on 2.4GHz.

 

If one has a "dark" WiFi area, one can use multiple wireless mesh nodes between a supported area and the dark area. Each supporting node should have a good signal to at least one other node.

 

Adding more nodes to the mesh increases reliability. If a node goes down, the mesh will attempt to work out another technology -- without requiring any human supervision because a given node probably has multiple nodes within range.

 

Deploying a modern mesh system in a box is very easy, it's basically plug and play. Many systems can work with a Cloud server that monitors, updates, and tunes the mesh.

 

That said, I prefer to run wires whenever practical because wired is always faster and more reliable.

 

In homes, I'm using more and more inwall (wired) access points. Certainly, the ceiling access points are more potent and the ceiling is a better location, but a less potent access point in the same room as the client is more effective than a more potent access point several rooms away.

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

I'm a huge fan of the mesh technology becuase I use it quite a bit but in the scenario you describe trying to provide WiFi access to multiple houses I'm afraid you're going to be hugely disappointed if you could even get all of the devices to form the mesh. What is the plan after you setup the mesh network? Do you expect the Mesh AP at each house to also provide WiFi coverage for the house? 

 

Hopefully @ub40 will chime in this one. What you need is a point to multipoint deployment and even with that type of setup you're going to have issues with trees.

 

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

No plans and no expectations. Just trying to figure out a solution to reaching these customers through the trees. I'll keep poking it with a stick. Man Happy

 

The mesh thing is very interesting though. Omnidirectional appears to be the best solution due to the trees.

 

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

@jagnet: Please open a new topic - this one here is about a different project and already has a solution.

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

id fire you if you used black cable on my white pergola. and with a huge ugly black loop! and whats with that horrible antenna alignment!! youve created a big signal hole.
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Re: Mesh vs Access Point

[ Edited ]

You're seeing the backside of the pergola, which is up against a fence, and the  cable used is outdoor/direct burial-grade cable, which is only available in black.  Had I used white cable, it would have been riser (indoor-only) cable that would have broken down in the sun in a couple of years. Anyway, you have to climb into the bushes behind the pergola to see it - the AP and wiring essentially invisible from anywhere  anyone (who isn't the gardener) can see.

 

20180507_120712_HDR.jpg

 

This is the front view. You can just make out the antennas of the AP directly above the ladder.

 

 

unifi_ap-ac-m_1

 

Finally, the antennas are properly aligned, per Ubiquiti engineers. The antennas are intended to be used 90 degrees from each other, either both at 45 degrees ("bunny ears") or one vertical and one horizontal. I've aligned the antennas to provide the best coverage of this particular yard, and signal strengths are excellent. I can download at over 300Mb/s from the furthest corner of the yard, which is more than enough for the intended use - primarily controlling Sonos music and  the occasional YouTube video on the phone.

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Re: Mesh vs Access Point Confused

If I have a couple AC Pro's on the first floor of a large residence, what can I use to increase coverage on the second floor where I can't get ethernet to easily??

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