The graphic below shows how a wireless mesh network functions when sharing an Internet connection across a Local Area Network (LAN). As you see, only one node in the wireless mesh network needs to be directly wired to the Internet. That wired node shares the Internet connection wirelessly with the nearest cluster of nodes, which then share it with their nearest cluster of nodes and so on.
That means that each individual node doesn't need to be wired to anything. It only needs a power supply such as traditional AC plugs, batteries, or solar panels if outdoors. Outdoor nodes are encased in a weatherproof, protective shield and can be mounted anywhere including telephone pools, roofs, etc.
Wireless mesh networks are effective in sharing Internet connectivity because the more nodes that are installed, the further the signal can travel. And the more nodes you have, the stronger and faster the Internet connection becomes for the user.
How does the Internet connection become stronger and faster?
- If your laptop computer is in the broadcast range of four nodes, you're tapping into four times the bandwidth of one traditional wireless router.
- Distance plays a huge role in wireless signal strength. If you reduce the distance between your computer and the nearest wireless node by two, the signal strength is four times as strong.
- Nodes can also provide Internet connectivity to wired devices within the network like VoIP phones, video cameras, servers, and desktop workstations using traditional Ethernet cables. Most nodes come with two or more Ethernet ports, and through a technology called Power Over Ethernet (PoE), the node can provide power to stand-alone devices like surveillance cameras without having to plug the camera into an electrical outlet.
Now let's look at some real and potential applications of wireless mesh networks.