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    Tomfive's Avatar
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    Mesh Wifi Routers

    My current router, an older dual band Netgear is starting to give me problems. 5G drops out, falling back on 2G, intermittent loss of internet connection on either band on both wired and wifi connections. My "connected" thermostat loses wifi at the most in-opportune times (like when I'm on vacation in the winter). I've been having to reboot our router more frequently to get connections back. Other issues too, so it's time for a new router.

    I started looking at different routers, and realized there are a lot of different choices, speeds, throughputs, etc. I wanted to get one that was not too expensive, but also modern enough to not be "obsoleted" in a short period of time. Prices ranged from under $100 to lots of $$$$'s. Kinda decided on a tri band unit in the AC2200 or AC3000 arena, either by Linksys or Netgear.

    At first I looked at single station units ... then I discovered Mesh Wifi technology, that I could get into for not-that-much-more dollars than a good AC3000 single station unit. I don't have a very large house, maybe 1800 sqft 2-story colonial, and only about 5 or 6 wifi connected devices. We don't stream video, and there's just 2 of us in the house, so we're not fighting for bandwidth.

    I realize that mesh technology can really cater to mega mansions and cover every square inch with good wifi. But I just want a little future proofing and good reliable connections and maybe more connections may be needed next year.

    The Netgear ORBI (RBK50) series seems to be interesting, as well as the Linksys VELOP (but more expensive).

    Anyone have any experience with MESH wifi devices?
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    Tom

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    Interesting!
    I'm actually on hold with xfinity now to make sure the Google wifi mesh system will work okay with their cable modem.
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    Check out Ubiquity stuff. https://www.ubnt.com/

    We don't specifically use mesh, but we use their wireless APs at work, across a few buildings and they work amazingly well. The IT company we use, has moved their entire business in using this company's products. They are solid and reliable. I've been impressed. Once I can afford it, going to get some of this stuff in my house to create wifi around the whole property!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whoops View Post
    Check out Ubiquity stuff. https://www.ubnt.com/
    I second the Ubiquity recommendation. I'm saving up for a set. My geek friend (LAN administrator and IT security tech) has a lot of experience with them and says they're rock solid.
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    We have the Google WiFi mesh. Our house is larger and has way too many connected devices (5 people, phones,tablets, laptops, smart TVs, etc.). Our ISP is Verizon FiOS so we are stuck using their router for the TVs and connection to the ONT. I turned off the WiFi on the ActionTec (Verizon router/MOCA bridge). The Google WiFi mesh works well, but also has some limitations. They pick the subnet (192.168.86.X if my memory serves me). They do support DHCP reservations, so I have some stuff with fixed IPs. The only way to interface this setup is from the Google WiFi app on your phone. There is no webserver to support changes. This was a bit of an adjustment for me.

    For initial setup I matched the SSID and password to my old network and all of my old devices connected without making any changes! This made the transition very painless.

    I also recently tried to add some cheap "smart home" switches for lights. The note when I ordered it was very clear, "will only work with 2.4G network". I thought, no big deal, my network is dual band. No such luck. For some reason, I can't get these things to connect to the 2.4G. The network is definitely there, but there is something about these super cheap switches that I can't make them happy if the 2.4G and 5G networks have the same SSID.

    Lee
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whoops View Post
    Check out Ubiquity stuff. https://www.ubnt.com/

    We don't specifically use mesh, but we use their wireless APs at work, across a few buildings and they work amazingly well. The IT company we use, has moved their entire business in using this company's products. They are solid and reliable. I've been impressed. Once I can afford it, going to get some of this stuff in my house to create wifi around the whole property!
    I just deployed Ubiquiti at my house. I running the Unifi 802.11ac Dual-Radio PRO Access Point UAP-AC-PRO-US in the house and a Long Range - Wireless Access Point - 802.11 B/A/G/N/AC (UAP-AC-LR-US) which is in my Polebarn/shop. The reason I went with a Pro for the house is because of the device count is so high in a small area. Out in the shop I don't have nearly the number of devices but have the need for better range. They also make a Lite version but the cost was only $10-15 less than a LR. Actually the LR model just arrived yesterday and I deployed it lastnight. Since my controller was already set up it took 2 mouse clicks and about 5 minutes to provision it and upgrade the firmware to the latest version. I still need to mount it on the ceiling but might get around to that this weekend. I have been kicking around the idea of extending the signal further into the back yard with an outdoor mesh unit. (Ubiquiti UAP-AC-M-US Unifi Mesh Access Point) but I figured I might as well test out what kind of signal I am getting from the LR that is mounted in the pole barn. What I have may be acceptable. Once the snow melts I will get back there and try it. We are normally only down there for bonfires but it is kind of nice to have Wifi back there for music or whatever.

    In my case a driving factor was I am getting into home automation stuff and building a lot of my own stuff. I wanted to isolate a lot of this IoT stuff and because I have only a single Cat 6 run to the pole barn, it was going to be a challenge unless I use VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks). In my case I am running 6 VLANs (Internal, IoT, Kids, VOIP, Guest, Management)The other issue is my house is old and unless I completely rewire everything to give me home runs, I needed several network switches. Of course I needed managed switches to do trunk ports and send the VLANs to everywhere I want them. One of the nice things about these APs is I can run them off a Trunk port as well so each VLAN is its own WLAN (Wireless Network). You can have up to 4 VLANs and therefore 4 WLANs for 2.4 and 5GHz. What this means is I can connect to either of the access points and depending on what network (SSID) I put the device on, then that device will have the features of that network. So I have SSIDs for Internal, IoT, Kids and Guest. I had no need to make my VOIP wireless. The Guest and IoT networks are pretty well locked down. They can't get to anything on Internal or Kids. They basically get DHCP and then out to the internet. They are also throttled. The internal network is where I have my stuff. It isn't limited to internal only stuff. It has internet connection and access to pretty much everything. The Kids VLAN can get to the internet and the printers on the internal network but uses a different filtered DNS service and has time restrictions. The Management VLAN is heavily restricted with only access to the management interfaces on my switches and router. The Access Points are all on a Unifi Controller. For a router I went with a Ubiquiti Edge Router X. While it would be nice to use a Ubiquiti Security Gateway (USG) where everything is managed from the Unifi Controller, the problem is that the USG has some limitations. There are also rumors about a new one generation coming out. So I went with the cheaper EdgeRouter X for now. I am also doing a double NAT so the EdgeRouter isn't my edge device. I have another Plain Jane router as my edge device with several sensors on that "network" to detect if I am ever compromised. There is enough out there to look like a basic home network but lots of trip wires to stumble across. A lot of this was built with existing equipment that was still working fine as I upgraded. I am maybe into it for about $500. However it isn't a configuration for normal home user.

    While I have been very happy with the performance of the Ubiquiti stuff, I have been deploying more of the enterprise level stuff that they have. I have seen some crazy stuff lately with it. Just lastnight when I was in the controller setting up the new LR AP for the pole barn I was looking at the other networks that the controller has been logging which are or were visible to the Pro AP that I have in the house. I am seeing wifi access points on aircraft passing over my house. I was digging into what the heck they were as they would appear for a short time and disappear but still be logged. I started digging into the names and MAC Addresses and figured it out. However this is part of the problem to run this you have to mess with a controller (unless you go with a Cloud Key. For most people it will involve more configuration than they want. It isn't going to be plug and play like a Linksys or such. But having access points that are POE (Power Over Ethernet) is sure nice. I am also considering equipping some Ubiquiti equipment in our camper to extend wifi when we are at a camp site that has little to no service. There is an AP about 500' LOS away that I can tap into though. It would be pretty easy to set up a bridge with a better directional antenna.
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    For someone looking for a mesh solution and not a lot of admin overhead like what I went with but would like to try out Ubiquiti, you might consider the AmpliFi HD (High-Density) Home Wi-Fi System.

    The configuration is going to be much more straight forward more like what one would be used to with a Linksys or Netgear type device. You have a base unit and then there are two remote antennas that just plug into a couple power outlets and act as range extenders. It probably isn't going to be nearly as flexible as the system I put together but that also entails a lot of work. I work in IT so it isn't as big of a deal to me. The benefit is it is more modular and compatible with more of their equipment. For instance the one above I don't think works with their other Mesh device that I mentioned in my earlier post. It might but you would still need the controller and it wouldn't work as well.

    While most probably don't know the name they have been around for a while and are making a lot of headway. I have a co-worker that lives in a rural area with no internet options. He has been using Ubiquiti for 3-4 years now I think. He put an antenna on his sister's house who lives in town and one on his house and is sending a point to point wireless signal over 7 miles.

    EDIT: I guess is the future proof issue. Realistically all these devices still support 802.11B which is one of the oldest wifi versions I have used. Keep in mind it is great to upgrade to 802.11AC but if your laptop or phone is only 802.11N then that is what you are using. Also 802.11AC is probably faster than your internet connection. So you can only take advantage of the speed if you are transferring large files from one computer to another on your network.

    Here is more info on the Amplifi HD https://amplifi.com/
    Last edited by sennister; 04-18-2018 at 02:18 PM.
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    I too would highly recommend the Ubiquiti system, specifically the Unifi-ap-ac-pro. Depending on your ISP, it may be necessary to also run a UniFi Security Gateway. My ISP will only distribute 2 IP numbers via DHCP per account. The Gateway consumes 1, and it creates and distributes local IP# as needed. This system is rock solid. My previous apple wireless system was needing rebooted about every 3 days, I don't remember the last time I rebooted this one.

    My next purchase is an outdoor access point my detached garage is 35 feet from the house, I have 50Mb down in the house with fiber to the foundation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tomfive View Post
    My current router, an older dual band Netgear is starting to give me problems. 5G drops out, falling back on 2G, intermittent loss of internet connection on either band on both wired and wifi connections. My "connected" thermostat loses wifi at the most in-opportune times (like when I'm on vacation in the winter). I've been having to reboot our router more frequently to get connections back. Other issues too, so it's time for a new router.

    I started looking at different routers, and realized there are a lot of different choices, speeds, throughputs, etc. I wanted to get one that was not too expensive, but also modern enough to not be "obsoleted" in a short period of time. Prices ranged from under $100 to lots of $$$$'s. Kinda decided on a tri band unit in the AC2200 or AC3000 arena, either by Linksys or Netgear.

    At first I looked at single station units ... then I discovered Mesh Wifi technology, that I could get into for not-that-much-more dollars than a good AC3000 single station unit. I don't have a very large house, maybe 1800 sqft 2-story colonial, and only about 5 or 6 wifi connected devices. We don't stream video, and there's just 2 of us in the house, so we're not fighting for bandwidth.

    I realize that mesh technology can really cater to mega mansions and cover every square inch with good wifi. But I just want a little future proofing and good reliable connections and maybe more connections may be needed next year.

    The Netgear ORBI (RBK50) series seems to be interesting, as well as the Linksys VELOP (but more expensive).

    Anyone have any experience with MESH wifi devices?
    There are plenty of situations where I subscribe to the notion being better to have and not need, than to need and not have. Your situation sounds like it isn't one of them. What I'm getting at is that I don't know that mesh will benefit you in any useful way, and the additional limitations and possible "quirkiness" of it could potentially do more harm than good.

    Starting with some basics: 2.4GHz radios offer longer range than 5GHz, but slower peak speeds. 5GHz is also no universal quite yet (there are still some devices that support only 2.4GHz), but that's usually fine because the device doesn't NEED faster speeds (think Garage Door Opener - ). Multi-band -AND- "MIMO" (the ability for a device to communicate with a WAP on multiple channels at the same time, increasing throughput) is typically much more useful than simply having two bands. Most of the newer consumer devices like smartphones and tablets are able to leverage this technology, so having a router that can do it as well is helpful.

    Another thing to think about with MIMO is that just because a device CAN use multiple channels, that doesn't mean it will. Two devices that are MIMO capable could use different channels to be 'clear of each other' so they each get good individual speeds.

    Routers / AP's are limited in how much distance can exist between them and the connected device. 2.4GHz is something like 300' line of site while 5GHz is about half that. Obstacles like walls, floors, etc. will decrease that further. I seem to be able to hold 5GHz in my house for about 50' before it degrades speed quality. Since my house is only 10' tall (you mentioned you have a Colonial, so it's about 20' tall for the living floors), I can be on the roof or in the basement and have zero issues. You likely could be on the second floor with no issues, but on the roof might drop out because you have an additional floor's worth of materials that will interfere with the signal.

    Mesh is essentially an 'automated' way to set up multiple AP's on the same general network and have them coordinate with each other to hand off connections from one AP to another as you move around. The concept has been around forever, and commercial equipment has had specific settings to control how these hand-off's work. It has been only more recently that consumer grade equipment has gotten them.

    I have two routers in my home. The primary one is this one: https://www.amazon.com/Dual-band-AiP...ds=asus+ac3100. The secondary one is this one: https://www.amazon.com/Asus-Dual-Ban...ds=asus+ac1750.

    They have just recently added "mesh" to their firmware, but I don't use it. I have my devices configured to use 5GHz wherever possible and useful. And I have the handoff controls tweaked to suit my testing based on where devices get used. The second router is simply configured as an Access Point and nothing else. I have actual PC's in my house handling things like DHCP information, DNS services, etc. - I use NONE of that on the routers and have it all turned off.

    For your purposes, EITHER of the two routers I linked to above would likely work very well. If you have a Best Buy near you, they will match the prices from Amazon and you have a local retailer where you can return it if it just doesn't cut it. The second router would almost certainly do everything you need and more for quite some time to come. Because of the sheer volume of devices in my house, I opted for the bigger one as my primary and added the second one when I needed to cover additional living space for only a couple of devices.
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    Thanks for the links and good information here. Lots of reading yet to do.

    As I am learning, I tend to agree, as some have stated, that I probably don't need a full blown MESH network in my house. For my current and foreseeable use, a new router (because my current one is getting a little wonky) and possibly a range extender would probably suit me for a few years. And the way technology developments are still occurring, 3-4 years from now there may be totally new wifi capabilities at half the price.

    In my first post I was looking at the Netgear ORBI, but as I later found out, that is not a "real" mesh wifi system. I think it is really a hybrid, meaning the satellites still communicate with the base router, but is uses a back channel, thereby less effect on data throughput. As opposed to a simple router/range extender setup which (as I interpret it) doesn't have the back channel and slows the data communication somewhat, and a true mesh network where the satellites/nodes(?) talk with each other. But after reading posts here and more reviews online, that may be all I'll need ... and I can get the 1 base / 1 satellite setup for under $300. Not much more than an AC3000 type router.

    Not ready to buy yet, but it's been interesting reading.
    Tom

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