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Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

Baldrick1
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Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

In answering other posts I have been giving the options some consideration and for better or worse decided to post my thoughts here.

There are currently four ways of improving the distribution of Wi-Fi around properties, each has its strengths and weaknesses. These are:

  1. Ethernet cable.
  2. Powerline converters.
  3. Wireless extenders.
  4. Wireless Mesh Units.

Taking each in turn:

Ethernet cable.

By far the cheapest and most reliable method of getting the best possible distribution of data. Most router Ethernet ports are capable of data rates of up to 1Gbps (1000 Mbps). This speed can be connected to remote equipment with CAT5E cable lengths anything up to 100m so is more than enough for the vast majority of properties. Higher spec cable (CAT 6 and 7) are available but tend to be bulkier and rarely justified. There are two options here:

  1. All lengths of ready terminated cable are available from on line retailers. This can be hidden under carpets, tacked to skirting boards etc.
  2. With simple DIY skills it is practicable to buy lengths of unterminated cable and install it in a much more professional manner. As the cable is around 5mm diameter it is easy to drill through walls end hide the cable from sight. For example, I have cable runs that passes through built in wardrobes into the loft across the loft down through another built in wardrobe, through the ceiling down the back or a built in oven housing in the kitchen then through the wall into the hall where the Hub lives. Remember cable is cheap and as long as the length is less than 100m then circuitous routes are not an issue, it’s just a case of how much time and effort is put into hiding cable runs. Whilst plugs can be fitted to this cable it is much neater to fix a wall box and wire the cable to a socket. This can then be connected to devices with a short patch lead.

If Wi-Fi is required at the remote location then a Wireless Access Point can be located at the far end of the cable. These generally also include an Ethernet switch so that Ethernet can also be distributed from this point.

Powerline Converters.

These impose the Ethernet data onto the mains supply and distribute the data via the mains cabling. Due to background noise, the condition of mains wiring and the way the mains wire is distributed from the Consumer Unit can affect how well these work. This post gives an example of how these can perform in one particular property:  https://community.plus.net/t5/Tech-Help-Software-Hardware-etc/Powerline-Unit-Performance/m-p/1607450...

If these are used the password should be changed from the default. It is not unknown for neighbours to also have these devices with the same default password leading to cross connections.

If Wi-Fi is required at the remote location then there are Powerline devices with a remote unit that includes a wireless unit.

Wireless Extenders  

This is a cheap and cheerful way of getting some improvement. When fitting these it is essential that there is a good wireless connection with the main router else their effectiveness is greatly diminished.

Wireless Mesh Units

With all wireless extenders it is normal practice for the router and remote unit to have different SSIDs in order to stop interference between the two wireless networks. This can be a great disadvantage with portable devices as they are moved between the best ranges of a wireless unit, frequently not automatically switching over to the better signal.

Mesh systems are the latest answer to this. They all transmit the same synchronised SSID so automatically connect to the strongest wireless signal. These however can suffer from the same problem as Wi-Fi extenders in that if there is a poor connection between say the base unit, which may either be a unit connected to the router or built into the router, and the next remote unit in the chain then wireless performance will be degraded. This can be rectified in many systems via an enhancement whereby the wireless units can be interconnected via an Ethernet cable ‘back haul’.

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6 REPLIES 6
Nick100
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Re: Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

Thanks for that useful summary of options.

I have just started with a plusnet hub 2 and have the same problem.

Previously I had a reasonable Wifi coverage using BT anywhere. I have a hardwired network with plenty of ethernet sockets and added 3 BT wifi discs to get coverage. Unfortunately the BT discs don't seem to want to work with the plusnet hub 2.

Is there a particular MESH device that you would recommend to connect to a wired network, that are compatible with the plusnet hub 2?   

Townman
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Re: Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

@Baldrick1 

A really useful article (only just seen it due @Nick100 's comment!).

Ethernet wiring around the house - in many properties with plaster board on blobs, the cables can be dropped behind the plasterboard.  I did that for all of my phone extensions and TV aerial drops.  Not yet motivated to do similar for a data network.

WiFi extenders - is there a necessity for these to have separate SSIDs or is it just the way they set up as default?  It would be worth mentioning that these will rarely fulfil expectations as they need to use the WiFi bandwidth to "relay" traffic, effectively halving the WiFi speed.

WiFi AP - (either ethernet or Powerline connected) - I have remote WAPs and use the same SSID on everything so as to provide seamless roaming.  This can both work and be tricky, especially of the connected device has too much (or too little) "stickability" (Roaming Aggressiveness) to a WiFi SSID.  Another key distinction of APs over extenders is that APs generally act as routers providing a sub-network and DHCP service, which might keep local traffic off the back haul ... but that is getting a bit complex!

WiFi Mesh - what sets these apart from a collection of remote WAPs and specifically if using WiFi for the back haul a collection of inefficient WiFi extenders?

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Baldrick1
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Re: Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

@Townman 

I suspect that whether you can or cannot use the same SSID for extenders and WAPs are entirely dependant on the connected devices. If you can move seamlessly around a property with the same SSID it throws up another thought as to whether the two devices should use the same or different wireless channels? Back in 2020 when I produced the above post I felt that using separate SSIDs were the safest solution. I don’t know if the ‘stickiness’ is influenced by the SSID being the same or the channels used by the two devices? If they both have the same SSID and use the same wireless channel does that confuse devices?

 This begs the question as to whether it is worth the cost of mesh if simple extenders give seamless performance, unless of course that the mesh backhaul effectively doubles the bandwidth? 
I confess I know very little about how mesh works. Does the backhaul need the same bandwidth as the ‘forward path’  (does it have a name?)? If so these mesh devices that use Powerline for the backhaul could be vulnerable to different circuit issues.

My current thinking is that the best solution for wireless at FTTP speed is mesh with an Ethernet backhaul.

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Townman
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Re: Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

Certainly the use of ethernet back haul leaves the full Wi-Fi bandwidth available for end-device to router connectivity, unshared with WiFi AP to router back haul necessity.

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Baldrick1
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Re: Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

@Nick100 

Sorry for getting diverted from your question. The Plusnet hub cannot be used as part of a mesh. If you are on fibre or fibre extra FTTC then you can set the Hub 2 to bridge modem mode and use it with any mesh router that allows a PPPoE connection. You will probably get as many recommendations as answered as that is about all. Alternatively you can use the Hub 2 as is with simply a mesh add on setup. I believe that BT sell a good value product that simply plugs in to one of the hub LAN sockets.

If you are on FTTP full fibre then you do not need a Hub 2. Simply buy a mesh router.

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Baldrick1
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Re: Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

@Townman 

I also assume that the Ethernet backhaul removes the need for there be a wireless connection between satellites.

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