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.