Modifying my home network

Vortex

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So I need a little help modifying my home networking setup and turning into what I want.

Currently my cable modem, wifi router, and switch that connects my house together are all up on the third floor. I've been using additional wireless AP's on the 2nd and 1st floor to help broadcast the down to the rest of the house, but I've been having issues with phones and computers staying connected over WiFi, presumably because they're not switching AP's properly as I move throughout the house. I'm using WiFi routers set up as simple AP's, not proper mesh systems, and I'm guessing that's the culprit. I've disabled WiFi on the 1st and 3rd floor routers and am only using WiFi on the second floor router in the middle of the house now (nice central location for WiFi) in hopes that resolves my reliability issues.

The WiFi router on the 3rd floor is still there (WiFi turned off) functioning as both the firewall and DHCP server since it sits just behind the cable modem still. I'm curious if I can make the WiFi router on the 2nd floor the one and only device that handles DHCP/Firewall/WiFi to make things a little cleaner. However, I'm not sure if I can do that with my existing wiring setup since there's only one cable available that physically runs between the two. Because of that I can't plug into both the WAN and LAN ports.

Anyway, here's a quick drawing of my current setup...

Network 1.jpg


If I remove the 3rd floor router from the equation, I'm not sure if I can have the 2nd floor router do my network management.

Network 2.jpg


The switch that would plug into the cable modem is a Netgear JGS516PE. It can be a DHCP server too, but I don't think it has a firewall so I'm hesitant to have devices connect to the internet through it. It supports VLAN's, but I've never used them and am not too familiar with it. Would that feature allow me to route my traffic throughout the house into the WiFi router and then through the cable modem somehow?

Is there another way I can pull this off to have the router on the second floor handle my network management?
 

STS-134

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So, you're going to need a setup with a central WiFi controller in order for clients to roam properly between APs. When a client roams from one AP to another (assuming you have the same SSID and passphrase on all of them), it will typically send a 802.11 reassociation frame (as opposed to an 802.11 association frame). In a centrally controlled network, what happens is:
1. The new AP receives the 802.11 reassociation frame
2. The new AP contacts the central controller
3. The central controller tells the old AP to no longer handle traffic for that client; the old AP drops the packets queued for that client and then the central controller sends those packets to the new AP
4. The new AP should use the exact same PTK (pairwise transient key) used by the old AP so that the entire association process and 4 way handshake doesn't have to happen all over again

There should only be a delay of maybe a few milliseconds when switching APs. But if you're running truly separate APs, the process is different:
1. Device sends 802.11 association frame to the new AP
2. The entire association process is done again, which derives a new PTK
3. All of the packets destined for that client are in the old AP. They get dropped. And there's nothing to transfer them to the new AP
4. The switch doesn't even know that the client has moved to a new AP, so it continues sending packets destined for that client (for example that come in over the internet) to the old AP. And it won't know, until the client either sends an ARP or NS frame to the new port on the switch. Only at that point will the switch know that the client has "moved".

This entire process is often long enough that anything that requires continuous connectivity (i.e. VoIP calls) will be dropped.

So yeah, you need a centrally controlled system in order to do this right. Usually this costs $1-2k for the controller and maybe $500-1500 per AP, depending on the brand you're using. And now you know why I only run one AP and just deal with crappy coverage at the back of the master bedroom and in the laundry room/garage. This stuff goes obsolete in 3-5 years with the next generation of WiFi and then you get to do it all over again.
 
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Vortex

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That is definitely expensive. Is that better than a mesh system you can buy for ~$200?

Speaking of stuff going obsolete, I'm also thinking about WiFi 6-E. It's not out yet, but it'd be nice to upgrade to that when it's available if I'm upgrading anyway.
 

SquirrelMaster

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Ubiquiti networks is the more "prosumer" manufacturer of what you're looking for.

Otherwise I think the netgear orbi system will be fine for distributing wifi around the house if you want a easy setup.
 

Vortex

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Ubiquiti networks is the more "prosumer" manufacturer of what you're looking for.

Otherwise I think the netgear orbi system will be fine for distributing wifi around the house if you want a easy setup.
Looking around a bit, I think the ones I'm seeing have the satellites connecting wirelessly. Do they have any that can connect over ethernet? I figure it'd make sense to go ahead and utilizing the wiring I've already run since it's there.
 

STS-134

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That is definitely expensive. Is that better than a mesh system you can buy for ~$200?
I'm not sure what mesh systems cost because I haven't ever looked into them, but with a mesh system, you're running all traffic through one AP. That AP can easily become the bottleneck if you're streaming video in two different rooms, for example. Of course, the other rule that I use for my home network is that every fixed device (devices that don't move) gets plugged into Ethernet, which includes all TVs, desktop computers, Chromecasts, etc. So it's really only the mobile devices (phones, laptops) that use the WiFi.

Speaking of stuff going obsolete, I'm also thinking about WiFi 6-E. It's not out yet, but it'd be nice to upgrade to that when it's available if I'm upgrading anyway.
Yeah, that's the other reason I don't want to buy any new APs right now. 6 GHz WiFi opens up 3 times the spectrum as the existing WiFi.
 

Vortex

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I'm not sure what mesh systems cost because I haven't ever looked into them, but with a mesh system, you're running all traffic through one AP. That AP can easily become the bottleneck if you're streaming video in two different rooms, for example. Of course, the other rule that I use for my home network is that every fixed device (devices that don't move) gets plugged into Ethernet, which includes all TVs, desktop computers, Chromecasts, etc. So it's really only the mobile devices (phones, laptops) that use the WiFi.
Yeah I run wired wherever possible too and prefer it to going wireless. That said, it's become a PITA lately where we can be on our laptops in the bedroom and we both have to plug in just to browse the web without issue.
 

STS-134

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Looking around a bit, it looks like the satellites all connect wirelessly. Do they have any that can connect over ethernet? I figure it'd make sense to go ahead and utilizing the wiring I've already run since it's there.
Well, there's this: https://support.ruckuswireless.com/product_families/19-ruckus-unleashed
@jdong and I discussed this. While I don't use the Unleashed firmware on my AP (Ruckus R710), it appears that it's capable of doing something like a controlled network, at least if the number of clients doesn't exceed 1024 and the number of APs doesn't exceed 50. https://docs.ruckuswireless.com/unleashed/200.7/GUID-D5B7E961-C1B8-4B7C-BB77-807A54A34556.html

Except both of us have been very disappointed with Ruckus on the software side. Hardware wise, they're solid, but their software just...has issues.

In any case, Unleashed does away with the controller and you only have to purchase the APs. You can get R710 APs (802.11ac, WiFi 5) on Ebay right now for as little as ~$200. Perhaps that's something you may want to try, since personally I wouldn't over spend on 802.11ax (WiFi 6) with WiFi 6E just around the corner. The R750 still goes for over $1000 and is almost impossible to find on the secondary market.
 
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SquirrelMaster

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Looking around a bit, I think the ones I'm seeing have the satellites connecting wirelessly. Do they have any that can connect over ethernet? I figure it'd make sense to go ahead and utilizing the wiring I've already run since it's there.
Not too sure about the consumer stuff.

Ubiquiti, meraki, etc. (more professional, more expensive) have accesspoints that are connected and powered over ethernet. I've got a 6 ap setup in my norcal home using ubiquiti and am happy enough with the roaming and coverage. I don't run an external controller (you can install their controller software on a raspberry pie or a NAS).

You basically need access points. Ones with a central controller are good for roaming and handoff, otherwise regular accesspoints will be fine.
 

Vortex

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Sounds like there's not a super clean/affordable way to do it the way I want, plus it's probably not a great idea to upgrade right now with 6E coming out in the near future. Using separate routers for DHCP and WiFi may not be as clean, but I suppose it still gets the job done in practice just the same. I guess I could just wait for 6E routers to come out and swap out my existing WiFi router to boost wireless speeds down the line.
 

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I use a mesh system and I’m really happy with it. Way better than network or wifi extenders.
The only thing I have plugged in is the desk top and I don’t really use that anymore.

You could look into it for what it’s worth. It was way easier to set up as well.
It’s the 3 pack. Might be light for what you might need, but between 4 gaming systems Ring Doorbell and security camera, laptops and cell phones.... it’s been trouble free in the last year of ownership.
 

MurrayB

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I installed a TP-Link Deco mesh system. It has ethernet backhaul between nodes if you like. I have an old house with plaster walls with lath now covers the entire house and the outside. No more dropping connection roaming around the house Wifi calling etc. It is an inexpensive alternative.
 

riseboi

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I'm far from an expert in networking and could be totally wrong, but if you already have wiring from the 16 port switch to the 2nd/1st floor routers, couldn't you just replace them and daisy chain another switch to each floor to maintain ethernet access on each floor? Then, replace the 3rd floor router with a mesh router, and place satellites on the 1st/2nd floor. Wouldn't that allow you to the have just one network (wireless and hardwired)?
 

Vortex

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It looks like the Orbi and Deco could do the trick. Thank you. I’m checking out reviews on YouTube now. :)
 

MurrayB

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Amazon has inexpensive mounts for the wall and ceiling for the Deco. I just sit them on a shelf or on a piece of furniture.
 

jfr0317

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Eero Pro - it's a mesh network that you can use ethernet to connect between units or connect wirelessly or a combination thereof. You can connect an ethernet switch with an ethernet cable to any one of the Eero Pro units in a location where you need it. $399 for three units. Connect one to the cable modem via ethernet. That one will function as the router and DHCP server as well as a wireless access point, and the other two will function as wireless access points. Set your ethernet switch up to NOT function as a DHCP server if possible. Otherwise get an unmanaged (aka dumb) ethernet switch to replace it. All in, less than $500 if you have to replace the switch.
 

Edward4

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It looks like the Orbi and Deco could do the trick. Thank you. I’m checking out reviews on YouTube now. :)
Consumer mesh systems are not that great IMHO. You eat half of your wifi bandwidth backhauling the traffic. Try to only use wired access points.

Also is your modem a modem/router? If so what What model?

I have found that most of the ISP's Modem/router (and sometimes wifi) combination boxes are very problematic.

I've gone to the ubiquity unifi hardware which has separate dedicated router, switch and access points. I find that it handles the handoff between AP's quite well.
 

InsipidMonkey

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FWIW, Ubiquiti has some beta WiFi 6 APs available in their early access store. Probably beyond the scope of the present question, but a good sign Ubiquiti will have WiFi 6 products in the near future.

Screenshot_20200520-212049_Chrome.jpg
 

Vortex

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Consumer mesh systems are not that great IMHO. You eat half of your wifi bandwidth backhauling the traffic. Try to only use wired access points.
Right, that's something I definitely want. Both the Orbi RBK23 and Deco S4 support wired backhauls so check. I'm not sure which one would be better for my use case, but I do like that the Orbi satellites have multiple ethernet ports so I could plug in other devices at the devices. This'd allow me to wire in other devices like Chromecasts that currently are reliant on WiFi.

Also is your modem a modem/router? If so what What model?

I have found that most of the ISP's Modem/router (and sometimes wifi) combination boxes are very problematic.
I use modems only and routers that plug into it. You can see it in the schematics I drew up.
 

jfr0317

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Consumer mesh systems are not that great IMHO. You eat half of your wifi bandwidth backhauling the traffic. Try to only use wired access points.

Also is your modem a modem/router? If so what What model?

I have found that most of the ISP's Modem/router (and sometimes wifi) combination boxes are very problematic.

I've gone to the ubiquity unifi hardware which has separate dedicated router, switch and access points. I find that it handles the handoff between AP's quite well.
Certainly, using wired connections from the router to access points would be preferred if possible, and that is what I use when feasible. I also agree that using ISP-supplied combo modem/routers/wireless access points is problematic. I prefer a stand-alone cable modem and a router connected to a switch that connects via ethernet to all wireless access points and all desired wired clients.

I recommended a mesh system since I gleaned from Vortex's OP that he doesn't have ethernet cabling between floors. He could get around that by using powerline ethernet adapters or MOCA ethernet adapters, but that would add expense along with some potential complications when implementing.
 

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