help please - wifi issue

tails007

Active Member
Hi, i have a large house and am with vodafone for my broadband - 70mbps. my home office is too far away from the router to even see the wifi signal, let alone try to connect to it. for a couple of years now ive been using BT Powerlines on the same ssid as the router. This week my internet connection has been terrible in the office, almost impossible to hold a Teams chat, so im guessing the Powerlines have had their day.

What budget options do I have please? I've looked at Mesh, but don't fully understand it - sounds like 1 box plugs directly into the router (no issue there), but im unclear how the next box then gets a signal to transmit. If its over my internal wiring then i guess im no better off than i am now(?), but if its via a wireless connection to the main box then i cant see how they would be able to see each other given the difference.

happy to consider other options too. thanks for any replies!
 

Greg Hook

Moderator & Reviewer
With mesh, you would be best getting a system with three units. One near the router, one near your home office and the other in the middle.

The one in your home office doesn’t need to be in range of the one near the router, that’s the beauty of mesh. As long as each one is in good range of each other, you will get a good signal.
 

jimscreechy

Active Member
If its over my internal wiring then i guess im no better off than i am now(?), but if its via a wireless connection to the main box then i cant see how they would be able to see each other given the difference.
When you say 'internal wiring' do you mean you 240volt power wiring in the house or do you have network cabling? I'm assuming its the former.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
There is no adequately useful definition (even a de facto one) of what a "mesh" system is, so I council being a little wary of the latest greatest "wonder boxes" that are "mesh" systems purporting to be some kind of universal cure all.

All Wi-Fi is facilitated by "Access Points" (AP's) - that is the proper technical term for them. AP's exist as stand alone devices and get built in to lots of other things such as SOHO "Routers" (a block diagram of a SOHO "router" is attached to the "Using Two Routers Together" FAQ pinned in this forum) and HomePlugs - what you already have is an AP/HomePlug combo at your remote location.

In order to create an extended Wi-Fi coverage area, we deploy multiple AP's to create a "cellular" coverage pattern - on big sites we put up dozens/hundreds, you've "only" got two, but in principle
it is pretty much the same technique on different scales.

The "trick" with Wi-Fi deployments of multiple AP's (even if it's only two) is how we establish the "backhaul" connection between each AP are the rest of the (wired) network.

By far the best backhaul mechanism (fastest and most reliable) is by using ethernet over UTP cabling. But it is also possible to create backhaul links using HomePlug/Powerline technology (ie what you already have) "tunnelling" data over the domestic mains circuit, or using Wi-Fi to facilitate both the client connection and the backhaul link(s.) Things like Wi-Fi "Repeaters" are essentially a Wi-Fi AP that uses Wi-Fi backhaul.

Using Wi-Fi backhaul is not without issues though: As OP observes and Greg hints at, in order for an AP to use Wi-Fi for backhaul, it needs to be capable of doing so (not all can) and it needs to be "in range" of good signalling conditions of both the area one wants to provide coverage to and the thing one is backhauling to. So, for example, if one is in a room with no coverage from the "base" Router/AP, then deploying an additional "Repeater" type device in the same locale is practically useless as the Repeater gets no better signalling conditions than a client device in the same locale. A Wi-Fi Repeater would need to be "halfway" (so to speak) between the coverage hole and the "base" router/AP. So of H is your coverage hole, B is your "base" router/AP and R is your Repeater you need to be less like this H-R-----B and more like this H---R---B. Some experimentation may be required depending on the distance involved, number of walls and other Wi-Fi unfriendly structure between the two (water vessels, anything metal, walls, etc.) What Greg is suggesting is that in order to get coverage in an area with non using Wi-Fi , you might have to "daisy chain" two or three Repeaters to get you there.

So what's all this "mesh" business about...? It's a trickle down to the SOHO marketplace of technology that's been in enterprise systems forever (ish.) Often it refers to the ability to manage a "fleet" (even it's it's only two or three) of AP's from a common management platform (such as an app.) It maybe that such AP's include features such as client steering to the "best" AP, it may be that they pre-stage part of the roaming hand-off to make it faster, it may be that the AP's can use Wi-Fi for their "backhaul" links, and maybe some other goodies etc. etc. To know for sure what any "mesh" system offers, one needs to check the specification and/or datasheets.

But there is nothing, in terms or radio signalling, "magic" about "mesh" AP's - they are subject to all the same "rules" about Wi-Fi transmit power as everything else - and everything else has been transmitting at, or very close, to the legally permitted max. forever - don't get conned into thinking "mesh" (or any other device) somehow have "much better signal" that anything else - they don't.

Your "best" solution would be to get out the drill, install some UTP cabling and run ethernet over it. Next best is probably what you already have - HomePlug/Powerline, though how "good" that is is highly dependent on the quality of you mains environment and you can certainly also do it with Wi-Fi, but you may need multiple Repeaters (whether they call themselves "mesh" nodes or anything else) and a bit of experimentation with their physical positioning. Multiple Wi-Fi hops can also seriously compromise your "speed" if that's important to you.
 
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oneman

Well-known Member
happy to consider other options too. thanks for any replies!
As Mick mentioned, your most reliable solution is going to be installing an Ethernet cable to the out building and putting in an old router or access point & switch in the out building.

Depending on the difficulty of the run from your main router to the out building you are probably looking at around £100 to £150 for the cable run and maybe around £50 for a second hand router if you don't have a suitable one lying around but that will future proofed for when you move to FTTP and by far the most reliable option.
 
I’d suggest taking a step back first. I’d suggest doing some basic debugging to try and confirm the source of your issue before jumping to replace x in my network

Is the fault constant or intermittent?

Have you power cycled the powerline devices? (Both ends)

Have you run a speed test to check while there are issues?

Have you run a speed test from another device to confirm it’s the powerline not the computer that has slowed?

Have you run a speed test from a device connected to the Vodafone ‘box’?

Do your powerline devices have a ethernet connector at the office side?

If so can you connect the computer to it, disable WiFi on the computer and run the speed tests again, what’s the outcome?

Are the powerline adapters plugged into wall sockets not extension leads?

Has anything changed at the same time as the fault occurred, new microwave, fan, etc?

If the fault is constant & survives a reboot can you relocate the office powerline temporarily to another room and test again to try and confirm if it’s the powerline device or mains socket at fault?

It’s not unknown for powerline adapters to die but generally not in the way you describe (but it’s not unheard of), the way describe sounds like interference either on the wireless side or noise on the ring main or some kind of network contention with another device or the computer could be utilising the bandwidth on other tasks.

Obviously some of those possibilities or less likely than others just trying to eliminate possibilities before we get into the buy new stuff space.

It could be as simple a solution as a new pair of powerline devices or a mesh solution but it’s best to understand the why before the what.
 

tails007

Active Member
When you say 'internal wiring' do you mean you 240volt power wiring in the house or do you have network cabling? I'm assuming its the former.
Yes I mean the 240 volt power wiring. That's what my current system is running on
 

jimscreechy

Active Member
Ok, since you've been having the issues, have you plugged in any new appliances in your office or on the same circuit as the existing powerlines?
Sometimes cheaper less well engineered appliances can introduce interference on the powerlines that can cause connection issues, especially some of the cheaper Switched mode PSU that have appeared on the market.

If you have plugged in something you think could be the cause, just unplug it and try your connection to see if it reverts to how it was.

If this doesn't fix the problem or nothing new has been plugged in that is causing the issue, you could unplugging them and then re-pairing your powerline adaptors to see if this works. Still no joy, you could try putting the powerline adaptors closer together on the same power circuit, in the same room for example just to check if they can establish the pairing properly.

A little more info could help here since we don't know they are actually working properly. Normally these devices have a power, a link/ethernet/network, then a data led... though names and specific numbers of leds may vary. Can I assume your led's displaying what should be deemed to be a successful connection, but your still getting poor throughput?

Normally I would look for new factors that have been introduced or changed to affect the connection, yes it is perfectly possible your adaptors have 'given up' but it's prudent to make sure first before buying new kit since this may not solve your problem. Any additional info you give us (if you have any) will help diagnose the problem.
 

tails007

Active Member
Thanks all for such detailed answers. Not really sure whats going on with my setup. Today it seems fine. I actually stream 4k films too over the kit and very rarely is there an issue, so perhaps its more to do with my laptop.

Having said that though, i have a big role of cat6 cable connected to my router and left in the front garden, which ive just tested and it still works - max BB speed! So I think the cheapest and actually best option is for me to use that. Typically though its about 6ft too short so I guess i'll need to order some sort of connecter and extra cable to run around the outside of the house.

As a follow on question, should I connect the cat 6 cable to the powerline repeater? Would that give the repeater a direct method of communicating with the router, and therefore a better wifi connection for anything that connects to it, rather than my repeater having to use my homes 240v cable? (i would question a lot of my homes internal wiring).

Thanks all for your responses!
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
...I think the cheapest and actually best option is for me to use that. Typically though its about 6ft too short so I guess i'll need to order some sort of connecter and extra cable to run around the outside of the house.

You can do that - my preference for extending a cable is to use an inline coupler that's essentially two IDC terminations wired back to back rather than dress off onto plugs and use a female-female coupler. I just feel the former is mechanically more robust and often such couplers have lugs or holes one can use to secure them permanently to something.

If running it externally, it would be worth checking whether it's "internal" or "external" grade cable. The latter is often a bit more robust and has UV inhibitors in the sheathing (without it, eventually UV "does" for the cable, makes it brittle, cracks, then in winter water gets in a further busts it apart.)

AVF "Mantra" with regard to UTP cabling is to "always install two (or more) along any given cable route." Cable is cheap compared to the hassle of installing it - the additional materials cost isn't much, relatively. In the, admittedly highly unlikely, situation of a UTP run failing in service with only a single run you are off the air until you rip and replace. With an alternate in situ, depending failure cause, you stand a chance of getting up and running again sooner and with less disruption. And it's surprising how often one finds a use for "just one more" later on. Of course, if you are restricted by the materials you have "in hand" the point may be moot.

As a follow on question, should I connect the cat 6 cable to the powerline repeater? Would that give the repeater a direct method of communicating with the router, and therefore a better wifi connection for anything that connects to it, rather than my repeater having to use my homes 240v cable? (i would question a lot of my homes internal wiring).

A Captain Morgan says, for a powerline device typically no. If you hooked up both a UTP run and the mains run (effectively) on the same connection, you'd introduce a "loop" in the network topology which would be "bad." With a loop in the topology the network will very quickly grind to a halt as it fills up with endlessly circling broadcast traffic (called a "broadcast storm" in networking lingo.)

In any case. the "quality" of the Wi-Fi connection with the Powerline device is unrelated to how the backhaul to the device is achieved - they function independently of each other, though the usage experience of any network device is effected by all the "hops" in the pathway between any given source and sink device pairing. It's just like the road network. The ability for me to drive from my house to number 42 in my street isn't effected by whether my road links to is a single track road, the dual carriageway or anything else. But if I make a journey beyond my street and out onto that trunk road, I'll "feel" the effects of the performance of both.
 

tails007

Active Member
Update:

I've now run a cat 7 LAN cable around my house and i'm getting about 70mb connection straight to my work PC - which is much better than I was getting over my flakey BT Powerline.

Question now is. Am I better off keeping things as they are, or should I connect an old sky router in some sort of slave (I don't know the correct term) setup so that it can serve my work pc and the other wifi devices in the vicinity? As things are I have a Google Hub which I do not connect as it just chomped through the bandwidth even to listen to talk sport.

The Sky wifi router I have is this, and the powerline I have is this. Wifi devices in the area are (not all used at the same time); 4k chromecast, google hub, google nest mini, pixel 3xl, denon receiver, HP Envy Photo 6234.

Any advice appreciated. (If the advice is to connect the sky router and wifi everying (the above plus my work pc) instructions or some sort of steer would be helpful.

Thanks again!
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
How to configure a SOHO router as an additional WiFi Access Point (AP) or AP/Ethernet combo is described in the "Using two routers together" FAQ pinned this forum. It's not hard, but there's a bit of clicking and ticking to do.
 

tails007

Active Member
How to configure a SOHO router as an additional WiFi Access Point (AP) or AP/Ethernet combo is described in the "Using two routers together" FAQ pinned this forum. It's not hard, but there's a bit of clicking and ticking to do.
I also have a500 GB time capsule. Do you know if that could be used instead of the sky router?

And in both cases. An I better using those devices over wi-fi or such with the way I'm doing things?
 
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Sorry to sound unhelpful, the question should be what do you want to achieve, what are your issues and performance challenges, where do you experience blackouts and are they a issue.

What is ‘best’ is a factor of those points, rather than what old devices you have access to.
 

tails007

Active Member
Slight update - but I think it also helps me be clearer on my question.

I want to run wifi in my office rather than the LAN/Wifi split which I have mentioned previously. My options for wifi are either the time capsule, or the sky hub (both products linked above). Both are quite old now so am asking which has the better tech and in theory at least would provide a better wifi connection?

If I use the timecapsule I can get wifi and network storage in 1 device.

If I use the sky hub, that will be used for the wifi and i would still have to connect the time capsule as network storage - therefore using 2 devices.
 

jimscreechy

Active Member
500gb is a miniscule amount of storage these days. I'd be surprised if that is sufficient... at least for any reasonable length of time.

I know the temptation to utilise old kit that still works is like an compulsion of unfathomable intensity (especially to the older members among us) but sometimes the skip or the dump... sorry Recycling centre is a more fitting resting place for such kit.

Obviously not answering the question, but with storage so cheap these days and technology moving on so quickly, you may be doing yourself a disservice by using kit so long in the tooth.
 

tails007

Active Member
500gb is a miniscule amount of storage these days. I'd be surprised if that is sufficient... at least for any reasonable length of time.

I know the temptation to utilise old kit that still works is like an compulsion of unfathomable intensity (especially to the older members among us) but sometimes the skip or the dump... sorry Recycling centre is a more fitting resting place for such kit.

Obviously not answering the question, but with storage so cheap these days and technology moving on so quickly, you may be doing yourself a disservice by using kit so long in the tooth.
I made a mistake actually - the storage available is 2 tb.. which is plenty for me and current requirements.... from a wifi perspective, which device would allow for faster/more concurrent connections?
 
Slight update - but I think it also helps me be clearer on my question.

I want to run wifi in my office rather than the LAN/Wifi split which I have mentioned previously. My options for wifi are either the time capsule, or the sky hub (both products linked above). Both are quite old now so am asking which has the better tech and in theory at least would provide a better wifi connection?

If I use the timecapsule I can get wifi and network storage in 1 device.

If I use the sky hub, that will be used for the wifi and i would still have to connect the time capsule as network storage - therefore using 2 devices.
I made a mistake actually - the storage available is 2 tb.. which is plenty for me and current requirements.... from a wifi perspective, which device would allow for faster/more concurrent connections?

Without digging into the spec of each unit it’s hard to say, what I’ll ask is how many devices are you expecting to connect?

What is your current line speed?

The fact that you wish to use the storage in the time capsule & that you can also hardwire devices to the capsule (such as the office computer) as well as extending the wifi & use the storage would seem to point in the direction of using that would it not?

I haven’t done this myself but these look like reasonable instructions on using a time capsule to extend wifi.


Time Capsule’s are
  • Simultaneous Dual-Band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi Compatible.
So that’s 2.4 & 5 GHz bands
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
All Wi-Fi is facilitated by "Access Points" (AP's.) AP's get "built in" to lots of other "things" such as SOHO "routers," HomePlugs and things like your Time Capsule (TC.) Functionally, Wi-Fi AP's all achieve the same thing whatever they may be built into on basic data networking terms.

However, there are at time of writing lots of different "versions" of Wi-Fi with names like A/B/G/N/AC/AX and even within each "version" (actually it's called a "protocol") there are a lot of "options" as to what is included and what is not, though it's mostly about the facilities that affect the available "speeds."

So whether to choose box X over box Y is, I suggest, mostly about determining which mix of Wi-Fi protocol support availed by each box best fits your mix of Wi-Fi clients. Then there's "bonus" features to consider such as a the storage your ATC avails.

Unfortunately, which is "best" is a value judgement based on such criteria that you ultimately will have to make for yourself. "Fans" of box A or Box B may well opine that you should choose "their" favourite, but what is good for them may not be good for you. This, I suspect, is why everyone (here) is hedging around making the decision for you because the case is not clear cut. You'll need to dig into the specifications, compare it with your (Wi-Fi) client mix, assess the value of any "bonus" features, then make a choice.

However, since you have both a Sky router and an ATC "in hand," there's nothing to stop you trying each for a few weeks and see which you like best - it will "cost" you nothing but time.
 

tails007

Active Member
Thanks all for your help on this - it's been really helpful! I've managed to get the TV working in the office in terms of wifi (need to now work out how to map the drive for pc use).

I plugged in the sky router in the kids playroom to boost connectivity in the middle of the house, but that seemed to screw up wifi for my phone for some reason.

I think on the sky box i turned off DHCP as I think i read that that would interfer with the ISP router.

On the Time Capsule I am set to 'Connect using DHCP' (other options were 'static' and 'PPPoE') does that sound Like I have selected the right option?

Again on the Time Capsule the router mode is set to 'Off (Bridge Mode)'.... other optons were 'DHCP and NAT'.... and 'DHCP Only' does that sound Like I have selected the right option?

Thanks all for any help you can offer!
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
I think on the sky box i turned off DHCP as I think i read that that would interfer with the ISP router.

You should only have one DHCP Server active on your network and it is best if it is the DHCP Server in whatever terminates your incoming ISP line - IE the router that connects you to the rest of the world. All other DHCP Servers should be turned off.

On the Time Capsule I am set to 'Connect using DHCP' (other options were 'static' and 'PPPoE') does that sound Like I have selected the right option?

I don't know ATC, but DHCP should be fine - that will tell it to go get an IP address from your DHCP Server. Having done so, you might care to look into your router's "DHCP Leases" table (or "assigned DHCP address" or however it's worded,) find the entry for your ATC, then tick the option that says something like "always assign the same IP address to this device" (they exact wording/mechanism differs from model to model.)

Technically, using DHCP to assign IP addresses, an IP address assigned to a device could change at any time. It's very unlikely to happen in a small SOHO network, but for something like your ATC which is providing "services" (ie storage) to other things on your network, it would be preferable to ensure it never changes IP address and using the aforementioned DHCP option ensures this. having assign a "fixed" IP address, it's also not the worst idea to print it on a label and stick it onto the device - you'd surprised how quickly you forget.

Again on the Time Capsule the router mode is set to 'Off (Bridge Mode)'.... other optons were 'DHCP and NAT'.... and 'DHCP Only' does that sound Like I have selected the right option?

"Bridge" mode should be OK - some boxes call this "AP mode." Again with the caveat I don't know ATC, IIRC Bridge mode turns the "WAN" port into another "LAN" port and disables the internal router/NAT/firewall. If they are offered on separate options, then go ahead an turn them all off. You only want one router/NAT/firewall in a SOHO network and again, that functionality should be in whatever device connects to your ISP.
 

tails007

Active Member
You should only have one DHCP Server active on your network and it is best if it is the DHCP Server in whatever terminates your incoming ISP line - IE the router that connects you to the rest of the world. All other DHCP Servers should be turned off.



I don't know ATC, but DHCP should be fine - that will tell it to go get an IP address from your DHCP Server. Having done so, you might care to look into your router's "DHCP Leases" table (or "assigned DHCP address" or however it's worded,) find the entry for your ATC, then tick the option that says something like "always assign the same IP address to this device" (they exact wording/mechanism differs from model to model.)

Technically, using DHCP to assign IP addresses, an IP address assigned to a device could change at any time. It's very unlikely to happen in a small SOHO network, but for something like your ATC which is providing "services" (ie storage) to other things on your network, it would be preferable to ensure it never changes IP address and using the aforementioned DHCP option ensures this. having assign a "fixed" IP address, it's also not the worst idea to print it on a label and stick it onto the device - you'd surprised how quickly you forget.



"Bridge" mode should be OK - some boxes call this "AP mode." Again with the caveat I don't know ATC, IIRC Bridge mode turns the "WAN" port into another "LAN" port and disables the internal router/NAT/firewall. If they are offered on separate options, then go ahead an turn them all off. You only want one router/NAT/firewall in a SOHO network and again, that functionality should be in whatever device connects to your ISP.
This is great, thank you
 

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