New Mesh Wifi Set-Up: Satisfactory

Since we moved in to our new home, the wifi has been a source of irritation. I had recreated the set-up we had in our previous house (main router on ground floor with a second access point on the second floor), but the difference is that we had wooden floors there between the first and second floors, here it is all concrete with rebar. So the irritants kept building up. The need to switch networks between floors, Sonos players dropping out of the network at unpredictable times, not seeing connected light bulbs unless I was near the stairwell. The internet connection itself isn’t the problem, with a 500Mbit symmetrical glassfiber to the home. Also the ground floor living room and most rooms on the first floor (where E and my offices are) have a wired ethernet connection.

I wanted a wifi set-up that allows seamless roaming around the house, and provides full coverage at high bandwidth. So a mesh-network it needed to be, and a way to either connect access points to ethernet cables, or have enough bandwidth between access points through a dedicated wireless backhaul connection. Various options exist, all rather pricey.

The cheapest one I found, Devolo Gigagate looked good at first glance. It provides a 5GHz back-haul connection, and provides lots of wired ports on the access points, so you could connect NAS or high bandwidth devices to it. However the regular wifi it provides is only a 2.4GHz network, as the 5GHz is reserved for the backhaul. This made me realize I needed to look for a 3-radio device (a 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio for wifi, and a 5GHz radio for the backhaul). Other solutions such as Google Wifi send a lot of data about your usage back to remote servers, and that is an absolute no-go. Ubiquity AmpliFi scored low in tests on actual speed delivered, and doesn’t offer any ports on the accesspoints. In the end it was a choice between Linksys Velop, and Netgear Orbi. Linksys has just one port available on an access point, and scored lower in speed than Netgear in reviews. Netgear is however the most expensive option. Figuring we really wanted to get rid of our irritations, I went for Netgear Orbi anyway.

Just in time for our, in terms of bandwidth, most demanding guests around New Year’s Eve, I installed the Orbi mesh. A main router, and two satellites. The main router is on the first floor, connected to ethernet. One satellite is on the ground floor, and one is on the second floor. Putting the router on the middle floor like this ensures it is able to see the two satellites most easily. It provides two networks, our own and one for guests, that both seamlessly cover all rooms.

Speed testing shows satisfactory results, and since the installation we no longer have any dropping connections, no more Sonos hick-ups and all the connected lights show up.

One step remains to do for connectivity in our home. That is running up a cat 6 ethernet cable to the second floor. As in a short while The Things Network gateway will be delivered, which needs a direct internet connection and will be installed at the highest point of the building.

3 thoughts on “New Mesh Wifi Set-Up: Satisfactory

  1. Peter Rukavina

    I wonder how much of what we attribute to physical barriers in the home–we suffer from the same symptoms as you did, and have been blaming the chimney and the refrigerator–is actually due, at least in part, to an increasingly crowded wireless spectrum.

    When we first installed a wireless router in our house we were the only SSID in the area and shared the spectrum only with cordless phones and microwave ovens. Today there are dozens of access points around, many with channels overlapping ours.

    And our old Airport Extreme has three phones, an iPad, two computers, a Wii, an Echo, a Google Home and three wifi electrical outlets connected to it.

    And it’s even worse at the office. So perhaps we simply need more power and smarter routers to combat this.

    Reply
    1. Ton Zijlstra Post author

      Well, yes it is likely that the density of networks has an effect on the experienced coverage.
      In our case, I actually see less networks in our new home from surrounding houses, than I saw in Enschede. What I had already done for the old set-up in the new house, was taking a look at which channels were most in use around us, and choosing under- or even unused channels for our own wifi networks.

      A dedicated backhaul prevents loss of available bandwidth with increased distance from the router, compared to simple repeaters which incur a bandwidth loss with each additional access point.

      Another key difference is technological, 2.4 GHz signals penetrate easier through walls than 5.0 GHz signals. With devices increasingly shifting to the 5 GHz bands, to cope with increased data demands such as for video streaming or live multiplayer gaming, that means in-house coverage suffers. In our case on the top floor I could see the 2.4GHz signal much better than the 5GHz, after the signals went through 2 floors.

      Reply

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