So, I’m moving back to the UK shortly and whilst I’ve been considering which internet provider to use (and whether it really matters), my mind is also moving to the important issue of mesh networks.
Gone are the days of plonking the BT router behind the TV or in the study and just hoping things would work out. For the longest time I used a variety of powerline adapters usually from Devolo – so I plugged the router into one of those Devolo adapters and then used loads of them around the house to extend the WiFi. It was somewhat confusing and to get the thing to work properly, as far as I was concerned, I really had to constantly swap between WiFi networks according to the room I was in. Not ideal.
Mesh networks had been talked about but I didn’t give them much thought. The powerline fix was good enough. Then we moved to Denmark. And I got busy. Super-hyper-busy. Busy enough that I couldn’t justify the time, nor did I have the energy to mess about thinking about which brand to select here in Copenhagen.
I went into Elgiganten, the Danish equivalent of PC World/Currys and picked up a pack of Google WiFis. We now have four in the house, one serving the basement, one serving the study, one serving the ground floor and one serving the first floor. The coverage is ubiquitous, the quality first class. What is more, I didn’t have to do anything but plug them in and activate on the app. Plus, the Google WiFi app is fantastic if someone (i.e. my wife) complains that ‘the internet isn’t working’ when I’m 4,000 miles away. A quick check will confirm it is working and that the problem is somewhere else.
Now and again I’ve used the app to reset the devices to freshen things up – and now and again I’ve messed about with the prioritisation. I gave priority to my and my wife’s devices. Then I also made good use of the control mechanism to switch the internet off to the children’s iPads at predefined times. Very useful.
My colleague Ben from the 361 Podcast was absolutely horrified at my choice, citing some vague data privacy concerns. I’ve struggled to get really hot under the collar about this. I did sit and ready the rather comprehensive data privacy terms for Google WiFi before I purchased and found them satisfactory. I also reasoned that my personal email is stored using a premium Google Apps (“G-Suite”) account – and I am quite content with that approach. I also have the family’s 600GB of photos and video stored with Google Photos (also on a G-Suite account).
Indeed, thinking carefully before I purchased the WiFis, I reflected as to whether I trust Google. I resolved that I do.
That’s a complicated issue, I know. A complicated question, perhaps. There are all sorts of challenges and issues. Fundamentally the convenience worked for me. I knew other brands are available. I wasn’t ready to take a leap of faith though. I needed the Mesh stuff to work – I needed fire-and-forget, such as the demand for quality service from the family and the pressures of work.
Here’s a quote from the privacy section on the Google Nest website:
…This also includes answering clearly if your home sensor data sent to Google is used to show you ads. So, we commit to you that for all our connected home devices and services, we will keep your video footage, audio recordings and home environment sensor readings separate from advertising, and we won’t use this data for ad personalisation.From Google’s privacy section on their Nest WiFi website.
I am happy with that.
Now I’m on my way back to the UK shortly with the family and the question of Mesh WiFi has popped up in my mind again.
And then I watched the Google keynote a little while ago and was rather excited to find the next generation of Google WiFi devices are available: They’re called Google Nest WiFi. They look fantastic. Further, they’ve been significantly upgraded – most notably from my point of view, the Nest WiFi points (not the router) all have Google Assistant built-in with smart speaker capabilities. That’s rather cool.
Furthermore I note that the twin pack (the router and it’s companion ‘WiFi Point’) are £109 at the moment, reduced from £129 thanks to Black Friday.
Should I be buying a pack? I’m leaning heavily toward doing so.
Back to my colleague Ben. He’s spent a lot of money on investing in some Ubiquiti ‘prosumer’ WiFi kit. It does look really good. It does also look like you have to do quite a lot of messing about with screwdrivers and network configuration. I’m not sure if I’m game for that.
And of course there are quite a few other manufacturers our there offering similar mesh services, not least Eero (‘an Amazon company’).
What say you, dear reader? What have you got at home?