Dedicated wireless backhaul is an important feature that probably doesn’t get enough attention. When you see wireless networking hardware that supports dedicated backhaul, that can be a big advantage for you. Let’s talk about what dedicated wireless backhaul is, what it can do for you, and how to find it.

Why you need dedicated wireless backhaul (or wired)

what is dedicated wireless backhaul

The TP-Link Deco AX5700 is an example of a mesh wi-fi system that offers dedicated wireless backhaul, not just wired backhaul. But it doesn’t say anything about that on the box.

My neighbor bought an expensive mesh networking system and gigabit Internet. And then he set up what he thought was going to be the ultimate home network. Then he went to measure his speed, and he couldn’t get better than 500 megabits throughput over his wireless. When he plugged straight into his router with a wired connection, he got a little over 900.

His connection was consistent and reliable throughout the house, but it ran at essentially half speed, even though his wireless network was theoretically capable of 1.3 gigabits.

He wondered why it was worth paying extra for gigabit service when all he got was half speed. He might as well get 500 megabit service, right?

His problem was overhead. When his systems were talking over wireless, the system had to talk to the access point, which in turn had to relay the traffic back to the router. That meant all of the information had to transmit twice over the same channel. So effectively he got half speed over wireless.

Wired backhaul vs wireless

The solution he bought did allow him to connect all of his components over a wired connection. The wired connection served as back haul. This meant that wireless communication could operate at whatever speed the access point and network card could negotiate, and then the traffic would travel over the wired network back to the router. With lower overhead, he would have been able to get very close to 900 megabits, and possibly a bit more.

It was a lot less convenient than using wireless for everything, and it certainly didn’t sound like the scenario that was printed on the box the hardware came in, but that’s frequently the way it goes with technology. You know the old saying fast, reliable, cheap: pick two? Well, you can probably substitute easy for one of those, but you still only get to pick two.

As of 2022 at least, wired backhaul works better than wireless. It’s faster and more consistent.

Wireless backhaul

Now, in theory, if you could use the traditional 2.4 and 5 GHz bands for wireless communication and a third wireless band for backhaul, you could potentially get a fast, reliable, and easy solution. It won’t be cheap, and it probably won’t work as well as a wired backhaul would, but it would be better than 50% efficient. You could get seven or 800 megabit, which is sufficiently faster than 500 to make gigabit internet seem worth it.

Shopping smart for mesh wi-fi

So when you are looking to buy a high-end mesh wi-fi setup to give a consistent speed throughout your house and even into your yard, be sure to make sure it has some type of backhaul solution. Be sure to check whether the backhaul is wired or wireless. Don’t expect to find the answer on the box, and don’t expect the salesperson to know. You’ll have to do some research before going to the store. And if you need dedicated band control, you’ll really have to dig. That’s never on the box either.

Running wires back to your router isn’t necessarily as hard as it seems, but it is a lot less convenient than just setting up access points. If running cable isn’t something you are comfortable doing, it may be cheaper to pay more for a system with wireless backhaul than to pay a professional to run cable. You will need to weigh your options accordingly.

Otherwise you run the risk of spending hundreds of dollars on a wireless networking solution and spending $100 a month on gigabit internet, and spending a lot of money to turn your $100 a month internet into $75 a month internet. If you are going to spend that kind of money, you want to make sure you are receiving value. Having a rock solid wireless 500 megabit connection was a pipe dream just a few years ago, but I understand not being happy with a 500 megabit connection when you happen to be sitting right next to the access point.

If that’s the best you’re going to be able to do with the solution you can afford, you want to know that before you spend the money. Then you’re at least not disappointed.

So that’s what backhaul in wifi is. Hopefully this helps you get the best value for your money.