Question Home network over a 24 port modem with multiple access points - upgrading to MESH

Mar 25, 2020
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Hi there.!

About 10 years ago I had a major house renovation and set up a 24 port modem feeding into multiple Ethernet ports around my three story house, including an outbuilding. All cabling and ports are Cat 6, and my source internet is fiber-optic. I have various wireless devices such as IP cams plus internet TV and Sonos throughout the house.

I replaced the 24 port modem with an expensive commercial grade fan-less (and very quiet) Cisco router about 5 years ago. This is working fine. I need it fan-less as it's in a bedroom.

I have multiple wired access points around the house and in my outbuilding. A mixture of Amped and Cisco. Again, I probably upgraded these about 5 years ago.

Some of my APs (particularly the Amped ones) are getting a little unreliable, plus a couple of my outdoor IP cams sometimes drop out. As I am now working from home I figured I would now take the time to upgrade all of my APs and add one or two outside the house to help avoid drop out from my security IP cams.

I have been looking at using Netgear Orbi MESH range, with wired APs inside the house and wireless repeaters outside, as the Orbi range seems to have a good outdoor repeater. I am prepared to go top of the range for domestic products as my family is always complaining about the wifi and I don't want my security cams dropping out any more. I know that part of this is that I am probably stretching my internet provider's bandwidth but I want to do the best I can with the bandwidth that I have.

Does MESH needs a MESH router to work properly? Im asking as I was not intending to change my 24 port CISCO router as this was expensive at the time and is an expensive fanless (quiet) one. If I go all MESH AP's and repeaters will this work ok?

Sorry if this is a basic question, I'm fairly OK, on networking knowledge but out of date and don't really fully understand MESH.
 
Don't get conned by marketing. Mesh is not some new technology it was purely a way to get people thinking they needed to buy new routers before the wifi6 equipment came to market. Now they will push that instead.

Amped are crap devices that also are mostly marketing trying to pretend they are higher power than other devices on the market. To be legally sold they can not exceed the government regulations so they do not put out any more power than other quality equipment.

What exact feature do you think you need with mesh. Mesh is mostly a slightly better wifi repeater. It still suffers from many of the same problems other repeaters have it is just a slightly easier to install. It is used for people unlike you that do not have ethernet cables to many rooms. You never want to use any form of repeater unless there is no other solution.

If mesh was so great why would enterprise customers who do not care much about costs not demand this from say cisco or hp or aviyia. The commercial installs still use the same system you do. AP connected to a central switch.

So again what exact feature do you think mesh is going to help with.

If you want close to enterprise quality AP at a much cheaper price you can look at a company called ubiquiti. They do not have all the feature of the high end cisco or HP devices but they also do not cost $500 a unit. You have to be somewhat careful if the device you call a "24 port router" is providing power to your AP. This device is much more likely a 24 port switch but the power concern is still the same. Ubiquiti sell 2 different types of PoE be very sure you buy units that say 802.3af or 802.3at support since that is the standard form of PoE supported by most switches.

Not sure what you mean a central controller. Ubiquiti has one that is free but this is mostly so you can centrally manage all your AP. Mostly it is so you don't have to log into each one individually but AP pretty much just do their thing once you have them setup and running.
 
Mar 25, 2020
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Hey there Bill and thanks so much for your quick reply. I really appreciate this.

The issues I have with my current set up are:
  • unreliable APs (Amped ones).
  • drop out for my most remote garden IP cams that have a weak signal from my internal APs.
  • when I move from wifi zone to wifi zone, I sometimes need to turn wifi on and off on my iPhone so that it picks up the strongest AP signal. Sometimes, not always. Even though the zones have the same SSID. I know thsi shouldn't happen.
So I think I need an AP and Repeater solution that involved:
  • all APs and repeaters the same manufacturer and generation, as for some reason I heard this works best
  • the manufacturer must have a really good outdoor repeater
  • the APs and Repeaters must be really long range as my house is built of really thick reinforced concrete and even with multiple top spec APs the signal is weak in places
  • I don't use POE, everything will have its own power source, even the outdoor repeaters.
I liked the sound of MESH as I thought that this would avoid needing to occasionally "off and on" the iPhone to pick up the best available AP signal. I think this is what MESH does but not 100% sure.

Finally, you may be right, the 24 port thingy may be an unmanaged switch rather than a 24-port router. There is no management page that I recall.

I used the Orbi outdoor repeater at my parent's house and that seemed to have an awesome outdoor range - this is why I thought MESH and Orbi.

The issues have driven me nuts over the years and do I don't mind spending $$ on this to get a good result.
 
The range is purely a function of transmit power. Almost all devices transmit at full legal power. Mixing different brands is mostly a management thing. Easier to learn only 1 vendor. Remember inside the chips that do the work are made by companies like broadcom or meditek. The name on the outside of the box many times does not mean a lot.

The largest issue with range tends to be the end devices. Things like cell phones have very small antenna and transmit at lower power to save battery.

You do not want to use any form of wifi repeater unless there is no other option. You want to use outdoor AP if there is anyway possible. Run more ethernet or use poweline or moca units to attach AP to before you use repeaters. With a repeater you have added a extra wifi hop into the path. Wifi already has massive issue with interference and you do not want to add more. You already have all your AP interfering with each other and that does not count the signals coming from your neighbors.

Wifi was never designed to roam between sources like a cell phone. The end device not the network decides what it talks to. Most devices hold on to the first signal even when there is a better one. They only have 1 radio and are using it to pass data it can not scan for better networks or it would drop your connection. You can change the point it looks for a new network but you then take the risk it constantly hops back and forth and each time it does this it causes a small outage.

Some of the mesh systems pretend they can do roaming but all they do is force a disconnect and the hope the client will connect to a different AP. The problem is the signal levels the network has is based on what it sees it has no ability to know what the signal levels are on the end device. It might connect back to the same AP and what if the network just forces a disconnect again. If you really want that feature the ubiquiti free server has that force disconnect "feature" also.

Not sure I never saw it being a huge problem to stop and start the wifi client. Always figured the person was much smarter than the equipment of knowing when there is a better signal.

Years ago cisco had a system that could do roaming maybe still do. It would also roam between the cell network and the internal Wifi. Cost a fortune. We used it to try to cut down on cell minutes and used VoIP instead. It was a mess you had to load special apps into phones and it only worked on certain brands of phones. It allowed the wifi network to control the device much like a cell tower controls a cell phone. Being VoIP people would walk around and you did not want the call to be disrupted. The cell companies got smart with their unlimited minutes so now you just put small micro cell units in your building and let technology designed from the start for mobility do the work.
 
Mar 25, 2020
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OK and thanks Bill - I take your point on repeaters. I think I can find an ethernet port for one of my two outside wireless transmitters, but for the other there's no easy way to route ethernet. But it's a great point and I will see what can be done.

My cisco router (in AP mode) is in my basement and still works really well. Think I have 4 Amped AP's on first and second floors. All meed to be replaced. Plus two outdoor devices. Netgear does a nice outdoor unit but i will shop around.

Thanks again.
 

kanewolf

Titan
Moderator
OK and thanks Bill - I take your point on repeaters. I think I can find an ethernet port for one of my two outside wireless transmitters, but for the other there's no easy way to route ethernet. But it's a great point and I will see what can be done.

My cisco router (in AP mode) is in my basement and still works really well. Think I have 4 Amped AP's on first and second floors. All meed to be replaced. Plus two outdoor devices. Netgear does a nice outdoor unit but i will shop around.

Thanks again.
For multiple APs I highly recommend the Ubiquiti UniFI system. It provides a single dashboard for management of switches, APs, and router/gateway. There are fanless switches available. I have 6 switches, 3 APs and a gateway all on a single dashboard. I have 3 SSIDs, distributed guest WIFI and an IOT VLAN. All very simple to configure. APs run $100 to $150 each.
 
Mar 25, 2020
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OK so may be I have been asking my question in the wrong way. I have re-reviewed my network configuration. The bits I want to keep are my Cisco small business router, which feeds into a Cisco 24 port switch, which feeds to various Ethernet sockets around the house. I have a mixture of about APs, top of the line Asus and Amped from 5 years ago, but still don't have the coverage/reliability that I need. As my external security cams drop out sometimes and also connectivity isn't great everywhere within the house. I don't want to go more than my 5 APs (4 inside and one in an external exercise room). My Cisco Small business router is this working fine (bought 5 years ago (AND still sold on Amazon today) and gives me reasonable WIFI coverage in my basement.

If I now want MESH or WIFI 6 do I need to change my router? And if I am prepared to spend money on this for even a small improvement, what APs would you recommend upgrading to? Prefer to keep to same manufacturer and also I may add an outdoor AP/repeater. I know repeaters aren't good but the Netgear ORBI Satelite RBS50Y that I have at my parents house works really well and reaches to the bottom of a long garden.

Will replace my Router if I absolutely have to in order to get some improvement.

Source internet is fibre optics but I have so many devices that I'm probably stretching my bandwidth.
 

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