Advice on Mesh Wif

specialbrew84

Standard Member
I am looking to upgrade my wifi with a mesh system as I have a long narrow house with internet entering at the front. I get little to no internet in the kitchen and garden.

My current system is a Virgin Hub 3.0 with Playstation connected via ethernet and Raspberry Pi running Pi-hole also connected via ethernet.

The plan is to by either a 2 or 3 node mesh system and set the Virgin router to run in modem mode.

My question is this: Will the ethernet ports on the Virgin router still work when I switch it to modem mode? I am hoping this will be the case so I can still have my playstation and pi-hole plugged in to it.

If it doesn't, I presume the Mesh system I buy needs to have at least 3 ethernet ports on the main node. One from the virgin modem in and 2 to go out to the playstation and raspberry pi. I guess I will also need a mesh system which will allow me to configure the DHCP to use the pi-hole system too (I hear some mesh systems give you very limited controls).

Thanks
Andy
 

oneman

Well-known Member
As the name implies, the SH will only be a modem. One port will allow you to link to a router. Plenty of mesh systems have a router function and a couple of Ethernet ports on the base station, for upload and local devices.

As for functionality, you will need to check the specs of the system you look at. I would be surprised if you couldn't set DNS server in DHCP server settings in most of them.
 

specialbrew84

Standard Member
Ok, thanks.

I am lookign at the Amazon eero, which only has 2 ethernets per node. So will either have to plug the pi-hole into the 2nd node, or if that doesn't work, use a network switch on the node connected to my modem.
 

oneman

Well-known Member
Ok, thanks.

I am lookign at the Amazon eero, which only has 2 ethernets per node. So will either have to plug the pi-hole into the 2nd node, or if that doesn't work, use a network switch on the node connected to my modem.
Its easy enough to add a switch.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Be sure to understand that you do not need to put your SH into "modem mode" in order to use an alternate Wi-Fi system. If your SH is routing/NAT/Firewalling well enough, then you can leave it alone and just turn off it's Wi-Fi (it's rarely more than a couple of clicks) in which case all the ethernet ports will continue to function (and you won't have an IP addressing nightmare to sort out.)

Modem mode is for people who want an alternate router, not an alternate Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is facilitated by "Access Points" (AP's) not "routers." This is not just hair splitting over nomenclature, in the realm of data networking, an AP and a "router" are very different things - it just so happens that the SOHO "get-you-on-the-Internet" omni-box happens to contain both (and a lot more besides.)

To provision additional Wi-FI coverage, you need to deploy additional AP's and create "cellular" coverage pattern. The "trick" is how one establishes the "backhaul" link between the outpost AP's and the rest of the (wired) network.

"Proper" wired ethernet make the best backhauls - fastest and most reliable. Other mechanisms can be used for backhaul such as HomePlugs and Wi-Fi itself, but they each have their own virtues and vices.

There is no useful definition of what a "mesh" system is, so be clear in your own mind what you are trying to achieve (and the regulars and old lags in this forum will help) so you can source appropriate equipment. And I submit, it's best to plan in that order - decide what you (holistically) want to achieve, then go shopping for the kit that achieves it. Rather than falling in love with some particular system or bit of marketing spin and then try to retrospectively find the reasons why you want it.

Viz: I would really like 2 seater red sports car and could probably find reasons why I should have one. But if I start with my requirement, I need to commute, school run, shop, visit the relatives and facilitate one long distance holiday per annum. So what I really need is a "family" car, however much I might prefer a roadster.
 
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specialbrew84

Standard Member
Be sure to understand that you do not need to put your SH into "modem mode" in order to use an alternate Wi-Fi system. If your SH is routing/NAT/Firewalling well enough, then you can leave it alone and just turn off it's Wi-Fi (it's rarely more than a couple of clicks) in which case all the ethernet ports will continue to function (and you won't have an IP addressing nightmare to sort out.)

Modem mode is for people who want an alternate router, not an alternate Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is facilitated by "Access Points" (AP's) not "routers." This is not just hair splitting over nomenclature, in the realm of data networking, an AP and a "router" are very different things - it just so happens that the SOHO "get-you-on-the-Internet" omni-box happens to contain both (and a lot more besides.)

To provision additional Wi-FI coverage, you need to deploy additional AP's and create "cellular" coverage pattern. The "trick" is how one establishes the "backhaul" link between the outpost AP's and the rest of the (wired) network.

"Proper" wired ethernet make the best backhauls - fastest and most reliable. Other mechanisms can be used for backhaul such as HomePlugs and Wi-Fi itself, but they each have their own virtues and vices.

There is no useful definition of what a "mesh" system is, so be clear in your own mind what you are trying to achieve (and the regulars and old lags in this forum will help) so you can source appropriate equipment. And I submit, it's best to plan in that order - decide what you (holistically) want to achieve, then go shopping for the kit that achieves it. Rather than falling in love with some particular system or bit of marketing spin and then try to retrospectively find the reasons why you want it.

Viz: I would really like 2 seater red sports car and could probably find reasons why I should have one. But if I start with my requirement, I need to commute, school run, shop, visit the relatives and facilitate one long distance holiday per annum. So what I really need is a "family" car, however much I might prefer a roadster.

Ok, so just to be clear (am not great on networking). I can just connect the Mesh system to my Virgin Hub over ethernet and use that to send the signal out wirelessly, without needing modem mode. Also turn the Virgin hub's wifi off, so I don't have two networks.

In this scenario, the pi-hole and playstation will continue to work as normal and I do not need a network switch to connect them both to the mesh router (which will only have one free ethernet port, unless I buy a more expensive one).

My aim here is to simply to upgrade to a mesh network with better coverage and the benefits of wifi 6, whilst keeping the playstation and raspberry pi connected over ethernet as they currently are.

Thanks
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
That's pretty much correct. What it sounds like you want is a fleet of Managed Access Points where the nodes can establish "backhaul" links between each other using Wi-Fi and the "first" node can connect to your existing router using an ethernet link. There are certainly "mesh" systems that can do that, though be careful to check the specs. carefully to ensure it ticks all these boxes. Some may not have the ethenet to the first node, some may insist on it (for example.)

To be bit pedantic, all Wi-Fi is availed by "Access Points," not "routers." Where the whole "mesh" market gets a bit messy is that there are some "mesh" systems whereby the first node can act as a router - essentially it's designed to be a drop in replacement to your existing router. Some "mesh" systems don't do this. Some can be configured to work either way. Equally, don't assume that mesh nodes have multiple ethernet ports - some do, some don't, some have none. Hopefully this is illustrative of how the term "mesh" is utterly meaningless as there's no useful, even de facto, definition of what "mesh" systems is.

The sort of thing that "mesh" systems do tend to offer, something we've had in enterprise systems forever, is "good" stuff like a single management platform and some automation of some setup features such as channel planning, pre-staging the roaming hand offs and steering clients towards the "best" node. However, again, such features are not universally implemented, so again pay attention to the spec. sheets to see what you're getting and never "just assume" anything. It's a bit of a chaotic marketplace I'm afraid at present.

BTW - you could continue to use the SH Wi-Fi if you wanted to - it's not mandatory to turn it off. But as you allude, it wouldn't be integrated with your mesh system so you'd either have to manually switch between them, (if you gave them different SSID's) or you could give them the same SSID's and let the client switch automatically - though there would be no integration between the two, so roaming may not work too predictably. If you have decided to cable the first mesh node to the AP (or the system you choose requires it,) so there's "no point" running the SH Wi-Fi in the same locale, then the point is probably moot.

If you are intent on a system that uses Wi-Fi for the backhaul links between the nodes, be aware that there's no different between the Wi-Fi used for backhaul and the Wi-Fi used for client access - it's all the same "stuff" same signal strength, etc. etc. So to work well, the nodes will need to be "in range" of good signaling conditions with each other as well the areas you are trying to facilitate.

Just by way of background explanation, when IT pros are provisioning a big site with dozens if not hundreds, of AP's in a "Managed" system, we would always prefer to use wired backhauls unless there is no alternative, but we appreciate that for domestic users, getting out the drills and stringing up the cables is not always an option. So Wi-FI backhaul links "work" but it's less than ideal and (depending on the system you choose, the topology and the use case) it may not be as fast.

Finally for this evening, one additional future benefit of having a separate Wi-Fi system from your router, is that if you change ISP and thereby get a new router, your Wi-Fi provision is unaffected as it's unchanged - you just hook up the new router, sort out the IP addressing chaos and you are done.
 

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