Top 5 Mesh Wireless Network Best Practices

By Gabriel Reyes & Jason Hintersteiner

Every installer knows that each wireless installation comes with its own unique set of challenges – from building materials to cabling. Mesh wireless can be a handy tool for the installer’s arsenal when included as a deployment option on traditional access points. Mesh is useful for getting around tricky installation issues like cement or plaster walls, and on networks where running Ethernet cabling is not possible or even practical. It is also perfect for covering larger spaces like warehouses with Wi-Fi.

EnGenius recently added mesh capabilities on select Neutron Series Indoor and Outdoor Access Points. So, we have compiled a few key mesh wireless best practices that will help make your installs easier and more effective. In fact, these best practices are also business builders. Accurate deployment of Neutron Series Access Points – including proper settings and groupings – will save time and money, and will increase customer satisfaction.

Follow these five best practices to ensure you get the best performance out of your Neutron APs when utilizing their mesh capabilities:

1. Best Practice: Use the 5 GHz band for mesh backhaul connectivity.
Neutron APs will allow you to use either the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands for mesh connectivity. Since 5 GHz offers larger channel widths and lowers the chance of external interference, it should be used for mesh connectivity.

2. Best Practice: Set the RSSI threshold to -80 dBm (default).
Neutron APs allow you to specify the threshold at which a remote AP will not connect, and will, therefore, connect to a different mesh AP with a stronger signal.

Manipulation of this parameter is a difference between distance and speed. Using a higher threshold (e.g. -70 dBm) will enforce faster link speeds across the mesh links, but will require a denser collection of APs to maintain connectivity to all Remote Nodes. If this threshold is too high, there is a significant risk of Remote Nodes becoming isolated because they do not meet the threshold criteria.

3. Best Practice: The network design should cluster the APs into groups consisting of up to four Remote Nodes that are only one hop away from a Root Node.
The APs should be mounted roughly evenly throughout the property to provide consistent coverage areas. At least 20% of your APs, distributed throughout the property, should be Root Nodes. Each Remote Node is therefore only one hop away from another Root Node. If a Root Node fails, the nearby Remote Nodes will then only be 2-3 hops away from another Root Node. This approach requires you to create additional Root Nodes, which can be done by running Ethernet or fiber-optic cable to the remote locations, or by establishing dedicated point-to-(multi)point WDS Bridge links to create “wireless wires” from the root AP back to the wired network.

In mesh environments with multiple Root Nodes, you can establish mesh clusters by creating a unique AP Group. Each AP Group will contain one Root Node and the desired Remote Nodes that should be connecting to it. The settings of each AP Group should be identical, except for their channel. Each AP Group needs to be on an independent channel to ensure its neighboring mesh clusters do not self-interfere.

4. Best Practice: Set each Root Node on a static independent channel, and set each Remote Node to “auto channel.”*
Using these settings will maximize the airtime capacity of the overall network so that multiple neighboring Root Nodes do not create self-interference. Set the Remote Nodes to auto-channel so they can fail over to different Root Nodes in the event of the failure of their primary Root Node. When utilizing point-to-(multi)point WDS Bridge links to establish Root Nodes these must also be on static independent channels, and therefore accounted for in the overall channelization plan.

5. Best Practice: Mesh APs should be configured to operate in Mesh Point mode.**
The access points can be set up to operate in either “Mesh AP” mode or “Mesh Point” mode. In Mesh AP mode, the 5 GHz radio provides both wireless backhaul through the mesh and wireless client device access. In this mode, the AP acts as a repeater, meaning the link will lose 50% throughput per hop.

Conversely, in Mesh Point mode, the 5 GHz radio only provides wireless backhaul, and all client device access is only on the 2.4 GHz radio. The loss of bandwidth capacity from connecting on 5 GHz wireless is minor compared to the loss of bandwidth capacity experienced with a 50% reduction in bandwidth per hop. Mesh Point mode also allows you to set the transmit power of the mesh radios to their maximum value, providing the greatest signal strength between nodes without experiencing an imbalance with the low transmit power capability of most 5 GHz client devices.

Well-planned deployments, coupled with excellent equipment, are the ultimate best practice – and EnGenius is here to help you in both regards. We hope you make these five best practices part of your future installs. Stay tuned for future tips and best practices!

Are you looking for a flexible, scalable, affordable network solution with no management license or subscription fees? Look no further. Learn more about EnGenius’ Neutron Series.

About the Authors:
Jason Hintersteiner is a Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE #171), and holds several industry certifications. He is a Field Application Engineer Manager, Trainer and Curriculum Developer for EnGenius’ Certified and Advanced Certified System Engineer course. Jason holds a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and an MBA from the University of Connecticut. Follow him on Twitter @emperorWiFi.
Gabriel Reyes is a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) and a Certified Wireless Design Professional (CWDP) with over 10 years of networking experience. Gabriel is a Field Application Engineer at EnGenius who brings extensive installation, training, and troubleshooting experience while also holding numerous industry certifications.

* In the c1.8.57 firmware release, auto-channel is not supported for APs in mesh mode. Accordingly, each AP Group must have all APs in the mesh cluster set to the static channel. Different AP Groups should be set on independent channels to maximize airtime. Auto-channel capability will be added in a future firmware release.

** In the c1.8.57 firmware release, only the Mesh AP option is available in the controller. To set the APs into Mesh Point mode, the setting must be changed from the web interface of each AP directly. This will be addressed in a future firmware release.