Improving Home Networking (WiFi and Routers)

Marcus96

Novice Member
Before I begin explaining the current networking setup/situation in the home itself, I would like to address that I am with the ISP Provider "TalkTalk" and using standard ADSL lines as there is no Fibre Optic available in my local area (it has been under investigation for about a year now). The speeds I recieve are normally 50ms Ping, between 5.5Mbps and 7.5Mbps Download speed and about 0.75 to 0.8Mbps Upload speed depending on the time of day and conditions.

I would also like to address that the original HUAWEI Wireless Router that came with my broadband package is something that I want to exclude from my home network. I looked up the model number for this HUAWEI so-called freebie router and it has 1.5-2 stars Amazon reviews, I experienced dropouts all of the time with the router and the Ethernet ports are only 10/100 and not even Gigabit, not to mention the Wi-Fi range with this router is only average for a 4 bedroom detached house, making it inadequate for using Wi-Fi devices all around the home. So I am looking to get shut of the HUAWEI Wi-Fi Modem Router and use something better as it is the "most basic of the basic" in my opinion.

My latest aproach was to replace the Wi-Fi Router itself for a "TP-Link TD-W9980" which is an ADSL2+/VDSL Modem Router which is also Dual Band N600 (300Mbps 2.4GHz + 300Mbps 5GHz). Whilst things have only improved a little bit (I don't experience as many drop outs, but the signal has barely improved). I also feel as though I have made a mistake and bought the wrong product (it lacks 802.11ac connectivity and USB3.0). I could barely justify what I spent on the router, so I am looking at selling the router on eBay becuase I can get very close to all of my money back to what I spent as I got it at a lower price and starting again.

I may also be looking into investing in more Wi-Fi/Networked Tech such as Media Servers, NAS Drives, Sonos Systems, Airplay Receivers, Philips Hue, etc.

What are your thoughts on how I can improve my home network and resolve current connectivity issues?
 

neilball

Well-known Member
Your best idea is to use wired Ethernet as much as you can, and then use wired wifi access points to fill in the wifi coverage where needed. Using additional APs has benefits other than simply increasing the signal where you struggled before, but also spreads wifi clients across two or more devices (the wifi radio transceivers only "talk" to one device at a time) which improves the overall wifi bandwidth across the house.
 

Marcus96

Novice Member
Will this work?

I use the original TalkTalk Router as a Modem (but disable the Wi-Fi options on this device), just use it as an ADSL to Ethernet Modem, the run a powerline adapter between the Modem and the TP-Link Router.

So HUAWEI Router as a Modem > Homeplug/Powerline > TP-Link as a 2.4/5GHz AP central in the house.

Would this work well?
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
It depends whether your Huawei has a facility to function as modem only - you can't turn a router into a modem just by saying so - it needs to have such a feature in the UI.

In any case, I think your over complicating things for no reason. Leave you Huawei as it is (routing NATing etc) unless you have a good reason to not use it. Disable it's Wi-Fi if you like, though I wouldn't bother - however "bad" you've convinced yourself it is, it's still providing wi-fi in it's immediate locale. Then as Neil says, add additional outpost AP's (or crippled routers) to either fill in the holes or provide additional hotspots for the purposes of enhancing the wi-fi throughput, whether you establish the "backhaul" using "proper" ethernet links or over HomePlugs.

And I wouldn't take much notice of "reviews" written by well meaning, but hopelessly ill informed, amateurs on Amazon. Even amongst IT professionals, Wi-Fi hugely mis-understood - most people lack the expertise (and test facilities) to offer a "review" that's in any way meaningful. A web site called SmallNetBuilder does it better than most, and he is well informed, you could do worse than look there.

It's Wi-Fi myth number 2 that ISP's all provide routers with "rubbish signal" - Wi-Fi transmit power is limited in law and most kit is, and always has been, at or close the the permitted max. The way to "fix" Wi-Fi coverage issues is to create a cellular coverage pattern with multiple hotspots, not look for some mythical uber-router with "better signal" than everyone else. In any case, obsessing over "signal from the router" is something of an amateurs obsession - one never seems the same cohort of people obsessing over "signal from the thing in there hand" yet it's as equally important. Every so often I Google to see if anyone has ever "tested" the signal from an iPhone - as yet I've not found a single hit.

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi is all rather complicated.
 
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Marcus96

Novice Member
Thank you.

I did notice something though. When I changed my ISP "HUAWEI" Router to the TP-Link one, I notice that my internet speed increased from 5.5Mbps to about 7.5Mbps. I think this may be due to the TP-Link having a better Modem intergration. Maybe if I purchase another TP-Link router or Dual-Band Extender and hardwire it over ethernet, is that my best bet?
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Indeed, that can happen - different chipsets in the router, different software and so forth mean than sometimes device X just gets on better with your line and whatever is in the telephone exchange. It's a bit of a gamble of course as you never really know until you try it. It could just as easily have gone "the other way" and gotten worse.

Certainly, (for Wi-Fi) "adding to" what you have already will probably give better value for money than looking for a "forklift" upgrade which could be better, could be the same, could be worse!

It's not for nothing that when we do big deployments, we put up dozens, even hundreds of access points.

It's also worth being aware that 5GHz radio doesn't penetrate "stuff" (walls, doors, air,) as well as 2.4GHz, so coverage footprint (or more likely rate-at-range) falls off faster.
 

Marcus96

Novice Member
That is just the information that I needed. Thank you "mickevh", you are a big help. :)

I just have one concern though, that is that I feel as though I have purchased the wrong product. The router I have purchased is only a "Wireless N" Router and not a "Wireless A/AC" Router. The speeds of the router I have purchased are 2.4GHz 300Mbps and 5GHz 300Mbps. The other routers (such as the "Archer" range) offer 2.4GHz with speeds of 450Mbps and 5GHz with speeds of upto 1350Mbps. Is this of a concern? Is there really any benefit to "AC" Wi-Fi standards and 5GHz connectivity despite the lack of penetration ability?
 

limegreenzx

Banned
Quick answer is you probably haven't bought the wrong router. Your broadband connection is so slow that WiFi is not your current bottleneck.
I have an 802.11ac router we have a few phones,laptops and iPads that support ac. This gives great speeds downstairs but upstairs we lose connection. The 802.11n 2.4Ghz WiFi on the same router covers most of the house. I also have an AP in the loft (802.11g) which amazingly covers the whole house and the garden.
The most important thing is to hardwire where possible and not only use multiple access points but make sure they are positioned well to avoid dead spots.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Is an AC router any benefit..? None whatsoever unless you also have AC compatible clients.

There's nothing wrong with "only a wireless N" router if you only have N capable clients.

Even then, it's not that simple. When a client device and a router/AP Associate with each other, they determine what capabilities they have in common with each other and use them to communicate. So, even in the "N" protocol, you only get a 450mbps (either at 2.4GHz or 5GHz) if both client and router/AP are 450mbps capable. If, for example, your router's 2.4GHz "N" is 450mbps capable, but your client is only 300mbps capable, then 300mbps is all you get.

If you want to know what your clients and Router/AP are capable of, and what they have in common, you will have to delve deeply into the datasheets - though it seems mfgrs are getting more and more opaque about the information they provide.

It wouldn't hurt to look at Wiki's articles on 802.11N and 802.11AC, find the "MCS Index" tables and just look at the various factors that affect potential "speeds." The way "speed" increases are achieved is complex - 300mbps isn't simply 150mbps-going-twice-as-fast, it's more complex. Akin to achieving more traffic carrying capacity on a road by adding extra lanes rather than doubling the speed limit.

It is all rather complicated.
 

Marcus96

Novice Member
I understand what you mean "mickevh". So the TP-Link TD-W9980 Router I purchased is a good enough choice for my network? Saying we have a few laptops (with Intel WiFi cards), iPhone 5c's and Galaxy S6's as well as the latest games consoles connected. Will 300MHz for each band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) be perfect for my needs?

Also what if I wanted to add wireless sound systems and NAS drivers to my network. Is the router still capable of doing this?

The router says it is also capable of ADSL2+/VDSL with speeds of up to 100Mbps. So also what if my local area in the future gets Fibre broadband with speeds of over 100Mbps, would the built-in modem to the router only be able to give me 100Mbps?
 

MacrosTheBlack

Well-known Member
Yes your router will be quite capable of handling that lot. Coverage depending on your internal wall thickness etc etc.

Where you can, hard wire devices to the router using ethernet cat5e cables. Normally you get 4 or 5 ethernet ports (gigabit being the best) on a router but more can easily be added by purchasing an ethernet switch. NAS especially you'd want to hard wire over gigabit ethernet for a strong connection to it for your other devices. Games consoles too often get a slight benefit from being hardwired rather than wifi.

ADSL is 20MB max. After that it's fibre for which you'd need a new modem or modem/router anyway so don't worry about that side of things.
 

Marcus96

Novice Member
Thanks you. :) At least I know I have purchased a good product.

Anyway, I have done some research. If I was to deplay another access point at the other end of the house and it was on a 2.4GHz band. Would I be able to configure it with the Same SSID (but let's say use Channel 11 with the main AP and Channel 6 with the newly deployed AP). Then if it configured like this, if somebody moves from one end of the house to the over with the same mobile device connected to the SSID, will they have a strong signal wherever they move without having to change their wireless connection settings every time they go from one room to the next?
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Same SSID, passphrase etc. will avail automatic roaming between hotspots. However, it's Wi-Fi Myth #2 that client devices are always "hunting for the best signal." In fact this is rarely the case. iOS devices (for example) have to see signal level drop below -70db (ie pretty quiet) before they will initiate a roaming operation.

Also, in the 2.4GHz waveband, there isn't enough frequency spectrum available to avail more that one "40MHz" channel with them interfering with each other. In big multi-hotspot deployments we "fix" this by only allowing "20MHz" channels and accept that this means link rates (ever erroneously called "Speed") will he halved.
 

Marcus96

Novice Member
Thumbs up for all of the past advice. :)

I have come back to this thread just to note that I unplugged my newly purchased TP-Link Router (I paid £62.99 for) and plugged my original HUAWEI HG533 Router (an ISP freeby) back in. I noticed that the wireless signal is actually much stronger on the HUAWEI than the TP-Link and also the 5GHz band on the TP-Link is totally useless (barely any coverage and fluctuating speeds). Also I do have the option to change SSID, disable WLAN and do advanced settings on the HUAWEI too.

So mainly have I wasted £62.99 for no reason?

As for the HUAWEI Router, the main issue I have with it is that the 4 LAN ports are only 10/100 (100Mbps) Ethernet and I would much prefer to have 1000Mbps (Gigabit) Ethernet. The Wireless N speeds of the HUAWEI is capable of up to 300Mbps, however if I was to hardwire a stand alone access point to the router via Ethernet cable, wouldn't this mean that my Wireless N speeds are limited to 100Mbps (despite a dedicated access point being capable of 450Mbps Wireless N or even 1.75Gbps AC). Also wouldn't 10/100 Ethernet give me restrictions, despite my internet connection only being ~6Mbps, for tasks like let's say accessing a NAS drive, file sharing, streaming music via AirPlay/Sonos, etc.?

I seem to be a little lost here, what would be the best solution and workaround for this?
 

cjed

Well-known Member
Simplest solution would seem to be to put a Gigabit switch in as the "backbone" of your network. All wired devices are connected to the Gigabit switch (including your router). This would allow all traffic between wired devices to operate at Gigabit speeds, while still giving internet access to your network. If you wire an additional AP into the Gigabit switch, it would allow faster speeds to other wired devices (such as your NAS).
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
"Is there any point of building a 70mph 6 lane motorway 10 miles away from me when the road from my house to the motorway is single track 30mph?"

Of course, there is a point in building the motorway wider and faster because the capacity of the two roads, whilst they have some bearing on each other, are not directly related. It's the same for data networks. The link rates (ever erroneously called "speed") of each link in the pathway from any arbitrarily chosen source to sink devices are unrelated. Of course, the throughput of each link in the pathway has an effect, and it's usually the slowest that's the bottleneck - though not always. For example a fast but congested (due to other traffic) link might be a bigger bottleneck than a slower but uncongested link. Think of a car journey where you meet a ten mile queue on the motorway due congestion - something I regularly experience on the M25. Then slowest part of my journey is often on the "fastest" highest capacity roadway.

So to cases - wi-fi is less efficient than ethernet. There's a measure called the "protocol efficiency" for network technologies that expresses how much of the headline link rate is "lost" to the mechanisms that "make it work." Ethernet is rather good at 97% efficient, wi-fi is of the order of 55-65% (possibly a bit better in AC - I haven't "done the numbers" for AC) and HomePlugs of oft cited at around 50%. So one wouldn't expect (say) a 150mbps wi-fi link to out-perform a 100mbps ethernet link. The argument would flip with (say) 300mbps Wi-Fi versus 100mbps ethernet.

Don't worry about wi-fi speeds varying - it fact it happens almost constantly as the signalling conditions change. It's just that a lot kit doesn't report the minutia of the variance, they tend to show the "trend" over time. Enterprise grade equipment often provides reports of such things whereas SOHO doesn't (for the nominal link rate X, let's sat 54mbps, what percentage of packets went at 54mbps, 48mbps, 32mbps, etc.)

So with (say) a 450mbps Wi-Fi AP/Router, is your speed "limited" by the 100mbps ethernet link hanging out the back of it..? No. Your 450mbps will still go at 450mbps. If that traffic was destined to another Wi-Fi devices in your locale, (let's say it's also 450mbps) then that transmission never emerges from the ethernet socket of your AP/router, it's bounced straight back out to the target devices at 450mbps, and the speed is a benefit. But what if the data had to leave with ethernet..? Well the wi-fi part still happens at 450mbps, whence it queues up the the AP/Router to exit through the ethernet. Whilst the ethernet transmission is happening, there's nothing to stop further transmission happening over the Wi-Fi airwaves.

Each link in a data network function (mostly) independently of each other just like the road network. What's happening on the M42 around Birmingham has no affect on me travelling around in London. It's only when I'm driving to Manchester that the state/speed of the M42 effects me. It's only when I look at the totality of any particular journey that I have to consider all the individual "hops" that make up that journey. Much the same in data networks.

Data networking is, I am afraid, all rather complicated and not at all like plumbing together pipes. :D
 
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Marcus96

Novice Member
Thanks you very much "mickevh" for such an amazing outstanding description and interpretation. Never before have I seen replies like that on a forum thread before! :D

If I still wan't Gigabit ethernet in my house for hardwired NAS drives and media streaming, just like "cjed" expalined, would this networking setup work?

TalkTalk HUAWEI Router (used as a modem) > Ethernet > Gigabit Swtich > then connect to switch the Hardwired Wi-Fi AP (e.g. Ubiquiti UniFi), Hardwired Gaming Consoles (e.g. Xbox One/PS4), Hardwired Media Services (e.g. AirPlay/Sonosand and Hardwired NAS.

Would a switch act as a router pretty much (is a router/hub pretty much an ethernet switch but with a built in modem)?
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
In the "using two routers together" FAQ I've pinned a block diagram of what a typical SOHO router is made up of and how the various functions are connected together. You might care to have a look at that.

Is router & switch the same kind of thing...? Definitely not. A SOHO "router" contains (amongst other things) an ethernet switch. So in some respects a standalone switch is a SOHO router with everything except the switch thrown away.

In the scheme you describe, in post #18, (as Cjed advocates) would work with one change: The router still needs to function as a router, you can't use it as a modem (nor would you want to in the scheme described.) Indeed, many SOHO routers cannot function as "modem only." A SOHO router doesn't become a modem just by "deciding" it should be - there has to be a feature in the UI that let's you turn on "Modem node" and most SOHO routers lack this.

Think of a router as being something that sits at the "edge" of your network joining your network to other networks, (which in SOHO effectively means the Internet,) rather than something that lives in the "centre" of a network bossing it. Build your network "round your switch(es)" rather than "round you router." It's the "routing" functionality of a router that performs the "joining networks together" tasks. "Routing" is actually nothing whatsoever to do with Wi-Fi. It's just that in your average SOHO onmi-box the name "router" has stuck and many people now perceive "router = wi-fi" because their SOHO box contains a wi-fi AP. Years ago, SOHO "routers" didn't have Wi-Fi, but otherwise they were more or less the same as what we have today.

Thusly your plan should succeed as long as you keep the Huawei functioning as a router whether you continue to use it's Wi-Fi functionality or not.

You might like to consider leaving the Huawei Wi-Fi turned on as well as your standalone AP, giving you the benefit of two Wi-Fi hotspots.
 
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Marcus96

Novice Member
Great explanation.

I am looking at two possible solutions as to deploying another Wi-Fi Hotspot / Access Point.

Solution 1: http://www.amazon.co.uk/TP-LINK-RE5...90&sr=8-2&keywords=tp+link+dual+band+extender - This is a Dual Band AC Wireless Extender, also with ethernet ports. All this requires is plugging into the mains power and is linked to the HUAWEI Router via WPS. I could deploy this extender centrally and then run Gigabit ethernet from the extender to all my hardwired devices and give me Dual Band AC Wireless to Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops, etc. The solution is also simple as internet is hosted from the HUAWEI, where as the TP-Link Extender is the heart of the network. :)

Solution 2: http://www.amazon.co.uk/NETGEAR-WAC120-100UKS-performance-802-11-wireless/dp/B00O4U8AC2/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1445108624&sr=8-9&keywords=ACCESS+POINT - This is a standalone Dual Band AC Access Point. This has a single LAN/Ethernet port which I will have to wire from the HUAWEI to the NETGEAR AP via Homeplugs, of which I already have a pair of D-Link 200Mbps Powerline Adapters, which is great! :D However, it doesn't quite solve the simple Gigabit ethernet issues, however I am not planning on implementing a NAS until the future.

Which solution of the two will work the best for me, or if not overall better in general?
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
The TP-Link thing looks like a Wi-Fi "Repeater." Repeaters work by listening out for Wi-Fi transmissions, copying them, waiting for the airwaves to go quiet, then broadcasting an almost verbatim copy of the original message. The "problem" is that the original transmission and the repeats cannot occur at the same time, so each exchange takes twice as long and your throughput halves. So if optimum speed is your thing they're not a good idea. It may be just bad Ad copy, but some of the claims are a bit suspect - 600mbps in the 2.4GHz waveband - really? I didn't think any mfgr was going to bother with that (N @ 600mbps "4 stream") now that AC is shipping which can go faster with a less complex design. And it would need 4 antennas (in both router and client devices) not 3.

A "proper" AP cabled back to the router is the best solution. If you can't install a network cable, then tunneling the backhaul traffic over the mains using HomePlugs is the next best solution.

Rather than press you old 200mbps HomePlugs into use, which are pretty slow compared to current incarnations, for the sort of money you're looking at spending, I think I'd look for a new HomePlug "kit" whereby one of the HomePlugs has a AP built in. Newer HomePlug kits are likely to offer much faster over-the-mains rates than your 200mbps jobbies.

I believe Greg Hook here at AVF has reviewed some recently and a web site called SmallNetBuilder reviews a lot of this type of equipment and tabulates the results by various performance metrics.
 
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Marcus96

Novice Member
Thanks.

So may should I consider this product? These are 500Mbps powerline adapters, there is a 1Gbps Homeplug Kit, but is 500Mbps fast enough for powerline (the Wi-Fi band is 300Mbps, which is the same as the HUAWEI)?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/..._rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=577048407&pf_rd_i=desktop

Maybe connect the Homeplug Ethernet into the back of the HUAWEI router and then the Wi-Fi AP Homeplug at the oposite end of the house? Would that be my best solution?
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
That would be more like what I'd look for - plus there's a few ethernet ports also.

Though that particular model "only" avails 2.4 GHz wi-fi and doesn't do AC. I would look for "dual band" if you've got any 5GHz capable clients as the chances of getting 300mbps wi-fi links in the 2.4GHz waveband are slim if you're got any neighbours and/or multiple hot spots.

Also bear in mind that the rates for the mains link for HomePlugs are very much "up to" figures dependent on the quality of your mains electricity circuit and any "noise" therein. Many HomePlug users frequently bemoan the fact that the link rates they achieve are substantially lower than the maximums. Throw in some interference, retries (due to errors) and the "only one thing at a time can transmit" (same as wi-fi) nature of HomePlug signalling and a "500mbps" would "feel" much more like a 100-200mbps ethernet equivalent.

Unfortunately, when comparing the performance of differing networking technologies, one is comparing apples and oranges. Many make the mistake of thinking that anything with a "bits per second" metric is the "same king of thing" when they are not. It's like trying to assess the merits of a jumbo jet and a milk float because they both have a "miles per hour" metric - clearly one can't bemoan that a milk float doesn't cross the Atlantic at 550mph carrying 500 people just because is has a "speed" metric like a jumbo jet. Same with the networking tek - Ethenet, Wi-Fi and HomePlug all work differently (though there are many similarities) so one doesn't expect a 200mbps "X" to be "like" a 200mbps "Y."
 

Marcus96

Novice Member
I understand what you mean. I am proud to hear that this is an ideal solution. Anyway, are there any 5GHz/AC solutions based on my HomePlug idea that you could recommend for me?
 

Marcus96

Novice Member
As I have recently put my £62.99 TP-Link router out of use, maybe should I set the TP-Link router up at the other end of the house as an access point (using HomePlugs)?

If I can sell the router, I have seen them going for £55 on eBay (as that particular model has gone upto £70). That is another plan, and maybe just use HomePlugs with built in AP's? :D
 

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