SmartThings Community

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

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(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.


(Paul) #22

I put an Eero system in my parents’ house over the holiday. They had a miserable time getting WiFi from one end of their ranch-style home to the other (and then out to the guest house in back). I know Eero is not the most powerful, or the most affordable system, but it is really, really easy to set up. So far, it has been very reliable. The selling point for me, is I can use the Eero app on my phone to monitor their system from afar.

I’m totally sold on the mesh technology. I’d probably wouldn’t pick Eero for my own home, but in this use case, I’m very happy with it. My parents are astonished.


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #23

I have spectrum, a 100/10 coming into the house. The Asus 1750 is the primary (upstairs ) with the ac1900 as the mode downstairs.

I am getting 114 MB/s on 5G in every corner of the house.
I am getting between 65 - 85 on 2g.

Overall I’m very satisfied.

Though, I discovered this last night. The ac1750 is not on the official supported list, but it works. It works as the primary and it works as the mode, but ONLY one ac1750 can be in the mesh. So my second one sits in the box waiting until the firmware updates…


(jkp) #24

(Daniel Ionescu) #25

@kahilzinger
I have a few cents myself.

One router spec is number of simultaneous connections. Higher the better. So nobody waits and there is no cycle.

Assuming all communicate at the same time. Extremely rare.

That’s why you have b/g protection. Also QOS so you can prioritize traffic. Better routers have it.

That’s why you have access points with ethernet backbone. You get full bandwidth.

Nightmare

Some use 2.4 GHz but not the exact frequencies of the router. They rarely interfere with router communication.

Printer is not an AP. Just a node on the network. Unless you print, it only lets router know it’s there.

I have an ASUS RT-3200AC as main router and 2 RT-1900AC access points withe ethernet backbone. FIOS 50Mb. 2 TVs streaming through FireTV from DirectTV Now (TV over internet). Chromecasts also. Telephony is VOIP. with 2 devices. Smartthings hub with approx 100 devices. 2 Logitech hubs. Raspberry Pi and alarm system, networked. Phones, tablets and laptops. Printer also.
All wireless, but most on 5GHz band. Have no issues at all.


(Kirk Hilzinger) #26

No, that is incorrect. Only one device in a cell communicates at a time and there is a minimum amount of time open before another device can communicate. They all do it on the same frequency. There is no such thing as simultaneous conversations between devices within a wireless access point’s cell. They each wait their turn. It is CSMA/CA (Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance). The reason it looks like things communicate at the same time is that each device communicates for a few milliseconds at a time and then the next.

B/G band steering only moves you to the A-Band by delaying packets during the join sequence on the B radio so the A radio’s join sequence packets from the AP are “heard” first by the device. And, yes, some access points drop down to the lowest device’s communication speed.

My APs that control themselves are not a nightmare. You program one, join the other to it and it pulls in the configuration. It even updated its code. It was actually very easy and they do a good job adjusting each other automatically.

Devices in the 2.4GHz can certainly interfere with the B-Band. It does not have to be the exact frequency. It depends on your channel bandwidth (20MHz or 40MHz on B-Band). If you are close, you cause problems. That is why it is bad practice to put an AP on channel 1, then next on channel 2 and so on. They want you to be 5 or more channels away for a reason. Be at work with an AP installed too close to the microwave at lunch. You will see it in action. Glass block walls are another problem. WiFi is a big interference with Zigbee since they run on the same frequency spectrum.

No, a lot of printers have their own APs in them for direct printing. HP is notorious for this. My admins almost never turn them off without me reminding them.

Download a free WiFi analyser for your phone and see your spectrum yourself.


(Daniel Ionescu) #27

I did. Everything is good.

My microwave is 4ft from router with one wall between them. No interference.

That’s because there are only 3 non-overlapping channels in the 2.4 GHz band.
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Don’t get me wrong. I know that interference exists and can create problems. Home use also is different than heavily networked offices. Interference also can be mitigated with a little planning and effort and using quality equipment. Also, most users have no idea what we’re talking about.
Let’s leave it there.
And just keep in mind that for home use the consistent end result is what matters most.


(Kirk Hilzinger) #28

Maybe but you might be in a low density area as far as WiFi. People in apartments or small home residential streets are not.


(Jason "The Enabler" as deemed so by @Smart) #29

You can fix that by spending a few extra bucks and being the big dog on the block!


(Marc) #30

As @JDRoberts says, different things work for different situations. In my house, MoCA has been the best option since I have coax connections all over the house but do not have Ethernet. MoCa not only extends my network but also gives me a couple of Ethernet jacks in their gateways around my home. I have WiFi deadspots all over which Moca solved.

I tried Eero in my home when setting up my mother in laws equipment and the first dead spot remained and I stopped there considering Mesh.

I was using an Asus router up until a couple of months ago and recently switched to Ubiquiti. Haven’t noticed a boost in speed or range but do like the management platform they offer. Both are great WiFi solutions. I also like the built in VPN server in the Ubiuiti Secure Gateway.


(Daniel Ionescu) #31

I am

How?

Normal.
Range would be increased only if you can increase transmission speed which would be against FCC regulations.
Speed depends on router and clients. Same specs, same speed.

Using ASUS with Merlin’s firmware I get 2 VPN servers. Also, router itself can act as VPN client.


(Marc) #32

Yes I had a VPN server with DDWRT but the ubiquiti one is out of the box and firmware and software updates are a lot easier to apply.


(Steve White) #33

I’ve researched DD-WRT which can do mesh, but I want an appliance, not a high-maintenance project. I’ve already got that with SmartThings. WiFi is just one of those things I really didn’t want to have to think about. I just wanted it to work.

After looking at Oorbi and Velop, and Eero. I ultimately went with Eero myself, despite probably being the most expensive and proprietary of solutions. At the time they were the only major consumer system which offered a wired backhaul for the mesh, which was a requirement. My 3 node system nicely covers all 5k square feet spread over three stories plus the basement and has no dead spots. I miss the ability to tinker, but the payback is flawless coverage anywhere in the house with no frequent maintenance or quirky operation.


(Paul) #34

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the Eero app. I get a lot more access to the guts of the system than I was expecting from such a user-friendly system. And having real-time analytics about devices and usage on the system (including which node each devices is connected to) is hugely helpful.

Of course it could be more powerful… but it’s not like it’s a totally closed black box!


(Steve White) #35

I’ve asked them to create a SmartThings integration. Unfortunate they probably won’t do it as there’s not a significant overlap in their customer demographics.

A couple use cases I would like to see. First it would be useful to select any Eero-connected device as a presence sensor. One great security benefit would be the ability to toggle off the guest network anytime nobody is home.

I doubt we’ll ever see any of that but I can dream.


(Paul) #36

Well that’s definitely true. It would be great to have some more external integrations.


(C L Sanchez 1877) #37

I am clearly late to this party, but I set a system up in my house several years back, before it was termed such a thing as “Mesh”. I have a standard router wired in a cabinet, and I have three wireless access points installed throughout my house. I statically assigned the channels, I use 2.4 MHz and all three were given the same broadcast name, user login and passcode requirements. I did this on 802.11g and redid this a few years ago with 802.11n. It has always worked. Laptops and phones automatically migrate from one unit to the other with no drop in signal. The exceptions has always been my wife’s two laptops (old and new). Windows, it seems, does not like to change radio channels as long as it can still ‘sniff’ the other one. The other devices seem to be more open to bouncing around. The fix is just closing the lid on the laptop when she changes rooms. When she opens the lid, the laptop wakes up and grabs the correct sensor.

Is there a feature these new “mesh” units provide that I am missing out? I have a few items holding me back from the 802.11ac standard, but I can see this transition taking place in the not too distant future.


(Paul) #38

How do the three access points communicate with the router? If wireless, each one is reducing the overall bandwidth available to other devices on the network. New mesh systems get around this limitation by creating a separate, invisible, network on a different frequency to handle the node-to-node communication.

Even if you have all of your access points connected with ethernet cable, you will still have the issues you’re seeing with devices “clinging” to a specific access point. In my experience, the new mesh systems do a much better job of handing off devices between nodes.


(C L Sanchez 1877) #39

Currently, I run POE Cat5E from the router to each unit. I did it this way because of the bandwidth issues your referenced.

If the new mesh networks handle the passing around better, then that is something to look into. Like I said, I find most i devices already do this because their receivers just aren’t that great. My wife’s laptop’s receiver is amazing, but it holds onto the signal, even down to one bar. Sounds like mesh networks actively hand-off clients.

An invisible network in the background for communication, what a great idea. Certainly resolves the bandwidth issues I was concerned about in the past.

Thanks for the insight. Seems most articles are written for people far less knowledgeable than me, but Im not IT so I don’t always know where to look for the best detailed information. Im always in that “knows enough to be dangerous” category :slight_smile:


(Daniel Ionescu) #40

And a newer one. Speaker mesh with Alexa.