WiFi mesh assistance

Paul Simons

Active Member
Hi,

I'm looking for some advice on the technology.

I currently have sky broadband which is just high-speed but will be getting fibre to the house as living in an area that it has been set up ready for. In finding living in an old bricked terraced house the WiFi isn't the best and have network dropping out.

I'm not up with all this technology and confuses me with all the various technology etc.

I have sky broadband router upstairs back bedroom where the Internet cones into the house which I've wired to the main sky Box at the front bedroom of the house.

I'm confused over what will improve signal for downstairs
Should I get a 3rd party router instead of using skys
Should I get a WiFi mesh system
Tplink e4, m4, p4 s4 x20, x68, which of these is any good or the best to future proof I'd think about getting 3 to put them around the house.

I'd like to get something to future proof my connections and usage in the future I have the following connecting
1. Hifi amp and main sky box and blu ray for 4k streaming of films, tv
2. Xbox series x gaming
3. Hive
4.Sone Phillips bulbs and kasa plugs
5. Spare sky mini upstairs
6. 2 spare sky mini boxes downstairs
7. Possible smart lights for back garden
8. Mobile and laptop

Any help and advice much appreciated, thanks
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
There's no such thing as "Wi-Fi Signal" as if it's some energy field permeating the ether like The Force or Ley Lines or whatever. Wi-Fi works like sound, only using radio waves instead of audio waves. Wi-Fi is a two-way "conversation" between communicating entities like walkie-talkies, not a one-way "lecture" like television. I talk, you listen, you talk I listen - only with more parties involved in the conversation. In order to not stomp over each others conversations, there's a rule that "only one thing at a time can transmit." The more "things" there are, the more data they wish to transmit, the competition (it's anything but fair) there is for the available "air time."

Because there's no "Wi-Fi Signal" there's no signal to "drop out." Wi-Fi is a very complex protocol and there's many reasons why a client device might loose connection. It's just as likely it's the client device that "gives up" as the Access Point. For example, in a terraced house it could easily be due to bleed through fro the neighbours (again think of it in terms of sound - next door have a row or practising the drums might drown out your TV.)

All Wi-Fi is availed by "Access Points" (AP's) not "routers." This isn't just hair splitting over nomenclature, in the field of data networking a "router" and an AP are very different things. It just happens that both get built into the "get-you-on-the-Internet" omni-box we have at home.

And my last myth to bust - if you choose not to use your ISP supplier routers Wi-Fi, you do not need to put said router into "modem mode" (if it has one, not all do.) "Modem mode" is for addressing other issues, not fixing Wi-Fi problems. If you don't want to use your router's in built Wi-Fi AP, just turn off the radio - it's rarely more than a couple of clicks - and leave everything else running.

In large sites, sites with large numbers of client devices and/or places with difficult signalling conditions, we deploy multiple AP's to create a "cellular" coverage pattern. Sometimes this is to improve signalling conditions by effectively having AP and clients closer to each other, sometimes it's to address performance by reducing air-time contention, often a bit of both.

There's nothing particularly "magic" about a so-called "mesh" system. It's just a fleet of AP's like an other, using the same Wi-Fi standards and signalling (though there's a few available at time of writing.). In SOHO products probably with a single management platform and a few software tricks that "managed" enterprise systems have had forever now being sold into the SOHO market.

Some "mesh" systems can establish the "backhaul" link between the AP's and/or the rest of the (wired) network also using Wi-Fi, some can tunnel it over the mains electricity circuit using Powerline/HomePlug technology and some can do it using "proper" wired ethernet links. The latter is by far the best (fastest and most reliable) option if possible. To know for sure which of these technologies any given "mesh" system offers, you need to check the specification carefully.

There's no problem deploying a "mesh" system or even just multiple stand alone Wi-Fi AP's downstream of your router. You could either leave the ISP routers Wi-Fi active (though it won't participate in any of the "good" stuff mesh systems tend to offer such as client steering and faster roaming hand offs) or you could turn the ISP routers Wi-Fi off and just use "something else" ("mesh" or otherwise) for Wi-Fi and hook that up to your router.

I would not over think this until you have your new service installed. There's a bit of an Internet Myth that all ISP routers are somehow "poor" and must be replaced. But I bet there's literally millions of people using what their ISP supplied just fine. So I would advise to plan for the worst, but hope for best. Get your new kit in and try it for a month or two and see how you get on. If it's all fine, no need to waste money on something else.

But in the mean time, we can help you plan where to put multiple AP's (there's a few "rookie" mistakes to watch out for) and think about how you intend to establish the backhaul links between any AP's which may thence inform which is the best system for your needs. If you have money to spare and domestic harmony and DIY skills do not preclude, installing some "proper" wired ethernet links is by far the best option for backhaul links. Indeed, it's the best options for anything that does not move and/or needs fast responsive networking eg your XBox, PC, TV, etc. The more we can get off the Wi-Fi airwaves, the more air time it frees for the remaining Wi-Fi devices.

It's also worth contemplating how you intend to get power to the AP's. A technology called Power Over Ethernet (POE) is the neatest and simplest as it delivers power down the data (ethernet) cables. Which again informs what system yo might buy and what you would use to inject the POE - either dedicated injectors or a POE capable ethetnet switch. Though "wall wart" PSU's and separate power cables is still an option on some kit.
 
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Paul Simons

Active Member
Thanks for the information, unfortunately this has confused me even more.

I have the following currently set up.
Sky broadband using their broadband router located at back of the house by the phone socket

This is hard wired to hive, Phillips hue and then hard wire network cable to the front of the house for my xbox, hifi amp, sky main box, blu Ray.

I'm looking at the upgrading the speed to fibre to the home but the router is the newest they provide.

The nest system would be to connect the remaining upstairs sky mini, and the downstairs laptop for work and gaming, 2 sky mini, and various smart bulbs throughout downstairs and the garden.
This is why I was asking about what router would be best and the mesh system was looking at tp link deco systems
 

oneman

Well-known Member
Hard wire as much of the high demand equipment as possible, PC, TV, game consoles, etc

Most of the mesh systems come with a built in router however they don't all have same modem capabilities so depending on how your broadband is delivered then you will still need a modem or in the case of Fibre a ONT (the box the fibre cable will plug into, it will have Ethernet as output). The mesh base unit has the router function and will plug into the ONT and provide router and WiFi functions. If you can hard wire the extension units that would be useful.

Nest has pretty good ratings as does the Deco. They both provide enough routing functions for most home users and decent WiFi coverage.
 

Paul Simons

Active Member
Thanks I have hard wired my main sky, xbox and boy Ray and amp via a 5 port switch as all this is upstairs but to reach the sky minis downstairs and my laptop in unable. Any suggestions on the best deco systems to get as been looking at the p4, s4, m4 and noticing the new x20 and x68
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Thanks for the information, unfortunately this has confused me even more.

I agree, it's a lot to take in all at once (and this is very much a highly abridged version of the truth.) But take it piece and it should all make sense. Unfortunately, there's a lot of Internet Myths out there, particularly about Wi-Fi, worth busting so that you end up in place where you are a better informed and will essential make the best decisions for yourself rather than relying on someone telling you to "go buy magic box X - it's top."

Thusly, with the background knowledge in place, it's easier to then accept some simpler statements that might contradict what you've read elsewhere and hopefully you can understand why we say such things: E.G:

"Modem mode" is not for fixing Wi-Fi problems. Ignore anyone telling you to "fix" Wi-Fi coverage by "putting our router into modem mode and buying something else."

If you are buying a new Internet Service, the ISP will almost certainly be supplying you with a "router" that has enough capacity to cope with the speed of the service you are buying and will probably be optimised to work best with their equipment upstream in the telephone Exchange. Try it before you decide you need something else.

99% of the time when people are moaning about an ISP router, they are moaning about Wi-Fi, not any of the dozens of other things a SOHO router does (take a look at the block diagram attached to the "Using Two Routers Together" FAQ pinned in this forum.) Generally the router will be acquitting "everything else." just fine, so there' no reason not to continue using it. We "just" need to fix the Wi-Fi coverage.

Buying a new router to "fix" a Wi-Fi problem would be like buying a new car because you don't like the stereo in the one you have. Quit literally throwing baby out with the bathwater. If you don't like the stereo, just change the stereo, no need to replace everything else.
 

Paul Simons

Active Member
OK, so if I leave the sky broadband router as it is how can I get better WiFi coverage. As upstairs is fine downstairs I get little signal in the front of the house so when I use my laptop and the sky mini I can get timescale the siggnal totally drops out. In the back of the house basically under neath the upstairs room where the router is I have none exist ant WiFi coverage. This is where I am now needing it more to power an additional sky mini and also connect some Phillips hue outdoor lights to my Phillips hub.
 

psychopomp1

Member
Buying a new router to "fix" a Wi-Fi problem would be like buying a new car because you don't like the stereo in the one you have. Quit literally throwing baby out with the bathwater. If you don't like the stereo, just change the stereo, no need to replace everything else.
Not really a valid comparison. Since wifi capability on a router is the most important feature for many people and can't easily be changed internally, I would compare it to the engine power/capability on a car. Would you expect people to replace the engine on their car if they wanted something more powerful? No of course not, the sensible thing would be to replace the car.
 

psychopomp1

Member
OP,
Buying a new (better) router will definitely improve your wifi as the Sky router isn't the best for wifi. How much of an improvement, you won't know until you try the new kit so the sensible - and potentially most cost effective solution - is to see how you get on with the new router first. Something like the TP Link VR2800 or VR900 comes highly recommended on Sky by other forum members. Have a look at these threads:


 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
OK, so if I leave the sky broadband router as it is how can I get better WiFi coverage. As upstairs is fine downstairs I get little signal in the front of the house so when I use my laptop and the sky mini I can get timescale the siggnal totally drops out. In the back of the house basically under neath the upstairs room where the router is I have none exist ant WiFi coverage. This is where I am now needing it more to power an additional sky mini and also connect some Phillips hue outdoor lights to my Phillips hub.

Deploying additional AP's is by far the best way to improve Wi-Fi coverage. The "trick/challenge" is how one established the "backhaul" link between the outpost AP's and the rest of the (wired) network.

"Proper" UTP network cabling carrying ethernet is the best option; fastest and most reliable. If that's not possible the next best is probably something like Powerline/Homeplug techology which tunnels over the domestic mains electricity circuit. Some have HomePlug and Wi-Fi combined in a single unit. However, their performance is highly dependent on the quality of your mains electrical environment - some report excellent results, some dreadful and everything in-between. If you opt for HomePlugs, received wisdom is to buy from somewhere with a good returns policy in case they suck in your locale. We can also backhaul using Wi-Fi with things like "repeaters" (also given names like "extenders" and "boosters.") However, they have performance impacts and the positioning is important in that they need to be "in range" of good signalling conditions of the base router/AP and to coverage hole.

If you are new to HomePlugs and they are of interest, there's an FAQ about them pinned in this forum.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Not really a valid comparison. Since wifi capability on a router is the most important feature for many people and can't easily be changed internally, I would compare it to the engine power/capability on a car. Would you expect people to replace the engine on their car if they wanted something more powerful? No of course not, the sensible thing would be to replace the car.
I choose the analogy of a car stereo because a car stereo is very much and ancillary function to a car being a car whereas as the engine (brakes, gearbox and anything else you might care to select as an exemplar) is fundamental to a car functioning as a car.

Despite any perceptions of the user base and armchair experts, the most important function of a SOHO router is routing traffic to/from the Internet via their ISP. Availing Wi-Fi is a secondary feature. When domestic "routers" were first introduced to the market and Wi-Fi had yet to take off, such routers did not include AP's at all and they were still perfectly good "routers." Very soon afterwards Wi-Fi took off and the vendors started packaging AP's in their "routers" as we know them now.

Back then, a few of us in these parts argued that they should not be called "routers" as they are to hell and back different from what data networking professional call a router which I suspect is where all the Super/Home/Smart-Hub nomenclature comes from.

I would agree, that if a car engine isn't powerful enough, then I'd advise people buy a new car. But if the (routing) engine is working just fine, I would not advise people to replace a whole car because they don't like the stereo (or colour, cup holders, curry hooks, satnav, or whatever.) There's also the risk that the replacement may not be any better and could even be worse. Plus you are advocating users undergo all the hassle if a router change (IP addresssing and all that) when it's just not necessary to "fix" a Wi-Fi coverage issues.

Wi-Fi transmit power is limited by law and most kit is, and always has been, at or close to the permitted max. It's so ubiquitous (20/23dBm) that most vendor don't even bother to cite it in the datasheets. Of course, there's some clever stuff done with phased antenna arrays and all that, but guess what, some ISP routers do that too. Though they do tend to skimp on the number of radio chains. There's no "magic" uber-router out there with "much better signal" than everyone else. If there were, we'd all be buying them. Even if there were (clever antenna notwithstanding,) a "more powerful router" only "fixes" the transmissions from router--->client, it does nothing to address the transmission router<---client. Additional AP's in the coverage holes does.
 

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