Wireless - repeater vs mesh

In a wireless network that uses Wi-Fi, at first glance, a wireless repeater with two radios, and a mesh network may look identical, however, they are different.

A repeater with multiple radios sounds very similar to the operation of a mesh network. Although the mechanism through which they operate is similar, there are some significant differences.

The difference between using a repeater with multiple radios and a Mesh Access Point (AP) lies in their design, functionality, and network architecture. First of all, wireless networks have various Wireless Service Sets and access point modes. Keep in mind that “mesh” is actually an infrastructure mode while the repeater is an AP mode. The former has to do with larger scale wireless network design while the latter has to do with the mode of a particular device. Although they are similar in operation, the scope of their implementation is different.

A repeater with multiple radios uses one radio to receive the signal from the main AP, and the other to transmit the signal to end devices. This design is a step up from using a single-radio where the same radio has to alternately receive and transmit signals, effectively halving the bandwidth. However, this is still a relatively simple setup aimed only at extending the range of an existing network.

A mesh AP is part of a more sophisticated mesh system. These APs are designed to dynamically communicate with each other and with the main network, creating a mesh-like interconnectivity. Each mesh AP can act as a router, forwarding data to other mesh APs and end devices. They are typically more intelligent in managing network resources, and routing, and can provide better coverage and reliability compared to simple repeaters.

While both systems aim to extend wireless coverage, mesh APs are part of a more advanced, scalable, and efficient network architecture compared to repeaters with multiple radios, which are more suited for simpler, small-scale range extension.