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Need a Mesh Network Primer and Tutorial (1 Viewer)

David Norman

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I've been running a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Router for the last couple years with Spectrum Broadband with max local speed somewhere above 300 (maybe 1GB is possible now ) though I'm subscribed at 100 for now. 2 story house, woodframe, garage, front/back porch so maybe 4000+ sq feet total to cover (maybe 5000 if I take it off the porches).

I've always loved Netgear equipment, but the last several years their routers have seemed to be afflicted with a reboot issue that nobody has been able to track down or fix. After a stable 1st 6 months or so, it started having a couple reboots daily and eventually up to 4-5 random reboots per day though it still worked great otherwise. I tried new firmware, old firmware, the 'most stable' firmware installed after nuking the unit back to factory setting which helped a little -- back to 1-2 reboots per day. Just a frustrating issue more than anything else and it's been talked about in Netgear forum for year now with little appearance that's it's getting a lot better.

The single Netgear (upstairs about center of the floor) does a pretty good job for most the house though at the very edges it's gets a bit weak (downstairs far BR/back Porch/Garage). I figured if I was going to get a new router I might as well consider a MESH to improve the 1st floor spread. The main Router Upstairs is where the main computer and internet cable/Modem is situated and probably shouldn't change. I think the best placement downstairs could easily sit dead center of the floor plan on top of a cabinet in the Family/Living Room which would be about 15 feet nearly straight down from the Main Router and from there nothing in the house should be more than 50-60 feet from one of the 2 units.

Currently I have wired Cat6 Ethernet running from the Upstairs Netgear to several rooms including the downstairs Family Room -- two 8 port switches upstairs, one 8 port switch downstairs which then connect most of the stuff that stuff that sits still. WiFi connects the rest of the portable stuff and a couple things that don't have ethernet ports (phones, wife's IPAD, newer Laptop). I don't do a lot of streaming, but the Roku and AppleTV and Tivos (rarely ever use their inboard APPS) use a wired connection when needed. All my Thermostats, Lights, Stoves, Refrigerator, Toilets, Appliances are still dumb as rocks and pretty much will stay that way.

I'm looking at a Pair of ASUS AX6100 (RT AX92U) to eventually add WiFi 6 to the mix since it sounds like the late 2020 firmware fixed a most the issues they had been having earlier. The basic setup seems easy enough using a pure WIFI setup, but I'm a bit confused on doing a wired backhaul -- how important is that and exactly how does that fit into the setup. Would I need to run a new ethernet from the Upstairs Asus #1 to the downstairs Asus unit #2 then keep the current Downstairs switch wired as it is now directly connected to Unit #1? Is it possible for the current Ethernet cable to stay directly to the current downstairs switch then connect the switch to Asus Unit #2? Or flip that and run the current Cat 6 Cable directly to the Asus Unit 2, then connect the switch to a LAN port of Unit #2? I really want that downstairs switch to stay active running the current wired equipment.

I think I'm a bit confused about where all the data is running on the highway and which are unidirectional and which is bidirectional

Specifically equipment -- any major advantage to the ASUS Zen over a pair of AX6100. Not worried about aethetics since they'll basically be out of sight anyway.
Any major downsides to ASUS Mesh equipment vs the Google or Amazon versions. Honestly I'd prefer to stay away from those 2 companies for more of my digital data, but that's not carved in stone if there is a reason.
 

DaveF

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All reviews I’ve read so far say WiFi 6 isn’t fully baked and can even perform worse than current WiFi systems.

The basic setup seems easy enough using a pure WIFI setup, but I'm a bit confused on doing a wired backhaul -- how important is that and exactly how does that fit into the setup.
If you have wired Ethernet, do wired backhaul. WiFi mesh with WiFi backhaul is for those who don’t have ethernet (which is most people).

See also:

My growing understanding is that if you have wired Ethernet, you use a Router and Access Points to extend and increase your WiFi network without specifically needing a managed mesh system (a la Eero). But I’ve not done this, and can’t say much smart on it.
 

John Dirk

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While I'm not saying it isn't ideal for certain use cases, generally speaking, I've been underwhelmed with the mesh solutions I've auditioned, including the ultra-expensive Orbi line.

Now that I have that out of the way, concerning your specific situation.

I'm looking at a Pair of ASUS AX6100 (RT AX92U) to eventually add WiFi 6 to the mix since it sounds like the late 2020 firmware fixed a most the issues they had been having earlier. The basic setup seems easy enough using a pure WIFI setup, but I'm a bit confused on doing a wired backhaul -- how important is that and exactly how does that fit into the setup.

It's important if you want maximum throughput. If you don't have a wired backhaul channel then one of the 3 WiFi bands will generally be reserved for that traffic alone. In a well-designed mesh system the backhaul channel cannot be accessed by clients, only nodes. Based on the brief research I did it also looks like you have to step up to the Asus Lyra [or Zen] line to get Ethernet backhaul capability.

Would I need to run a new ethernet from the Upstairs Asus #1 to the downstairs Asus unit #2 then keep the current Downstairs switch wired as it is now directly connected to Unit #1? Is it possible for the current Ethernet cable to stay directly to the current downstairs switch then connect the switch to Asus Unit #2? Or flip that and run the current Cat 6 Cable directly to the Asus Unit 2, then connect the switch to a LAN port of Unit #2? I really want that downstairs switch to stay active running the current wired equipment.

Not sure I got all of this but, If you have a 2-story home and the current WiFi router [placed upstairs] is already providing decent coverage for that floor, then you probably just need to add an AP to the lower floor. Since you already have wired connectivity between the 2 floors this should be a very simple task.

My recommendation would be to purchase a bare bones unit such as this one and run it in AP more with a wired connection to the upper floor. If you feel the current Netgear is due for replacement, consider buying two or any capable main WiFi router you prefer. The vast majority of home users will never have a real need for WiFi 6 as it's main benefit is increased client connections. WiFi 5 already supports Gig plus speeds.
 
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David Norman

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All thanks. Probably overthinking the WiFi6 thing

I've never done a router in AP mode, but did read that some people preferred that to a MESH.

I really want to like the current Netgear and the reboots are more aggravating than anything since it knocks the internet out during the 90-120 second reboot cycle. I rarely notice it more an once a day and somedays I think it doesn't do it until I check the logs and find it it happened when I wasn't looking. My logs rarely are longer than 8-12 hrs of information. Since I'm not a mainline streamer and don't have a business, 2 minutes isn't really mission critical

I actually considered just getting an upgraded nonNetgear for upstairs and running the current R7000 as the AP downstairs just to see if it would run without rebooting if it wasn't doing all the router heavy lifting and could just do one simple job instead of being the head honcho.

One part of the wiring question. What;s the easiest/best way to integrate an AP with the current Switch with the current single Ethernet Cable? Router LAN to AP LAN1 then AP LAN 2 to Current Switch (in AP mode do the 4 LAN ports function like a switch?), or Router LAN to Switch LAN1 the Switch LAN2 to AP LAN1, or would it be best to run a second line and attach the AP and Current Switch to separate lines.

Not a super difficult thing to do if I have to, but I'm getting too old to enjoy having to navigate the Attic (esp in Summer) and 3 foot tall Crawlspace (anytime of the year) and run another cable through the floor/wallplate -- 8 feet that takes 75 feet of Cat6 to get there.. It would be a lot easier if I could just drill straight down esp since upstairs/downstairs actually share that wall, but I suspect I might get into a bit of trouble if I end up with a hole in the ceiling or worse slice something important (and electric)


EDIT: From a sheerly practical or functional standpoint, what;s the difference between a MESH setup and Router+ Access Points. Is MESH just an built in nonwired way to get to same place or is there something fundamentally that makes it a different animal.
 
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DaveF

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I’m using a decade old Apple WiFi router that crashes maybe once a year. A new net gear router crashing daily is definitely not right.
 

John Dirk

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One part of the wiring question. What;s the easiest/best way to integrate an AP with the current Switch with the current single Ethernet Cable? Router LAN to AP LAN1 then AP LAN 2 to Current Switch (in AP mode do the 4 LAN ports function like a switch?), or Router LAN to Switch LAN1 the Switch LAN2 to AP LAN1, or would it be best to run a second line and attach the AP and Current Switch to separate lines.
You're overthinking this too. Ethernet is a hub and spoke protocol so either of your listed methods should produce identical results. Just avoid using the WAN port of the device running in AP mode. Some manufacturers wisely repurpose this port for LAN use when the device is in AP mode but many do not, making it essentially useless.
From a sheerly practical or functional standpoint, what;s the difference between a MESH setup and Router+ Access Points. Is MESH just an built in nonwired way to get to same place or is there something fundamentally that makes it a different animal.
Mesh systems promise intelligent real-time optimized connections based on client proximity to their nodes. The theory is similar to IP routing protocols in that the system should be able to choose the optimal path to your router [through the Mesh nodes] for any specific client based on it's location in your home at the time. The usual issue here is placing the nodes in a manner where each has a strong WiFi connection to the router yet is also located in such a way as to provide strong coverage for the clients that will need to route through it. With proper placement Mesh systems can work well but in my 3-story home, I found it practically impossible to place them in a way that could rival just adding inexpensive AP's for each floor, which is usually a much less expensive solution, provided you have wired Ethernet available where the AP's are placed.
I’m using a decade old Apple WiFi router that crashes maybe once a year. A new net gear router crashing daily is definitely not right.
Not sure if you mean rebooting when you say "crashes." If it's the former I certainly wouldn't be concerned.
I really want to like the current Netgear and the reboots are more aggravating than anything since it knocks the internet out during the 90-120 second reboot cycle.
Periodic rebooting of WiFi routers is actually a good think but it should not be happening randomly. Some of the better solutions out there even have a reboot feature that allows it to occur on a schedule. I reboot my AP's every night around 03:00 to keep them optimized. One of them is a Netgear R6700 that got demoted from main router duty a few years back. It doesn't exhibit the problem you are having with your R7000, so that may just be an unfortunate issue with that particular model. If you're up for a little adventure, you might consider flashing it with DD-WRT. While there is a remote chance of bricking the router, that is very rare and if the flash succeeds it would likely resolve the random rebooting.
 

DaveF

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EDIT: From a sheerly practical or functional standpoint, what;s the difference between a MESH setup and Router+ Access Points. Is MESH just an built in nonwired way to get to same place or is there something fundamentally that makes it a different animal.
A good mesh network is using WiFi “backhaul” to relay the network from one node to another to provide good WiFi beyond where wired nodes can reach (and beyond where a single, central WiFi router can reach).

But as I read more, the recurring recommendation is if you have wired Ethernet to all locations where you’d put mesh nodes, you don’t need “mesh” but can use wired access points. Or, if you want the niceties from like an Eero, get mesh WiFi hardware that supports Ethernet backhaul and don’t worry about how well they perform in a WiFi mesh setup.
 

DaveF

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I’ve noted this elsewhere, so forgive the repetition, but there are middle ground options too. I’ve used a WiFi router as a ethernet bridged extender for years with good results. I think this is akin to having an access point, though I don’t think it’s the same.
72C7C119-AA5C-4B92-9513-800FC4DD953B.png
 

DaveF

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Not sure if you mean rebooting when you say "crashes." If it's the former I certainly wouldn't be concerned.
Router just loses connection to the outside world requiring a power cycle / reboot. Happens once in a while, maybe once a year.

A router rebooting and taking the home network down for several minutes, on a daily-ish basis is highly abnormal IME. That is, this is something very not right with the router:
I've always loved Netgear equipment, but the last several years their routers have seemed to be afflicted with a reboot issue that nobody has been able to track down or fix. After a stable 1st 6 months or so, it started having a couple reboots daily and eventually up to 4-5 random reboots per day though it still worked great otherwise. I tried new firmware, old firmware, the 'most stable' firmware installed after nuking the unit back to factory setting which helped a little -- back to 1-2 reboots per day. Just a frustrating issue more than anything else and it's been talked about in Netgear forum for year now with little appearance that's it's getting a lot better.
 

DaveF

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Mesh systems promise intelligent real-time optimized connections based on client proximity to their nodes. The theory is similar to IP routing protocols in that the system should be able to choose the optimal path to your router [through the Mesh nodes] for any specific client based on it's location in your home at the time. The usual issue here is placing the nodes in a manner where each has a strong WiFi connection to the router yet is also located in such a way as to provide strong coverage for the clients that will need to route through it. With proper placement Mesh systems can work well but in my 3-story home, I found it practically impossible to place them in a way that could rival just adding inexpensive AP's for each floor, which is usually a much less expensive solution, provided you have wired Ethernet available where the AP's are placed.
How do you configurable Access Points? I find lots of “use access points” exhortations. But I can’t find any “here’s how” explainers. :)

I can’t tell if using AP’s is “become an amateur network professional at home and make managing home WiFi your new hobby with Ubiquiti gear”

Or if it’s buy a couple TP-Link EAP225v3 access points, plug them and it just works.
 

David Norman

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You're overthinking this too. Ethernet is a hub and spoke protocol so either of your listed methods should produce identical results. Just avoid using the WAN port of the device running in AP mode. Some manufacturers wisely repurpose this port for LAN use when the device is in AP mode but many do not, making it essentially useless.

That is what I do best, but if it all gets to the same equal endpoint then that makes an easy choice and no more crawling through the underbelly of the house


I’m using a decade old Apple WiFi router that crashes maybe once a year. A new net gear router crashing daily is definitely not right.

My previous late 2000's Linksys and 2012 era Netgear never did either, but somewhere in 2016-2017 Netgear routers apparently developed this issue. Not everybody, not every unit, but very consistently reported on Amazon reviews, reddit, tons of networks forums, NETGEARS own Customer Service site and nobody has found a consistent answer to why or a way to cure it.
 

John Dirk

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How do you configurable Access Points? I find lots of “use access points” exhortations. But I can’t find any “here’s how” explainers. :)

I can’t tell if using AP’s is “become an amateur network professional at home and make managing home WiFi your new hobby with Ubiquiti gear”

Or if it’s buy a couple TP-Link EAP225v3 access points, plug them and it just works.
Heavily depends on the manufacturer but it should go something like this.
  • Connect device to your Internet Gateway via wired Ethernet
  • Find device on your network [usually 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1]
  • Access device GUI via browser. Just type in the appropriate IP Address
  • Select AP Mode in menu system. Again, location of this option varies by manufacturer but most are pretty straightforward.
  • Configure with your unique SSID, etc.
  • Once settings are saved device should reboot. Now place it in it's intended location via wired Ethernet.
Ubiquiti has some very nice options but I wouldn't recommend them for the average user.
 

John Dirk

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Router just loses connection to the outside world requiring a power cycle / reboot. Happens once in a while, maybe once a year.

A router rebooting and taking the home network down for several minutes, on a daily-ish basis is highly abnormal IME. That is, this is something very not right with the router:
Again, I reboot all of my AP's [and my main router] nightly. It's just a good way of clearing the memory and starting fresh. If yours doesn't offer this as a feature, you can achieve the same thing with something like this.
 

jmegas

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I have two ASUS ROG GT-AX11000 routers in wired mesh and I really like the setup. I only have two AX devices so far (a cell phone and a new Lenovo notebook), but I expect that all new devices I will be adding will be AX or higher (AX enhanced is already out). What is have is overkill for what I really need, but I am hoping it is a bit future proof. I also wanted to add a system with eight antennas. (I only had four before.) I also had an extender before and this way I have a much more powerful mesh system all around the house with fewer logins required, so it is actually simpler than what I had.) The problem is that, just like with everything electronics, you can go nuts with better quality components. Soon everything will be 2.5Gbs and I am going to have to redo some of my stuff. My internet is already saturating the WAN port on my router because my WAN port is 1Gbs and my cable modem is putting out 1.2Gbs.
 

Clinton McClure

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When we moved last year, I deployed a 2-unit Eero Pro mesh network. Our home is 2 story and 2700 sq ft and I’m paying for 1 Gbps speed internet. The house was built in 1988 and was never wired for Ethernet so I am relying on WiFi only. In the majority of the house, I’m pulling down between 300 and 600 Mbps over wifi (900+ if I plug my MacBook Pro directly into the gateway Eero). The theater room is farthest from an Eero base and has the worst signal and I’m still consistently getting at least 250 Mbps download speed in there now. I haven’t experienced any random reboots or network drops and the only time the units even reboot is when Eero pushes a firmware update. As far as bandwidth steering, I’m able to run two simultaneous 4K streams to two TV 4K boxes, two 1080p HD streams to two older TV boxes, and YouTube videos to two iPhones and don’t experience any problems. My point being, you can spend a lot of money on pro equipment but you can also get excellent results with consumer-grade mesh.
 
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