Ubiqiuti has become a significant force in wireless video surveillance applications but they have never done mesh.
Historically, mesh has been associated with larger scale systems and larger scale costs (thousands instead of the hundreds for Ubiquiti).
Now, Ubiquiti is launching UniFi Mesh, a wireless radio with true mesh network capabilities for ~$100, potentially allowing them to compete directly with higher priced alternatives. There are some limitations to Ubiquiti's mesh products, which we cover in this report, along with potential optimal use case scenarios.
Mesh Networking Vs Non-Mesh
In a traditional wireless network there is an access point, which provides connectivity to the wired network. Client devices (like cameras, or other wireless radios that provide connectivity to cameras) need to be able to reach the access point directly, meaning they typically need to be within a few hundred feet at most. If a device is out of range of the access point, it will not be able to reach the wired network. Range can be limited by barriers, such as buildings, between the access point and the remote device.
In a mesh network, there is typically an access point that provides connectivity to the wired network, but each remote device is a sort of mini router as well. If a device is too far from the access point, it can communicate with another device that may be within range of the access point, and in range of itself, using that mid-point device to relay the connection through. This also allows a network designer to "shoot around" an obstruction like a building (the black diamond in the image below), which greatly improves design flexibility.
Each mesh node can link to multiple other nodes that are in range, so that if one link goes down in has a backup route. In the image above, the mesh node with the yellow link has two paths to reach the network, and will automatically choose the best one.
The flexibility and resiliency of mesh networks allow them to solve many common problems with wireless networks for security devices.
Unifi Mesh Overview
Ubiquiti's recently released mesh products come in two form factors, both have similar functionality, but offer different amounts of max throughput.