WiFi Coverage

AVBeginner

Active Member
Hi all, after some help if possible please. Forgive me if the answer is really obvious.

I want to improve WiFi coverage around the house.

Current arrangement is:
  • Virgin Media Hub set to Modem mode
  • Netgear Nighthawk (R7000)AC1900 Router
  • CAT6 Wired Ethernet throughout the home.

Anything connected on Ethernet or in close proximity to the Router is fine, and will receive the full internet connection speed (200MBps), but the WiFi signal drops off and speeds reduce in other parts of the house.

Options as I understand them;

a) Replace the router with something better and hope that gives better coverage
b) Wireless Access Point(s)
c) Both a and b
d) replace the whole lot with a fancy mesh system?

Any thoughts please? Which option, and if possible what equipment?
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
a) No such thing - they are all much of a muchness and it's a complete gamble (you could end up with something worse.)
b) Every time.
c) Unnecessary.
d) Might be a good option.

"Routing" and "Wi-Fi" are nothing to do with each other. It just happens that the typical SOHO "get-you-on-the-Internet" onmi-box contains both and much more besides. (There's a block diagram of one attached to the the "Using Two Routers Together" FAQ pinned in this forum.)

So you do not need to change routers to address Wi-Fi coverage issues unless you insist on having only a single device that "does everything." (There's other caveats, but I'll omit them for brevity.)

There are no "magic" routers out there with "much better signal" than everyone else's, despite the marketing hype of the vendors - if there were, we'd all be buying them. Wi-Fi transmit power is limited by law and most kit is, and always has been, transmitting at or very near the permitted max. (It is deliberately weak by design.)

Almost always the solutions to Wi-Fi coverage or signalling issues is to get the communicating peers closer together with fewer obstructions. Since taking down the walls or asking everyone to go sit near the router is inconvenient, the solution is to deploy additional Wi-Fi Access Points (AP's) closer to where the clients are - ideally with unobstructed line of sight - creating a "cellular" coverage pattern. On big site we put up hundreds.

The "trick" with mutiple AP's is how one establishes the "backhaul" link between the outpost AP's and the rest of the (wired) network. By far the best backhaul (fastest and most reliable) is achieved using "proper" wired ethernet. Backhaul is also possible using technology such as HomePlugs, MOCA, and Wi-Fi itself, but they each have their own vices which can effect performance and reliability.

If you already have wired ethernet in situ, then it's a complete no brainer that you want to hang some additional AP's on the ends of it.

"Mesh" has no useful definition, it's more of a marketing term than anything. Some "mesh" systems can use wired backhaul, some cannot, so you need to check the specs. carefully. Some mesh systems have a "Primary" node which essentially replaces your router, but that's wholly unnecessary in your scenario and ideally you'd look for a mesh system where you can turn that feature off (sometimes it's called things like "Bridge" mode or "AP" mode.) Some mesh systems do useful stuff like pre-staging the roaming hand off, steering clients towards the "best" AP and giving you a single management platform. Again, check the specs carefully.

For an almost greenfield state where you know you will need multiple AP's, then a "mesh" or "whole home" system would seem like a good idea. But check the specs; top of my shopping list will be ability to use wired ethenet backhaul.

Such a mesh system will almost certainly not "integrate" with the AP built into (either of) your existing routers. You could either run them side by side, or turn off the routers Wi-Fi and solely use the mesh AP's system for Wi-Fi. In which case, unless the Nighthawk is doing "something else" you need, you may as well get rid of it, turn your VM router back into a router and disable the VM's Wi-Fi if you don't want to use it. Since the Nighthawk is fairly new at a time of posting, you may get a decent price selling it on which could mitigate the cost of your new fleet of AP's a bit.

Where to deploy the AP's is a conversation we can get into.
 
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ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
As well as Mick's as ever comprehensive post things to consider is, do you really need the full 200Mbps to each client?

I would argue other than software downloads for most mobile devices they are not going to use anything like that bandwidth.

So WiFi dead spots, yes that is something that you clearly need to address and making sure multiple clients can do what they want in the same room is too. However, getting every room to get 200Mbps though is achievable but at what cost?

Mesh systems tend to vary a lot in speeds, particularly as the lower end ones struggle with keeping up with FTTP and Cable BB speeds. So definitely wire them up using ethernet as the backhaul.

I am a fan of UniFi access points which although technically isn't sold as a mesh gives the same end results, it is not as plug and pray as some of these other systems.
 
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AVBeginner

Active Member
a) No such thing - they are all much of a muchness and it's a complete gamble (you could end up with something worse.)
b) Every time.
c) Unnecessary.
d) Might be a good option.

"Routing" and "Wi-Fi" are nothing to do with each other. It just happens that the typical SOHO "get-you-on-the-Internet" onmi-box contains both and much more besides. (There's a block diagram of one attached to the the "Using Two Routers Together" FAQ pinned in this forum.)

So you do not need to change routers to address Wi-Fi coverage issues unless you insist on having only a single device that "does everything." (There's other caveats, but I'll omit them for brevity.)

There are no "magic" routers out there with "much better signal" than everyone else's, despite the marketing hype of the vendors - if there were, we'd all be buying them. Wi-Fi transmit power is limited by law and most kit is, and always has been, transmitting at or very near the permitted max. (It is deliberately weak by design.)

Almost always the solutions to Wi-Fi coverage or signalling issues is to get the communicating peers closer together with fewer obstructions. Since taking down the walls or asking everyone to go sit near the router is inconvenient, the solution is to deploy additional Wi-Fi Access Points (AP's) closer to where the clients are - ideally with unobstructed line of sight - creating a "cellular" coverage pattern. On big site we put up hundreds.

The "trick" with mutiple AP's is how one establishes the "backhaul" link between the outpost AP's and the rest of the (wired) network. By far the best backhaul (fastest and most reliable) is achieved using "proper" wired ethernet. Backhaul is also possible using technology such as HomePlugs, MOCA, and Wi-Fi itself, but they each have their own vices which can effect performance and reliability.

If you already have wired ethernet in situ, then it's a complete no brainer that you want to hang some additional AP's on the ends of it.

"Mesh" has no useful definition, it's more of a marketing term than anything. Some "mesh" systems can use wired backhaul, some cannot, so you need to check the specs. carefully. Some mesh systems have a "Primary" node which essentially replaces your router, but that's wholly unnecessary in your scenario and ideally you'd look for a mesh system where you can turn that feature off (sometimes it's called things like "Bridge" mode or "AP" mode.) Some mesh systems do useful stuff like pre-staging the roaming hand off, steering clients towards the "best" AP and giving you a single management platform. Again, check the specs carefully.

For an almost greenfield state where you know you will need multiple AP's, then a "mesh" or "whole home" system would seem like a good idea. But check the specs; top of my shopping list will be ability to use wired ethenet backhaul.

Such a mesh system will almost certainly not "integrate" with the AP built into (either of) your existing routers. You could either run them side by side, or turn off the routers Wi-Fi and solely use the mesh AP's system for Wi-Fi. In which case, unless the Nighthawk is doing "something else" you need, you may as well get rid of it, turn your VM router back into a router and disable the VM's Wi-Fi if you don't want to use it. Since the Nighthawk is fairly new at a time of posting, you may get a decent price selling it on which could mitigate the cost of your new fleet of AP's a bit.

Where to deploy the AP's is a conversation we can get into.

Thanks for the comprehensive reply.
It sounds like I’m after a couple of WiFi access points which utilise the Ethernet wired backhaul.

Do you have any recommendations which would integrate well and maximise the coverage and speed of the connection?

If not a recommendation, would you mind posting up some examples so I know what I’m looking for?
 
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ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
Ideally you want one system vendor whether it is a Mesh or something like UniFi for the WiFi network. That way the network or mesh controller knows what all the clients are doing. If you leave WiFi on the router then that doesn't happen and you can get mixed results.

The end device is responsible for which networks it connects to, though the better mesh and ones like UniFi can encourage them to say look please use this AP because it is closer to you.

What type of house do you have? As that would have a big impact on the choice of locations, do you have a floor plan for example.

Other options include moving the router to nearer the middle of the house because that might give you the coverage you need.

Otherwise, something like a pair or three of Unifi AC-Lites as the new one is WiFi 6 (this is pretty new so is available on their EU Store at the moment)


or the slightly older but still fast enough for your needs (at £70 each)

Amazon product
 
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AVBeginner

Active Member
The virgin media hub (currently only used as a modem) can only be located where the VM connection comes into the house. I’ve sited the Nighthawk next to it.
Unsurprisingly the rooms with poor coverage are those furthest away.

If I understand correctly, I can simply add an access point (like the Wifi6 unifi unit) to any of the wired Ethernet points (there are a couple in every room).

Additionally (preferably?) I could switch the VM hub back to router mode and lose the nighthawk (it was only there because the VM hub WiFi was rubbish).

Is that right?
 
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mickevh

Distinguished Member
Is that right?

Yes, either way will work. I'd probably favour the latter depending on the layout of the building. As @ChuckMountain say - a floor plan would be useful to see. It doesn't need to be pretty.

I don't recommend kit on the basis I don't see enough of it, let alone test it, to have an informed opinion. Ubiquiti has been well spoken of here for a while and the spec. seems good for the money.

Don't forget to factor in how you provide power to the AP's - either a dedicated wire or something called "Power Over Ethernet" which supplies power over the ethernet cables. At the SOHO end of the market often individual AP's come supplied with POE Injectors, but it's something to check for as if they don't, you need to budget for them or a POE ethernet switch.
 
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ChuckMountain

Distinguished Member
If I understand correctly, I can simply add an access point (like the Wifi6 unifi unit) to any of the wired Ethernet points (there are a couple in every room).

Additionally (preferably?) I could switch the VM hub back to router mode and lose the nighthawk (it was only there because the VM hub WiFi was rubbish).

Yes you can add access points but you need to consider how everything is going to communicate.

Typically on a mesh or managed WiFi network all the Access Points will use the same network name (SSID) so that the client device will happily connect to whichever one is normally closest when it is turned on or enters the building if you have been out. However, as you wonder round the house it might still be connected to the first one. By having something managing the network it can try to encourage the client to go to the more appropriate AP.

If you have different SSIDs on each AP then the client will try and stay on the first one until it drops off completely. It thinks different SSIDs are different networks and is therefore reluctant to change.

If the VM Router does everything you need it to do save WiFi, then yes. Replacement routers often have a lot more functionality built into them.
 
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AVBeginner

Active Member
Screenshot 2021-03-13 at 20.39.17.png
 
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mushii

Distinguished Member
I just finished an install today for a 5 bed refurb. Talk Talk router, Ubiquiti US 8 60 PoE switch, 3 AC Lites (cabled) and a Cloud Key. This delivers full rate WiFi throughout the house and I can manage everything remotely via the cloud key. Total investment under £500. About similar price to a high end domestic router but with much better WiFi performance.
 
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mickevh

Distinguished Member
I'm not sure two AP's is going to cut with your building layout - so many of the habitable spaces are separated by multiple walls and distance.

It may be worth deciding what you priorities are:

1) Prioritise which rooms need to have the "best" service, which less so good, which don't care.
2) Is money no object or are you working to a budget that dictates the number of AP's you can afford.
3) Which room typically have most Wi-Fi devices in them (don't forget all the smartphones.)
4) How many cable lobes are available (if not you may need some additional switches.)
5) How many spare switch ports do you have.

BTW - are you sure of your switch model number - I can't find a D-Link-121; 1210 is the closest match I'm finding.

I note the master bedroom has no cable ports.

Wi-Fi works best with unobstructed line of sight. Whilst it certainly can penetrate some amount of physical structure, it's always going to be "less good" if it has to do so.
 
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AVBeginner

Active Member
The immediate issue I want to fix is the coverage in the Family Room/Kitchen. It has the slowest connection and yet the most wireless devices. I have a few spare lobes (connections in the wall plate) there. Because the master bedroom is directly above I'm hoping that would be partially improved too.
The lounge is next important, but not far behind, and the coverage there is already good.

I'd like to adjust the system now to fix the family room/kitchen, while allowing for some future upgrades too - I can imagine I will need to improve Bedrooms 2 and 3 at some point, and they have a couple of spare lobes each too.

The switch is a D-Link DGS-1210-24 (my mistake). Most of the ports on the switch are taken up providing connection to the various rooms, but a lot of the lobes in the rooms themselves are unused. I have thought about upgrading this to a PoE switch anyway (for future CCTV) so if now is the right time, such that I can add APs without having PoE injectors, that would be ok.

I'm not on a fixed budget as such. I don't want to break the bank but I do generally like to fix things once and do it properly if you know what I mean.
 
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mushii

Distinguished Member
Popped back to my install this morning to hang some TVs and install some SkyQ boxes. Wifi is sitting pretty and the TVs are wirelessly connected to the network.

Looking at your layout, I think that 3 APs would nail it in your house. One in the Kitchen, one in the family room and one in the lounge. Ceiling mounted APs, such as Ubiquiti AC Lites would push wifi into the rooms above and provide a good spread of wifi. I appreciate that you may not want the aggravation of ceiling mounting APs but I feel that the extra effort would pay dividends.
 
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mickevh

Distinguished Member
I'd concur with the others. Suck it and and see for a while and if it's not helping on the first floor, then later on down the line you could look at adding some more AP's there if need be.

A POE switch is certainly a neat solution for providing the power. Alternates are separate individual POE injectors or you can get a "ganged" rack mounted POE injector unit which has the advantage of only needing a single mains socket if you don't want to replace your switch. Functionally, these options are all the same so it's a value and aesthetic judgement as to which you prefer. If you go for add on POE injectors (whether individual or ganged) don't forget to factor whether you have the space to mount them and the additional patch-cords required and additional mains socket(s.) A rip-and-replace of you incumbent switch with a POE one would save you that hassle of course. Though watch out that a replacement switch will "fit" physically wherever you have it mounted - sometimes POE switches are a bit "deeper."
 
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mushii

Distinguished Member
The little Ubiquiti US-8-60W is a small 8 port desktop switch with 4 POE 802.3af ports that supply a max of 60watts. Its an ideal little switch to power 3 APs and a cloud key via POE with 3 spare ports and and one to connect to router / other switch. Its about £100 inc but for a small tidy install it works nicely. It keeps the patch cabling tidy and only requires a single socket compared to needing 5 for a non POE solution (4 POE injectors and the switch itself). When you are only using a small 6u or 8u cabinet, space is already at a premium when 1 U is Patch panel, 1 u is a PDU and 1 U is a shelf. Keeping your cabling tidy and simple makes it easier to both install and manage (I am not one of those obsessive people who need 10cm patch cables all neatly lined up, with patch ports aligning with switch ports, I like tidy working comms cabs, not nerd porn).
 
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AVBeginner

Active Member
Ok so I think I'm going to initially go with a couple of UniFi 6 Lite Access Points - one in the Kitchen and one to replace the Netgear Nighthawk in the Lounge (switching back on the VM as a router) - both powered off PoE injectors.

Assuming I can get that to work and it helps with coverage then I can add a third in the family room or potentially on the landing upstairs. I might then swap the switch out to a full 24port PoE switch, as that would be clean up the installation and would be useful in the future (I've run an ethernet connection to the garage so I might drop an AP in there too) and for CCTV.

I'll report back once the APs arrive. Fingers crossed.
 
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AVBeginner

Active Member
Ok, so Ubiquiti hardware arrived today.

Virgin Hub set back to Router mode, wifi disabled, and Ethernet connected back to the switch.
1 off AP powered via PoE injector and also connected via Ethernet to the switch (not direct to the virgin hub - I don't think this should make a difference)
Downloaded the Ubiquiti App on my iPhone, connect to the AP and setup SSIDs etc.

All working fine!

A couple of questions;

- I notice there's a 'transmit power' option which is set to 'Auto' - it has an option to select High/Medium/Low. Should I switch it to High? Any downside?

- Likewise there's a 'Bandwidth' setting with 20/40/80 MHz options (currently set to 20MHz on 2G and 40MHz on 5G) - would changing this have any benefit?

- Currently I'm using the Ubiquiti App on my iPhone. Seems ok. What benefit would I get going to the cloud controller? Or even the DreamMachine. If I'm going to add CCTV at some point does that swing it one way or another?

Next step is to connect another AP and see what that does to coverage.

@mushii @ChuckMountain @mickevh
 
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mushii

Distinguished Member
Firstly, well done for getting this far on your own. Leaving power on auto basically sets both radios to max power. Although this sounds great, in reality it can be problematic. I would knock down 2.4G to low and 5G to Med and see what sort of coverage you get. Let’s take one step at a time, let us know how you go on.
 
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