Here's what happened to my home wifi coverage when I finally caved in and opted for a 'mesh solution'

Sigh. Picture: Peter Farquhar

Our router is terribly located, right in one far corner of the house, because the NBN contractor gave us the tired line of “it has to go there”.

Like every other Australian household that cares about internet coverage, we’ve gone down the same route of since getting a proper technician to tell us that was a load of rubbish and he’ll come and fix it for us later, no problem.

We all sigh and play the same game; sucking up whatever it takes to just get connected in the first place, then working through the fine detail after the NBN trainwreck lurches off toward running roughshod over its next victim.

We get good enough service from the wireless tower:

Picture: Business Insider

Perfectly adequate right now, and with an upgrade coming soon that promises to double it.

That is, as long as we’re close to the Router Room, which a lot of the house isn’t, especially the downstairs bit.

Obviously, there are multiple ways we can fix this, such as one of those wifi extenders which magics your connection via your power outlets, but in the past they have been more trouble for us than they seem to be worth. Here’s an actual conversation I had with a wonderfully patient PR friend recently:

Picture: Business Insider

And completely to my not-surprise at all, I spent three days plugging it in, unplugging it, resetting it, moving it to other outlets and wondering where my original wifi connection had disappeared to before I gave up on yet another wifi extender option. They are balls, all of them.

A proper cable connection to another router downstairs would be sensible. And hard-wiring your entire house is still by far the most foolproof option.

We’ll probably go down that road, because it looks like we’ll be settled into our home long enough for it to be worth the trouble and expense. But as luck would have it, I was given the chance to check out a “mesh solution”.

You can see it here, the big white box stuffed away in the “maybe later” part of the shelf. It’s D-Link’s Covr-C1203:

Picture: Peter Farquhar

It’s stuffed away because I thought it was a router or modem or something that meant lots of plugging in and changing passwords and having to visit that geeky webpage with the URL that’s all dots and numbers.

But D-Link can thank my kids and their failed Geometry Dash downloads for me eventually blowing the dust off it. Because god forbid they’d ever take the 5-second walk down the hallway to get a two-minute download on its way. Far better to whinge for half an hour about how none of the other kids at school have to put up with this sort of laggy abuse.

“Coverage up to 465 sqm”?

Sounds promising. It will have to cover 200 sqm upstairs and the same downstairs, which should test it.

So, here we go. Download the app and plug the D-Link ethernet cable into the first Covr blob. I’m sucker for these nice, flat cables, so we’re off to a good start:

Picture: Peter Farquhar

You get three blobs and these face plates are interchangeable too, which is a great touch. There is nowhere near enough thought going into how this type of gear – which can occupy enough of your interior space to matter – actually looks.

Unfortunately, if any of these modules are in a bedroom, you probably won’t be marvelling at its design – “Covr” indeed:

Picture: Peter Farquhar

It at least makes a good night light.

For one horrible minute while I was trying to connect it all, I hit the same wall I’ve hit since wifi extenders were invented. An endless loop of trying to connect before timing out and having to start the whole installation over again. But just before I did, I noticed the WLAN light on my modem had gone out, and I certainly hadn’t switched it off. Maybe watch for that if you’re having trouble.

After that, everything clicked into place smoothly.

Point A connected directly to the modem in a far corner upstairs. Point B was connected 10 metres towards the other end of the house and receiving a signal through two walls and a built-in wardrobe. And Point C was connected downstairs, about midway between A and B.

It took about five minutes for everything to find each other, but here are the readings. I ran them a few times over a week to make sure they were as close to average as I could get:

Office

Just a room away from both modem and Covr module. Ignore the “Direct” signal – I think that’s the NBN tower, but really, have no idea.

Picture: BI

Danger Zone

10 metres towards the other end of the house. “Danger Zone” because it’s where all the freak-outs happen while kids are on their YouTubes.

Picture: BI

Upstairs bedroom

About halfway between the modem and Danger Zone, but across the house.

Picture: BI

Downstairs bedrooms

Previously, forget about consistent coverage. With the Covr module nearby, signal strength rose from 48% to 73%.

Picture: BI

So clearly, Covr was providing a stronger signal pretty much all over the house.

Back at my desktop, I ran another bunch of speed tests. Here’s an average of several results I took while connected to the Covr network:

Picture: Business Insider
Picture: Business Insider

And here’s an average of results taken when I switched back to my original modem:

Picture: Business Insider
Picture: Business Insider

So it looks like I’m sacrificing a bit of speed when I switch to the Covr network. But the tradeoff is there’s little doubt the Covr network reaches further.

Gadget Guy says this is probably because when the Covr router transmits data to the extenders, they “retransmit the dual-band less any overheads”.

In a nutshell, while it extends the range, “you will only get a share of the available bandwidth”.

And in the end, that’s looks like the decision you’re faced with – higher speed over a shorter distance, or slightly slower, but better and more even coverage in every corner of your house.

The answer is simple enough. Run your devices that are close to the modem on the modem network, and use the Covr network for devices that are struggling.

You can also buy single devices to push the signal out further, say, to the garage.

You’ll get a few extras as well. If such speeds are available, D-Link reckons the Covr blobs can push speeds of up to 1200 Mbps around your home. They also have a cover of onboard gigabit ethernet ports if you want wired connectivity, which is a very handy addition in these Netflix-enabled times.

And the strongest signal switches to you and follows you around the house, so – in theory – no dropouts if you’re wandering around on an internet call or watching something on your mobile.

It will even switch between 2.4 Ghz and 5 GHz bands if one if particularly congested.

For that kind of peace of mind, you’ll pay $449.95. And it really does feel like a giant warm digital doona just settled down over the house.

You can safely assume it will take a technician the best part of a day to connect and run ethernet cables through your house and you’d probably expect the cost to run to at least 50% more than that.

Yes, your connection will be better – but you can’t take it with you.

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