SmartThings Community

Mesh Wi-Fi, is it what it's chalked up to be?

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(Mark) #2

Why not?

10 chars.

(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #3

I know too many people that have run into problems with it. I just didn’t want to deal with it… plus the reviews showed that the power line ethernet has advanced enough to be worth a try. Plus, MoCa requires cable jacks. Mine were all place convenient for where I wanted to put my TV’s…

(Nathan Curtis) #4

Ok that was funny. I’ve felt that pain so many times…

I already have Linksys Velop - very nice system, good to know that the ASUS updates are going out. I have a 1750 as well, and had this been an option last year I would have definitely tried it!

Definitely interested to know if its good and stable in say 3-6 months?

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#5

Glad you found something that works for you!

A few technical thoughts:

  1. powerline is not mesh WiFi. It’s not Wi-Fi at all. It’s a method of running signal over your house’s existing wiring to a new AP. It’s a 30-year-old technology that works well if your house has the right kind of wiring, but, as you noted, doesn’t handle high-speed. In the 1990s it was the classic way of getting Internet into a home office in the basement.

  2. there are several different types of mesh Wi-Fi available now. If you are a power user who is used to running WRT and really fine-tuning your router, check the features carefully as many of the new Wi-Fi mesh systems offer almost no admin features. The following is a good comparison article of the top brands which includes at least a brief discussion of admin features :

  1. the new AIMesh feature from Asus is actually a different construct then the mesh Wi-Fi used by eero and ubiquiti, but it doesn’t matter. It solves the same problem (WiFi dead spots)while maintaining the advanced router features.

However, the interface is the same web-based router management approach that power users are already used to. But it will seem very different then the consumer- friendly app based model of the other Products.

What you will also notice if you’ve used any of the other “hockey puck” mesh Wi-Fi systems is that AIMesh doesn’t have any of the node management utilities. For example, there’s nothing to tell you if an individual node is out of range, you just have to try things and see.

Also, another obvious difference is the big external antennas. The 2017 MeshWi-Fi systems were mostly designed to basically look like echo dots, small sleek units that could be put in any room without calling attention to themselves. ( ubiquiti amplifi is an exception, but since it doesn’t have support for MU –MIMO, it wouldn’t make my list anyway)

The Asus routers are the same routers you’ve always used, which is the point: big black spaceships with long antennas. :alien:

The ASUS move is a good one if you already have the hardware. If you are buying new stuff, you may want to research alternatives as well.

Technically AIMesh is still in beta, so you may also want to wait for some more field-tested reviews to see if there’s anything quirky.

  1. none of the above are actually using the “Wi-Fi mesh” standard.

The price you pay for this better efficiency? Proprietary protocols. While Wi-Fi remains standardized, and extremely and reliably compatible among equipment from different makers, no two mesh systems on the market work with each other. An early mesh protocol, 802.11h, wound up being not just insufficient to the task, but entirely ignored by companies as they pursued better results and competitive advantages. It’s also unlikely that any time in the next few years a compatible industry standard would arise and get uptake, given no such standard is currently working its way through the pipeline.

Since each is a proprietary protocol, you are at risk with anyone of them that if that particular company decides to drop that particular model line, you’ll have non-standard EOL equipment. That may not be a big deal, but it’s just something you should be aware of, as many people think that “Wi-Fi mesh” means the same thing from every company. It doesn’t.

Also if you’re getting ready to invest in all new equipment it’s good to look for some of the deep dive benchmark articles to see exactly which features each system has. They do vary quite a bit.

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(Mark) #6

FWIW, http://smallnetbuilder.com is my go-to for the really in-depth reviews and benchmarking for WiFi and other networking devices that appeal to power users. I haven’t seen many links to their articles in this forum over the years (actually, none that I can think of).

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#7

@nomadtech , @michaelahess , @sidjohn1 , myself, and some of the other community members interested in infrastructure have linked to their articles from time to time. Mostly in discussions on routers or ethernet switches. I agree, they usually have excellent coverage. :sunglasses:


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And @denwood is a community member who also blogs for them. :wink:


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(Mark) #8

I stand corrected. Not that I’m surprised :wink:

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#9

Can’t help it, I (mostly) remember what I read. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Not a photographic memory (my sister has that), but the basic outlines.

But you’re definitely right that the references have been buried deep in the most technical conversations of infrastructure equipment. So you wouldn’t have seen many of them, but there are some.

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(Mark) #10

Mine’s good enough to remember from previous threads that you have a near-photographic memory and your sister has an actual photographic memory :grin:

But definitely not close to photographic myself.

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#11

Yeah, in my family I’m the one with the weak memory, out of 6 ( four kids and two parents). My sister is the best, but both of my brothers have better memories than I do. Everything is relative. LOL! :laughing:

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(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #12

Great write up @JDRoberts and a wonderful addition to the subject.

The Asus tech definitely solved my problems.

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(BigSlade) #13

For years I struggled with a centrally placed router and then a few repeaters, a couple powerline adapters here and there to get coverage throughout my house. After my last move, it was just not getting it done. I would have a great signal on one side of my house, but horrible on the other. Long story short, I did a lot of research and ended up giving the TP-Link Deco system a shot. I think I paid around $220 for it, which is only about $20 more than I paid for my last router that I thought would solve my issues. I have a 4000 sq ft house with 3 levels. On the first level I pull about 110 MB/s, regardless of where I am. In my basement I’ll pull between 60-70MB/s and on the top floor I pull about the same as the basement. I’m not saying it’s without faults, but I don’t have to worry about extenders, powerline adapters that need to be unplugged and plugged back in to work or anything else really except when the internet goes out, but that’s another story. I was going between this and the Google Mesh setup. When this one dropped in price, I decided to take a chance and I’ve been happy ever since.

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(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #14

I believe with the increasing amount of options, and now with Asus jumping in there giving us power users the ability to still have administration rights… this tech is certain to become the future.

One thing I like is that I can log into the router that is acting as a node and configure it just like I would the primary. So, tweaking settings can be done based on the environmental circumstances of where you end up placing them.

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#15

I’ve got the Netgear Orbi mesh setup and have been very pleased. I like their firmware options, and the Orbi architecture is unique in that it has a dedicated channel between the base and the satellite. If you only need 1 satellite you get full speed from the base. I get the full broadband wired speed via wireless all over my house now … 100 Mbps down/12 up.

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(Olivier) #16

If you can afford (and by that I mean physically and visually), Ethernet backbone and WiFi Access points remains a great choice. The trick is the roaming and band steering part.
I have personally gone the Draytek route:

  • 2860 for the modem/router part (ditched my BT hub), and creating a 2.5ghz WiFi network just for some low bandwidth IOT things like the Harmonh Hub
  • AP910c powered by POE for the faster/user WiFi Access points, with roaming and band steering activated.
    Certainly more complex to setup, but rock solid afterwards, and I don’t really expect an issue with the number of WiFi clients :slight_smile:
  • Of course you also need a POE switch, but it then also powers my IP cameras and a small POE powered switch hidden under a cupboard, which solves some Auto IP issues
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(Lee Florack) #17

My router is a Linksys AC1900 Dual Band SMART Wi-Fi Router (EA6900). For years, I’ve tried to use one or two wireless range extenders (Linksys RE4000W Dual Band Extenders) to ensure full home and outside porch/patio coverage. Although the range extenders worked for extending the range, they drastically decreased wireless throughput. It also ended up causing me connection issues such that I’d have to somewhat frequently reboot both my router and the extender in order to keep things stable.

About a year ago, after moving into a larger home - which made many of the existing issues a bit worse, I decided to get rid of the extenders and set up an access point (AP). I used a DD-WRT-flashed Cisco-Linksys E4200 Dual-Band Wireless-N RouterI had laying around. When setting up the AP, I disabled all of the router-type functions, leaving only the wireless radio on. The ‘new’ AP is hardwired to the router but is only running the wireless radio using the same SSID’s (it’s a dual-band router) as the router does. I now have full coverage (inside and outside) that is very stable and fast. I’m paying for 100/10MBs and getting 118/12 - with 30-35 wired and wireless devices (depending on what’s running at the time). YMMV, but you can put me in the add AP(s) camp as a good solution for stable, fast internet/Wi-Fi.

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(Daniel Ionescu) #18

@JDRoberts and all
Here is one for your reading pleasure https://www.snbforums.com/threads/asus-makes-aimesh-official.43140/
for ASUS firmware implementation of a mesh system using existing devices.

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(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #19

Interesting read. Thanks.
I’m using an ac1750 as my primary and an ac68u as a nice. Something I found last night… The ac1750 primary will not find another ac1750 as a node

#20

Thanks!

One of the interesting notes in that thread is that Asus hasn’t done anything about limiting a stream to a particular node, which can sound like a good thing, but actually means you could have multiple nodes trying to carry the same stream at the same time which would slow down both of them. They’re essentially letting any node that is within range carry a stream even if another node already has it.

This is one of the things that eero does really well (allocate streams among nodes) but some of the other Wi-Fi mesh brands don’t.

Another important point we hadn’t discussed previously is that people typically have two different goals when they start looking at Wi-Fi mesh.

One) they want to eliminate a Wi-Fi dead spot in the home, but most of their devices would be using the same node/AP all day long

OR

Two) they move around the building a lot and want their phone or other device to stay continuously connected without having drop off points as they switch from one node/AP to another.

Some of the systems that solve the first problem well don’t handle the second one at all. Again, you have to dig pretty deep into the details to see the expected behavior. :sunglasses:

(Kirk Hilzinger) #21

My 2-Cents:

1.) Wireless is a SHARED medium. Think large group of people in a room trying to talk. Wired networks are like that same group of people in cubicles using phones to talk to each other. Granted, in most home networks, most of those callers are trying to get to the Internet. No matter how many wireless vendors claim wireless is all you need, I will never choose it over wired networks for mostly stationary devices. If devices roam, wireless is all you can do. Wireless devices communicate because each device wanting to talk is given a slice of time to do it and then there is a wait, then if another device wants to talk, it talks, everyone waits, and the cycle repeats.

2.) Though home networks rarely come to this, the more devices in your wireless cell (coverage range of your access point), since the bandwidth is shared among devices, it lowers the effective bandwidth you have per device. My concern at work is more than 20 devices. Take an N 300MB/s cell. 300MB/s divided by 20 devices is 15MB/s average for each device. If you do not have a lot of chatty Cathies on your wireless, you may be OK. AC helps.

3.) Depending on your access point (the actual wireless device), your network might get slowed down if you have some very old equipment not capable of using the higher speeds. If an N device has to drop down to B (11MB/s), that slows things down that instances of time.

4.) Repeaters reduce overall throughput by 1/2. The more you have, the more the reduction in overall bandwidth. A repeater must receive the packet, then retransmit the packet to the next hop. I do not use them unless absolutely necessary.

5.) At work, I have a controlled wireless system which means a server monitors each access point’s performance and adjusts signal and channels. Not practical for a home network but for my home, I do have wireless access points that control and communicate with each other.

6.) The B Band (2.4GHz) used to be very popular because of its range but there are a lot of things that interfere with it and it does not have many channels it can use, depending on country. And in order to get the best coverage, adjacent access points should be at least 5 channels away. So, typically, they use channels 1, 6 and 11. Then, you many have other devices interfering with that spectrum, like microwave ovens, BlueTooth, baby monitors, cordless phones, and then other WiFi devices, like the radio that is on by default in most network printers. Turn that wireless printer’s AP off if you do not need it.

The A Band (5GHz) is the future of wireless, which is why AC uses just that frequency band. The tradeoff is with the more bandwidth, the shorter the range. You also have a lot more channels to use and are not prone to as much interference. You can get incredible speeds with AC. 1.7GHz for Wave 1 and multiple gigs per second in Wave 2 but, that comes with a huge caveat of requiring that the devices served within that cell are really close and all running AC Wave 2 and then, you still have a rough time taking up even 1GB. Some newer switches have special ports that will give you multiple gigabyte bandwidth to the access point or some can allow multiple connections to a switch. Right now, I am not worried just giving those access points a 1GB connection. I don’t need the bandwidth and the cost of those switches does not justify the bandwidth at this time. But, with Moore’s law and as fast as technology is moving, those prices will drop and the bandwidth will be needed, some day.

7.) In order to get those higher speeds on either band, you have to widen your channel width. You have to take it from 20MHz to 40MHz on B-Band to hit 300MHz and from 20MHz to 40MHz or even 80MHz on A-Band. That means more of that wireless spectrum is used to handle that bandwidth. Think 2 lane highway versus 4 lane highway versus 8 lane highway. That increases interference problems in B-Band as well as lowers channel availability. To combat that, you increase the number of access points and lower the signal power. You can really only do this with an Ethernet backbone.

8.) Mesh networks have to do that receive and retransmit that repeaters do but they have to do it on a different frequency for that backbone network. Not a fan of that.

9.) Wiring. The only reason you do mesh is if you wish to not run wire. Either way, though, a wire has to go to that access point, be it Cat-5/6/7, whatever or power because that access point has to be powered on. For me, running Cat-5 is so much easier than running power. I am one of those guys who wants to isolate every day use receptacles from network equipment because I don’t trust what gets plugged into those receptacles. Running a Cat-5 to a network closet means that the UPS/generator supplying that closet will also power the access point and it should be on a different circuit. Yes, my home network is on a dedicated circuit and on UPS.

So, after all of that, and I admit that was a long read, here is my network in my home:

1.) I have Spectrum so I have 100MB/s coming in.

2.) That goes into a Cisco RV180 router, which may change in the future. I have three networks. One for home. One for work. One for IOT devices and possibly a future one for streaming media devices. Security issues have been found on cameras, televisions and other things that have made them into DDOS bots. Each network is separated with its own Internet access through that router, though I do allow my work network to hit my home network’s printer.

3.) One of its four 1GB ports goes to a network switch. Two go to two of my home access points (LAPAC1750s) and another to my work router that connects me when I work from home.

4.) The two LAPAC1750s are clustered so they control each other and make roaming easier for devices. If I had a larger house, I would have more of them. They are 802.11AC and I run 40MHz bandwidth on B-Band (for N) and 80MHz on the A-Band to get me to AC. They run all three SSIDs. With the coverage I have in my small house, one could go out and the other could take over all the devices.

5.) The switch has those same 3 VLANs in it and I have SmartThings on the IOT network with everything else related to that. Work has its devices on that VLAN. Everything else is on the the default. I do have a line run to my detached garage with its own access point. I use a different one since the temps can get very cold and hot, depending on the weather. The LAPAC1750s are not rated for that. I am hoping this year to upgrade that switch to a 1GB one…maybe even with PoE so I don’t have to use the power injectors.

So, I use an Ethernet backbone and it is 1GB inside the house, 100MB/s out to the garage for my wireless. And my network will stay up for well over an hour if the power goes out.

I do not use Mesh. But, I understand for those who wish not to run wire the desire to use it. Just know there is a tradeoff, as with everything in life, for not having to run that wire. If you can run a Cat-5, which is easier, your performance will be better.

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