Question Setting up a new system

nicholson2002

Novice Member
Context

Within the next few days, our new router/modem (BT Smart Hub) will be connected to the master phone socket in our small, single level London apartment. Our TV, Apple TV and sound system (a simple Orbitsound soundbar) will be located in the same room but at a distance of about seven metres from the router. Ethernet inter-connection is not possible. Also, our computers and smart phones (all Apple) will be reliant on wi-fi. We are also installing a QNAP NAS (TS 453BT3) in the near future.

Issues

I am asking for advice on how to set this all up to achieve the best possible outcome. My current thinking is as follows:

(1) Locate the NAS with the router (connected through ethernet, of course)
(2) Install a powerline adaptor (without wifi) next to the TV, etc and connect the TV and Apple TV directly to the adaptor using ethernet.

Questions

Is this sensible? Are there better ways of doing it? For example:

(1) Would it be better to locate the NAS off the powerline where it could be directly attached to the other devices? We would probably prefer to have the NAS near the TV, etc but not at the expense of diminishing its efficiency.
(2) Is the powerline adaptor the best way to go? I understand that direct ethernet cabling would be significantly better but that is not an option in this case.

My biggest problem is that I'm a complete noob at this and I really don't know what I don't know. Any help would be much appreciated.

John
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
Is cabling definitely out as you can get white flat Ethernet cables for example that can be pushed under skirting boards etc.

There are a few ways of doing it.

I personally would look at using a small Gigabit switch (<£20) next to you your TV that your NAS, TV, Apple TV get plugged into. If you still can't use cabling then I would look at a powerline adaptor to provide connectivity between your Internet Router and this switch. That way any video streaming to the TV etc is kept local to that wired gigabit network.

If you found there is an issue with WiFi speed to computers\phone then you could always buy a dedicated access point and wire that straight into the new gigabit switch. That way the only time the powerline adaptors are used is when you want to access the Internet. If you get a decent pair they should be quicker than your BB speed.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
I concur with ChuckMountain, especially if your predominate use of NAS is to stream to your TV/ATV. Thereby you've removed all your "NAS-To-TV" streaming traffic from the HomePlug Link and Wi-Fi airwaves availing more Wi-Fi "air time" for those devices that have no choice but to use Wi-Fi and capacity on the HomePlug link for the TV/ATV/NAS-to/from-Internet traffic.

7m isn't a big deal for Wi-Fi, especially if it's in free space (if there's intervening walls, they are more likely to have a detrimental effect.) I'd be inclined to try it out for a few weeks and see how well it gets on, then "fix" the problem if there is one. If you are in a block of flats, bear in mind that the close proximity of neighbours (who've all got Wi-Fi too) can cause interference/co-existence issues.

If you opt for the HomePlug link between router and TV as ChuckMountain's described, you might consider buying HomePlugs where one of them includes an integrated AP to be deployed at the TV locale - that would save you a "box," (separate AP,) however it means you have to either decide whether to go for HomePlug with/without Wi-Fi at the get to, or put off purchasing HomePlugs until you've discovered whether Wi-Fi solely from your router is performing adequately.
 
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mitor

Active Member
I'd concur with this. Homeplug can be very effective and reliable but given the size of your flat it's probably worth seeing if WiFi can provide enough speed and reliability for you. Unless you hard wire everything then networking tends to be something of a black art even for those of us who do it for a living.

If it works ok, then just leave it the hell alone!
 

nicholson2002

Novice Member
Thanks to all for your great advice. I did say that I was a complete noob and the questions that I am about to ask will prove that point only too well.

<I personally would look at using a small Gigabit switch>

If we use a Powerline adaptor such as the TP-Link AV2000, it comes with two,gigabit ports. Other than providing more Ethernet ports does a Gigabit switch add any further benefit?

I understand that I may need more Ethernet ports but I just want to clarify if there is an inherent advantage in using the switch as well as the powerline adaptor.

<I concur with ChuckMountain, especially if your predominate use of NAS is to stream to your TV/ATV.>

The NAS’s main purpose will be to store our data, predominantly our music, photo and video collections. A secondary use will be to use it as a multi media server to our TV and, to a much lesser extent our other devices. Further uses could include home surveillance capability.

I currently run my Plex server through my Macbook but I will be setting it up on the NAS as soon as we have it up and running; as well as on the ATV.

<If you found there is an issue with WiFi speed to computers\phone then you could always buy a dedicated access point and wire that straight into the new gigabit switch.>

<…. put off purchasing HomePlugs until you've discovered whether Wi-Fi solely from your router is performing adequately.>

< Homeplug can be very effective and reliable but given the size of your flat it's probably worth seeing if WiFi can provide enough speed and reliability for you.>

Our current broadband provides us with 7mb/s on its very best days. We’re hoping that a move to BT Infinity fibre will improve on that somewhat.

Is it likely/possible/probable that a 34+mb/s fibre wi-fi connection will be as fast or faster or more or less reliable than a powerline adaptor connection? I understand that the only way to really answer this is, as you are telling me, to try the wi-fi first and see how it goes but I’d welcome your views as I really won’t know what I’m comparing the wi-fi speed with.

< If you opt for the HomePlug link between router and TV as ChuckMountain's described, you might consider buying HomePlugs where one of them includes an integrated AP to be deployed at the TV locale - that would save you a "box," (separate AP,)>

I’m sorry but would you mind work on the basis that you are talking to a total idiot and explain that again? Why do I need a separate box (access point)? What purpose does that serve? What’s the relationship between the AP and the existence of wi-fi or not on the powerline? What is the meaning of life?

Finally, is my take on what everyone is telling me correct?

(1) If we can, USE ETHERNET!

(2) If not, try the wi-fi connection first before using a powerline adaptor?

(3) If that is still too slow, add a powerline adaptor and see how that goes?

(4) USE ETHERNET!


Thanks guys.
 

ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
If you buy a gigabit switch for near your TV you still need to connect it back to your router somehow. The easiest and cheapest normally (less than a tenner) is to use an ethernet cable.

If that isn't by an ethernet cable, you would need an additional device albeit a powerline adaptor or another WiFi access point. These cost considerably more usually and generally don't work at their advertised speeds for a variety of reasons.

Having said that most ones these days should be quicker than your Internet if its only 34Mbit\s.

If you don't for a switch then you would have to connect everything by WiFi and then each item has to compete for air time.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
< Homeplug can be very effective and reliable but given the size of your flat it's probably worth seeing if WiFi can provide enough speed and reliability for you.>

Our current broadband provides us with 7mb/s on its very best days. We’re hoping that a move to BT Infinity fibre will improve on that somewhat.

Is it likely/possible/probable that a 34+mb/s fibre wi-fi connection will be as fast or faster or more or less reliable than a powerline adaptor connection? I understand that the only way to really answer this is, as you are telling me, to try the wi-fi first and see how it goes but I’d welcome your views as I really won’t know what I’m comparing the wi-fi speed with.

No-one can predict HomePlug performance because there are too many variables involved, not least that HomePlugs use your mains electricity infrastructure which is inherently noisy and unreliable - the mains was never intended for transmitting high frequency data carriers. There's no option but to just try it. Some people have excellent results with HomePlugs, some people have dreadful results.

< If you opt for the HomePlug link between router and TV as ChuckMountain's described, you might consider buying HomePlugs where one of them includes an integrated AP to be deployed at the TV locale - that would save you a "box," (separate AP,)>

I’m sorry but would you mind work on the basis that you are talking to a total idiot and explain that again? Why do I need a separate box (access point)? What purpose does that serve? What’s the relationship between the AP and the existence of wi-fi or not on the powerline? What is the meaning of life?

All infrastructure mode Wi-Fi is facilitated by something called an Access Point (AP - AKA Wi-Fi Access Point - WAP.) Any "other" kind of "thing that does Wi-Fi" (router, Homeplug, etc.) is a "thing that has an AP built in" along with all the other stuff that makes that "thing" a router, HomePlug, etc.

So if you don't need any "other" functionality in the locale you need an AP, you only need a stand alone AP. (Many people mistakenly believe you need "routers" to "do Wi-Fi," probably on the basis that a "router" is what they have at home.) On big sites, we put up AP's by the hundred, we don't use SOHO "routers" to "do Wi-Fi."

Conversely, if you need an additional AP somewhere you are intending to deploy "something else" (ie a HomePlug") then you can save yourself a box by deploying a HomePlug/AP combo instead of separate HomePlug and AP.

Though it's worth noting that the AP built in to a HomePlug may not be as feature rich as a standalone AP - the physical size of a HomePlug (not to mention cost pressure) can constrain the number of antenna they can fit in and so forth which affects the top speed for the N & AC versions of Wi-Fi.

Finally, is my take on what everyone is telling me correct?

(1) If we can, USE ETHERNET!

Yes if at all possible. Ethernet is faster and more reliable than the alternatives.

(2) If not, try the wi-fi connection first before using a powerline adaptor?

Since you are being provided a new router for free, you "may as well try it out" for while before parting with money to "fix" a problem which may not be actually exist. Bear in mind, Wi-Fi is an "only one thing at a time can transmit" technology - the more Wi-Fi devices you have, then more data you need those devices to transmit, the more competition there is for "air time" and once the capacity is fully consumed, you get "congestion" (like a road.)

(3) If that is still too slow, add a powerline adaptor and see how that goes?

Here's where the fun starts and the discussion gets a bit nuanced: If you use an alternate (to Wi-Fi) for the link between your "fixed" stuff (TV's, NAS etc.) and your router, beit ethernet or HomePlug, you remove that traffic from the Wi-Fi airwaves thereby leaving more Wi-Fi "air time" available for all the remaining Wi-Fi devices. How much benefit that is depends on traffic levels and congestion etc. as discussed.

(4) USE ETHERNET!
 
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maf1970

Well-known Member
Just out of interest why is using Ethernet cabling not suitable? After all everything is in the same room.
 

nicholson2002

Novice Member
A few reasons.

(1) We don't like cables running around skirting boards, door-frames, etc and the floor is not carpeted.

(2) The celing is not accessible and, in any event, we don't have authority to run wires. It is a high-rise apartment block.

(3) Most importantly, we are planning on moving to another apartment at which time we will certainly review the option of full ethernet cabling.
 

billbirchall

Active Member
I am moving from Sky Fibre to BT Infinity on Tuesday and anm trying to get my act together before then, and wondered whether I could tap into someones greater knowledge.
I read this article
"The initial problem with the router is that BT has used the same SSID network name for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. This means that you've got no control over which network your device joins. As 802.11ac only runs the faster speeds over the 5GHz network (the 2.4GHz part runs at old 802.11n speeds), you're potentially limiting the speed that your devices can connect to the network. The answer is to split the networks and use 5GHz where speed and reliability are required, but use 2.4GHz where you need to go further from the router, as its range is better.

To make this change click on Advanced Settings, Wireless. Click the Separate bands switch and you'll be able to name your 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks separately. The default setting just adds a '-5' to the 5GHz network's name, which should do for most people. Cleverly, the security password is the same for both networks and can only be changed for both"
Is this something that is recommended. How does the router know, which band to use? Any other set up tips would be appreciated.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
There's no right or wrong way to do it (and it's certainly not a "fault" that the ISP's ship routers with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz set to the same SSID name.)

Think of it as being two Wi-Fi AP's contained in a single physical box. One AP serves 2.4GHz frequency band, one AP serves the 5GHz frequency band. (Incidentally with the advantage that both AP's can transmit/receive concurrently with each other without causing interference between them which can improve overall throughput.) Nothing new here - "dual band" AP's/routers have always been like this.

Some of the Wi-Fi protocols (A/B/G/N/AC) are constrained by standards to only operate in a particular waveband. B/G only works in 2.4GHz. A/AC only works in 5Ghz. N can work in either, but it's not required to work in both. These days I'd be surprised if any dual band AP's/Routers did not support N in both waveband concurrently, but way back when, there were some routers that would (despite being dual band) only offer N on one waveband or the other. It's a case of reading your manual I'm afraid. And don't forget that not all client devices support all protocols and both wavebands - though this is getting rarer.

So, back to SSID names. It's your client device that decides which AP to Associatiate with (Wi-Fi speak for "bind to") and when to switch from one AP to another (usually called "roaming.")

With AP's that have "the same" SSID, clients regards them as being "the same" network and may automatically roam between them (whether they be separate physical AP's or two-AP's-in-one-box "dual band" AP's/Routers.) If you have different SSID's then the clients regard them as being "different" networks and will never roam between them until completely loosing connection with the incumbent - no matter how "bad" it gets and how "better" an alternative is available - you have to switch manually.

Incidentally, some clients need the incumbent service to get pretty grotty before initiating a roaming assessment - it's "Big Wi-Fi Myth Number 2" that clients are always "hunting or the best signal."

So the choice is yours - you might care to distribute your clients "nicely" between the wavebands by some criteria of your choosing in which case dissimilar SSID will allow you to make the choice, whereas you might simply not care in which case same SSID might be preferable and let the automation do whatever it wants. (If you set the SSID's the same, note that the client will only list them once.)

When I do big sites with many AP's, I usually offer same SSID in both wavebands on all AP's as most users couldn't care less. But there are plenty of alternate use cases.
 
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billbirchall

Active Member
There's no right or wrong way to do it (and it's certainly not a "fault" that the ISP's ship routers with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz set to the same SSID name.)

Think of it as being two Wi-Fi AP's contained in a single physical box. One AP serves 2.4GHz frequency band, one AP serves the 5GHz frequency band. (Incidentally with the advantage that both AP's can transmit/receive concurrently with each other without causing interference between them which can improve overall throughput.) Nothing new here - "dual band" AP's/routers have always been like this.

Some of the Wi-Fi protocols (A/B/G/N/AC) are constrained by standards to only operate in a particular waveband. B/G only works in 2.4GHz. A/AC only works in 5Ghz. N can work in either, but it's not required to work in both. These days I'd be surprised if any dual band AP's/Routers did not support N in both waveband concurrently, but way back when, there were some routers that would (despite being dual band) only offer N on one waveband or the other. It's a case of reading your manual I'm afraid. And don't forget that not all client devices support all protocols and both wavebands - though this is getting rarer.

So, back to SSID names. It's your client device that decides which AP to Associatiate with (Wi-Fi speak for "bind to") and when to switch from one AP to another (usually called "roaming.")

With AP's that have "the same" SSID, clients regards them as being "the same" network and may automatically roam between them (whether they be separate physical AP's or two-AP's-in-one-box "dual band" AP's/Routers.) If you have different SSID's then the clients regard them as being "different" networks and will never roam between them until completely loosing connection with the incumbent - no matter how "bad" it gets and how "better" an alternative is available - you have to switch manually.

Incidentally, some clients need the incumbent service to get pretty grotty before initiating a roaming assessment - it's "Big Wi-Fi Myth Number 2" that clients are always "hunting or the best signal."

So the choice is yours - you might care to distribute your clients "nicely" between the wavebands by some criteria of your choosing in which case dissimilar SSID will allow you to make the choice, whereas you might simply not care in which case same SSID might be preferable and let the automation do whatever it wants. (If you set the SSID's the same, note that the client will only list them once.)

When I do big sites with many AP's, I usually offer same SSID in both wavebands on all AP's as most users couldn't care less. But there are plenty of alternate use cases.
Hi Mick, thanks for your extremely comprehensive reply. It was much appreciated. However, I should have pointed out that I am a relative newbie in these matters, so although I have got the gist of what you said I need to be clear. My question is, should I go into Advanced settings and split between 2.4 ghz and 5 ghz, is there a positive benefit. The article seems to suggest so but not explain how. If there is a positive benefit, is it automatic or is some manual intervention involved. If the latter, I probably would not proceed, unless it was simple and obvious. I know that I can just leave it on default, but I do not want to have a device that is running in 3rd gear if it could run in top gear!
Thanks for your help.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
OK - here's a bit of a crash course on Wi-Fi fundamentals:

Wi-Fi is two way radio like walkie-talkies, not one way radio like television. All Wi-Fi devices (phone, tablet, computer, printer, router, Access Point, anything that says "Wi-Fi,") are both a receiver and a transmitter. The vast majority of Wi-Fi is deployed using an Access Point and a group of client devices Associated with the AP (there's another version, but it's much rarer.) Each AP and it's group of Associates Wi-Fi clients could be considered a single "cell" (this is a rather inaccurate characterisation, but it will do for the purposes of this explanation/debate.)

There's a Wi-Fi AP built in to a SOHO "Router" but often the terms "AP" and "router" are used interchangeably, though it is also rather inaccurate. This isn't just hair splitting over nomenclature - in data networking an "AP" and a "router" are very different things. The get-you-on-the-Internet omni-box most people have at home that they call a "router" (AKA HomeHub, SuperHub, et al) has a Wi-Fi AP built in along with a load of other stuff.

In each Wi-Fi cell there is a prevailing rule that "only one thing at a time can transmit." The more "things" there are, the more data they need to ship, the more competition there is for some "air time."

For a simple metaphor, think of it in terms of sound - imagine a dinner party with the same rule that "only one person at a time can speak" - the more guests, the more chatty they are, the more air time competition there is and longer any individual conversation between any two given guests will take as everyone's conversation has to be "interlaced" with everyone else. Same for Wi-Fi (except all conversations are client-AP or "guest-host" and never "guest-guest" - "guest-guest" conversations have to be "relayed" through the "host" - "guest-host-guest" as it were.)

How could we improve the "throughput" of the party..?

One way would be to split our diners into two groups and sit them in separate rooms, thereby each "group" (cell) can "speak" concurrently with the other: There's still an "only one person at a time can speak" rule within each group, but now that each group is smaller, the air time competition within each is reduced and because both groups converse independently of each other, and concurrently with each other, the "throughput" of the whole party is increased (roughly doubled.) Though of course there's no reason to split the groups into even numbers - one group could be larger than the other with obvious consequences for the throughput of each group.

We do the same for Wi-Fi. On a big site with hundreds/thousands of users, we split it up into many cells (lot's of AP's.) As you might imagine, it's a bit of a black art having to "guess" how many devices are likely/desirable in each cell and thus how may AP's (cells)) we put up.

Back to my dinner party metaphor - another way we can "split" the party in two is instead of placing two groups in separate rooms with walls (sound barriers) between, instead we do so in the frequency domain. We have one group talk in a high squeaky voice (high frequency - let's call them 5GHz) and one group speak in a low bassy voice (low frequency - let's call the 2.4GHz.) If we arrange our voices and ears to "tune in" to the appropriate frequencies and "tune out" the other, we effectively "cannot hear" the other group (think of bats and people - sorry my metaphor is getting a bit out of hand here.) So we've managed to again split up the party into two groups that can converse concurrently without breaking the "only one person in the group can speak" rule, but without having to physically separate them. Guess what - same for Wi-Fi.

So the "advantage" of naming your 2.4GHz and 5GHz groups differently is that you can elect which group to join in with from your Wi-Fi device. If you name the groups the same (SSID) - you don't get the choice, the device will effectively decides for you (subject to a few rules and protocol compliance.) With same SSID, there are still two "groups" of devices, a 5GHz group and a 2.4GHz group, and each group is "conversing" concurrently with the other - it's just that you've got no choice as to which group you join in with - the client chooses for you.

There are some nuances...

If all my dinner guests decided to join the "5GHz" group, there's no throughput improvement as the whole party is in there just as it was without separate groups. Whereas, if we persuade half the party to join the 2.4Ghz and half the 5GHz group, then we get some throughput improvement overall.

Of course, if your network (party) is rather light on conversation, it'll make little if any difference as there was not much, if any, "air time" competition in the first place. But if there's lot's of traffic, and air time competition becomes a "problem" then splitting up my party into smaller groups can help ease (but not eliminate) the air time contention.

Of course, being complex technology, with real Wi-Fi there's a few "complications." Sometimes you get Hobson's choice over which group to join. As I've mentioned, certain Wi-Fi protocols only work in certain frequencies, so you have no choice as to which group you join. So try as hard as you might, a B/G Wi-Fi client device will only ever join the 2.4GHz group as such as device cannot "hear" and "speak" 5Ghz. Vice verse for A/AC devices (though A/AC (5GHz) "only" devices are practically unheard of.)

So some people like to try and "distribute" their client devices between the wavebands (groups.) For example, high speed data hungry devices like video units in the 5GHz band, (protocol, coverage, etc. permitting) and low speed devices in the low band. There's plenty of use cases one can think of.

To be able to select which client goes in which group, you need to name the SSID's differently for each waveband. If not and they are both named the same, then the clients will automatically choose which group to join using criteria established by the devices designer (how to choose is not mandated in standards.) Often they try to get the "fastest" they can, and fall down to slower (older) protocols if they can't get a faster one.

Most people can't be bothered with the "faff" of choosing themselves, so ISP kit tends to ship with SSID's the same and rely on automation to make the choice. But that may not lead to the "ideal" distribution of client devices between the wavebands, so some people like to control it themselves.

I'm going to be offline for a while, but post back if you want further discussion - if I don't pick it up, there's others here that know this stuff and will doubtless continue the discussion.
 
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billbirchall

Active Member
Mick All I can say is Wow!! If you are not already a Lecturer, then you certainly could be. The skill is to break down a complex process and explain it in a way that a layman can understand. You have done that superbly. I will give segregation a go. Thanks for your help, it was considerable and I am fortunate that I got you to respond. Bill
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Thank you for your kind words.

You are not the first to suggest I become a teacher! Ironically, whilst I tend to think of myself as a "corporate" IT professional, I've spent most of the last 20 years working in Universities and schools. Occasionally, I used to run a few classes for the IT staff, but I don't think I'd have the patience to do it full time. :D

Good luck - you might care to experiment a bit and see what regime (distribution of your clients) works best for you.
 

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