Why PLCs with WiFi are worse than WiFi Mesh systems

PLC devices are very interesting in houses that do not have all the rooms wired, in this way, we can take the Internet connection via cable or WiFi to any corner, since it is only necessary to connect one of the PLCs to the electrical current and synchronize to exchange data. However, with the popularization of Wi-Fi Mesh systems, you may not be interested in buying a Wi-Fi PLC but rather a Wi-Fi Mesh system directly. Today in this article we are going to explain why PLCs with Wi-Fi are worse than WiFi Mesh.

Weak points of PLCs

Why PLCs with WiFi are worse than WiFi Mesh systems

PLC devices or also known as Powerline are very interesting devices in certain cases, since they solve the problem of Internet connectivity at home. However, they are not perfect, and buying a Mesh WiFi system may be the best solution for you.

Random communication outages

The PLCs communicate through the electrical network of our home, if your electrical installation is not in good condition it is possible that you have random cuts in the communication of the PLCs, so you will notice that they are cut. When the communication is cut, two things can happen: that they recover the connection automatically in a few seconds or that you have to disconnect the PLC manually and reconnect it again. This makes the user experience disastrous, so you must take it into account.

One of the enemies of PLCs and communication outages are UPS devices, that is, Uninterruptible Power Supplies that allow us to protect our computer, router and other devices from power outages. When we have a UPS at home, it adds a lot of noise to the electrical installation at home and can cause us to have many outages in the PLC devices, especially if we have it “close” to the UPS. In addition, the electrical consumption of the house by the appliances also has a great influence, therefore, if you have a high consumption at home, it is likely that PLCs are not for you due to cuts.

If you use a Wi-Fi Mesh system, you can interconnect the nodes via an Ethernet network cable, so we will not have any type of cut in this case. If you don’t have a wired house, you will always be able to interconnect them via Wi-Fi in the 5GHz band or in the 6GHz band if they support Wi-Fi 6E. In this way, the interconnection will be via WiFi, which is often more stable than the electrical network of our home, and we will have a better user experience.

slow sync speed

This type of device can also achieve a low synchronization speed, depending on the electrical installation, if we have a UPS, electrical appliances consuming a lot of energy or the PLC connected to a power strip (which should never be done), it is very likely that your synchronization speed synchronization between the PLCs is very low, and therefore, you have low speed of the Internet and the home local network.

Some tricks to improve speed are as follows:

  • Connect them directly to the wall, do not connect it to the power strip even if we lose a plug when connecting it.
  • There are PLCs that have an electrical socket so as not to lose a plug, connecting devices with a high electrical consumption here also causes a drop in the synchronization speed.
  • Not having a UPS nearby can cause cuts and low speed, nor place it near appliances that consume a lot of energy.

As you can see, there are some actions that we can carry out without problems, but the most important thing is how the electrical installation is.

In this case, WiFi Mesh systems will behave better in certain circumstances. Logically, if the distance between the main router and the Mesh node is too great, then we will get a low synchronization speed, and therefore, a low real speed. The ideal place to place the nodes is halfway between the main router and where you want to have coverage, that is, as if it were a WiFi “repeater”. The new models with Wi-Fi 6 have very high performance, so it is highly recommended that you buy one with the latest wireless standard.

High latency and jitter in the connection

Another negative point of PLCs is that we can have high latency at a certain moment, although not always, therefore, we will have a jitter (variation of latency) that is too high, making it impossible to play online because we will have many lags. This is very difficult to solve, the only thing you can do is follow the recommendations mentioned above and see if something better works, but we will always have high latency if the home electrical network is not in good condition.

Of course, this affects whether you connect by cable or by WiFi to the PLC, especially the latter since we will be using a wireless connection and we could have interference with other WiFi networks.

In the WiFi Mesh, the latency will depend on the state of the trunk link between the router and the Mesh, if we have interconnected them via cable we will have 1ms of latency, if we have connected them via WiFi and we are at a medium distance, we will have a latency between 2- 5ms, depending on sync speed, interference etc. Of course, the jitter could also be high in certain circumstances, such as distance, interference with other WiFi networks, etc. In our experience, WiFi Meshes have better stability, less latency and less jitter than PLCs.

We do not have WiFi roaming

If we buy a PLC with Wi-Fi, you should know that you will not have WiFi roaming between the different nodes, that is, we will have a connection cut if we go from the router to the PLC with WiFi and vice versa, making the user experience disastrous. Yes, it is true that currently devolo has launched PLCs with WiFi Mesh, this means that we can disconnect the WiFi network from the main router and use the access points of its PLCs and we will have WiFi roaming and band-steering, so the user experience will be clearly better in this case.

Current WiFi mesh systems have WiFi roaming using the 802.11k/v standards and even 802.11r, so we will have an excellent user experience when moving from the router to the node and vice versa. This functionality is one of the most important features of Wi-Fi Mesh systems, and the firmware is highly optimized for it.

As you have seen, in most cases it is worth buying a good WiFi Mesh system where the interconnection is by cable or WiFi, than using the electrical network with a PLC because the performance you will achieve will be better in the first case.