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Distributing Data around Larger Properties.

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Registered: ‎30-06-2016

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:

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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