WiFi Woes - Cannot Seem To Get Whole House Covered

Discussion in 'Networking & Security' started by gizmo, Sep 27, 2017.

  1. gizmo

    gizmo [H]ard|Gawd

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    Hi everyone! Hoping to gain some insight into my wifi "condition" as I seem to have been doing it wrong for years.

    As my family and I have moved through three houses over the last four years, I have been unable to get an entire home covered with a reliable wireless network. No home has been larger than approximately 2,300 square feet spread over two stories.

    Routers I have used

    Our current home is approximately 1,900 square feet including a basement, main floor, and three bedroom/2 bathroom upstairs. The modem/router is located in the basement. With this location, I cannot seem to get a reliable signal upstairs, a mere 15 feet away (albeit through two floors). Home is wood and drywall construction - no masonry, plaster, or chickenwire involved.


    Aside from the possibility of three homes that hate me, is there anything at a hardware or software level I should be looking at?
     
  2. Ultima99

    Ultima99 [H]ardness Supreme

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    You have lots of options:

    1. Move the router to the ground floor from the basement.

    2. Add a PoE powered access point upstairs. You'd just need to run one CAT5e cable.

    3. Try a commercial grade AP instead of the residential/home grade products & ISP provided junk.
     
  3. BlueLineSwinger

    BlueLineSwinger Gawd

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    Yeah, the basement is a poor place for a WAP. If moving it to the ground floor is a no-go, the best bet is a WAP on the second level. Run a Cat 6 (for future 2.5/5 Gb compatibility) or two (backup, it's no more difficult that running one) to a central location in the attic. Hook up a WAP (e.g, Ubiquiti), configure it with the same SSID on a different channel, and enjoy.
     
  4. Kwaz

    Kwaz Whine & Cheezy

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    Are you using 2.4 or 5Ghz?
     
  5. gizmo

    gizmo [H]ard|Gawd

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    Might there be any additional diagnostic steps I can take to ensure the next item purchased does the trick? I am writing this post from the furthest in home spot from the WAP.

    System is currently set with SSID the same for both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Network often loads at 2.4 GHz in the upstairs.

    Current upstairs sniff results:

    N Network
    -78dBm RSSI
    -97 dBm Noise
    Transmission at 13 Mbps
    20 MHz channel width


    Speedtest often returns a down of 50-80 Mbps and 8-12 up. Currently I'm looking at 2 down and 0.25 up.
     
  6. bman212121

    bman212121 [H]ard|Gawd

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    The best thing you can do to test is buy a long Ethernet cable. If you can't move the placement of your modem you can at least string a 50' or longer cable between the modem and the router. Then just carry around the router to new locations to see how it affects signal. Placement is always key and "near the center" will likely provide the best coverage.

    What is the current device you are trying to test with?

    What's going to matter most is location and orientation of the device. Now that most Soho device have cheesy built in antennas, you need to make sure it's pointed correctly for the best signal. Chances are a device like the airport has good signal strength to the sides of the device, but is poor when you are above or below it. Getting it on the same level as the device you want to use might be critical to making it work. An AP like the UAP-Pro has great signal to the sides and the top of the device with the logo, but poor strength out the back of it. To get the best signal out of it, the device needs to be mounted in the middle of the coverage area as high as possible, while the top faces the ground.

    From the sounds of it, you have a 2 story house with a basement. If that's the case then right off the bat I can almost bet you're not going to be able to cover 3 floors with a single device. The wood flooring likely provides a huge amount of attenuation that you simply can't overcome. The best placement to test in is probably the stairwell on the main floor. From there signals can reflect and hopefully not have to go through nearly as much material to reach the device. I've done testing before in a commercial location which had concrete over metal, and that had no trouble dropping 30dB of signal if the AP was on the other side of it with nothing else in the way. In those cases you have to use multiple APs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  7. gizmo

    gizmo [H]ard|Gawd

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    I am currently testing with the Linksys WRT32x, although that is likely getting returned.

    While in the same (basement) room as the AP, RSSI sits at -36 dBm. Contrast this with -97 dBm while in the upstairs bedroom.

    It is perhaps reassuring to hear that an AP in a basement should not be expected to cover the two stories above it - I was certainly mistaken in thinking a 1,900 square foot house, regardless of ranch or two story, would be appropriate with a single AP.



    Might anyone chime in on whether the mesh networks with 2-3 AP are as functional as industry would like me to believe?
     
  8. bman212121

    bman212121 [H]ard|Gawd

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    I've covered several single story ranch houses that have basements using a single AP, but the AP was either located in the ceiling just below the floor in the basement in the center of the house, or at the top floor of the house in a stairwell pointed downwards. What you really want to do is try to measure the signal loss of your walls and floors, which you can do by just putting the AP on one side of it, and having your laptop on the other.


    I'll try to expand to see if we can track down the issue before you spend money. What is the signal strength you see when you are on the main floor directly between the -97dB point and the AP? Is it -67dB? That should tell us whether or not you're losing 30dB per floor, which is super important to know.

    The reason why you want to test that is anyone can recommend a sweet multi AP solution like the ORBI, but in order for one of the mesh networks to work, the APs still need to be able to talk to each other. It doesn't matter what solution you buy if you were to put the base AP in the basement and put the 2nd station in the upper bedroom. The signal will be so weak between the devices it's still going to give terrible performance. The best thing you can do is just move the AP around the house and see if you can find places where the signal is better. Try playing with the antennas. I'd probably even try take that Linksys, and tipping it on the front or back of the device and remeasuring the signal strength with the antennas all positioned horizontally (parallel) with the floor. I'd have to see if I can find a diagram for that AP but chances are the signal coverage looks like a doughnut. There is far more power to the sides of the antenna than there is directly above and below them. Tipping the "doughnut" on it's side might help getting signal to travel upwards. You don't even need to have the router hooked up to the internet, just plug it into the wall and you can do testing with it in any room in the house.

    I'm probably a bit harsh in saying that it can't be done with one AP, but rather than buy some stuff and guess, if you document the actual signal loss you're seeing between walls and floors, you can guestimate the signal strength you would see if you needed to pick up a set of mesh APs. I can't stress enough that you just want to spend some time playing with what you already have and document the signals you see in many locations. Contrary to what manufacturer's want you to believe, there are no magic wireless devices. All of them are going to perform roughly the same in most situations, with some able to hold a slightly better signal. But your clients are always the weak point so you need to account for that. You can get stuff all figured out with your laptop, then pull out your phone and that will barely work because the antennas in phones are much weaker.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  9. klank

    klank Killer of Killer NIC Threadz

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    You really should have three APs. One per floor, anything else is just going to frustrate you. And stay away from Mesh, go hard wired to the APs.
     
  10. Mackintire

    Mackintire 2[H]4U

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    Running a cable from the existing router/AP to a single Ubiquiti UAP-AC-LR, ceiling mounted centrally on the 2nd floor, with the output power turned down should provide magnitudes better coverage for the 1st and 2nd floor.

    And Continue to use the existing Wireless Router for basement coverage.

    The usable receive sensitivity of the UAP-AC-LR is pretty crazy.... which is exactly why they work well with their output power turned down. Fishing the ethernet cable is the only major obstacle
     
  11. MikeRotch

    MikeRotch Limp Gawd

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    Sorry in advance for the long post. Wi-fi is a stupidly complicated subject that has many caveats. But the more info you know, the better informed you'll be when you research your solution.

    20 MHz bandwidth, are you exclusively using 2.4G? Or did you set your 5G radio to use 20 MHz bandwidth? Reason I am asking is because by default, almost all APs I know of set 5GHz Bandwidth to 80 MHz, I think some enterprise APs like Aruba set it to 40 MHz. Smaller bandwidth sizes are good in more congested environments, larger bandwidth sizes are good for throughput but if your wi-fi environment is congested, it may actually hurt performaance. If you think about WI-Fi like a highway, each 20Mhz segnemt is one lane. The thing with wif-fi though, is that to transmit data, it must use ALL lanes at ones. So while you can move more traffic on a 4 lane highway vs a 1 lane highway in a given chunk of time, if even one of the lanes is blocked on your 4 lane highway, you won't be able to use your highway until all 4 lanes are clear.

    In any case, if you're using 2.4G, yes the penetration and distance is better, but the 2.4G spectrum is usually super saturated no matter what channel you choose (a LOT more 2.4G devices, bluetooth, cordless phones, microwaves). You will get better speeds on 5GHz but only if your RSSI is strong enough. In any case, you will need as others have said, a 2nd AP if your WAP is in the basement? At around -60 dBm RSSI, 5 GHz performance starts dropping off sharply. at around -70 to -80 dBm, the performance of 2.4G and 5G are about the same. at -90 dBM and below, 2.4G performance is actually better (but still really shitty). Mesh works well, but it depends on the mesh system you are using and how you set it up. The biggest mistake that most people make when installing mesh is that they put the mesh WAP at the very far end of the range of wi-fi from the first WAP. The mesh WAP acts as a repeater, trying to repeat a weak signal doesn't work. The installation should be that the mesh WAP should be where the signal of the first WAP starts to degrade, around -50 to -60 dBm. Also unless you get a mesh WAP that has a tri-band design, you'll be using the 5Ghz radio on the 2nd WAP to talk to both your wireless clients and to the first WAP which cuts your performance by half.

    Next point I want to address is people saying that you should just buy another WAP and still use your existing WAP. You should NOT do that because your wireless devices themselves are not smart enough to decide which WAP it can get the best performance of. E.g. You're downstairs and turn on wi-fi, it'll connect to the downstairs WAP. When you go upstairs, as long as your device can still talk to the downstairs WAP, it will not switch to the upstairs WAP, even if your signal to the downstairs WAP is super weak. This is where mesh is better, the WAPs talk to each other to steer the device to the WAP that will offer your device the best performance. But if you want the BEST performance, you can even connect your 2nd mesh WAP via Ethernet. That way you can put your downstairs WAP at the very edge of the downstairs WAPs signal since you're not trying to repeat the downstairs WAP's signal anymore since the signal you're repeating is coming over Ethernet.

    I know UBNT has mesh solutions, if you really like them, you can research their products and buy one. But there are lots of mesh products out there that do mesh and IMO, mesh is good if you do it right.
     
  12. thebufenator

    thebufenator [H]ard|Gawd

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    For multi AP networks, keep the same said, and devices will switch to stronger signals. Some devices may be sticky, so turn off the slow speeds to force a disconnect
     
  13. leonman

    leonman n00b

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    As many people have said above, you need to set multiple APs, at least one story one AP. Also, I recommend PoE, one Ethernet cable for both power and data transmission, that will simply your cabling.
     
  14. Vengance_01

    Vengance_01 [H]ardness Supreme

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    For that size house here is what I would do. 3 Standard POE WAP's(Stick with same brand) 1 for each floor. On second floor and first floor space them out so they are opposite sides of the house. Then have a dedicated WAP in the basement and turn down the power to cover only the basement. Run the same SSID and put each AP on different Channels. Done. My 2500 sqft house no basement is covered by 2 inwall Unifi AC AP units. Can max out my 120/12 cable connect almost anywhere in the house and my phones get always 80mbit and above
     
  15. Quartz-1

    Quartz-1 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Yup, one WAP on each floor. Each WAP should have a wired link to the router.
     
  16. Mackintire

    Mackintire 2[H]4U

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    "You're downstairs and turn on wi-fi, it'll connect to the downstairs WAP. When you go upstairs, as long as your device can still talk to the downstairs WAP, it will not switch to the upstairs WAP, even if your signal to the downstairs WAP is super weak. This is where mesh is better"

    I'm going to have to conditionally disagree o_O

    Switching APs is controlled by the Client device. On a laptop under the wireless driver properties you'll see an option for Roaming Aggressiveness Control. Change that to agressive and your laptop will constantly jump to the strongest signal...and if you're in the middle of two APs with equal signal....constantly disconnect jumping back and forth. :cautious:


    All an AP can do is kick a client off and hope the client reconnects to the strongest signal. The Min RSSI value is what control the point of being kicked off an AP. UNIFI APs support that function. Recently Mesh controllers have been implementing a somewhat automatied version of minimum RSSI in the hopes that the client will make the correct decision.. There's also 802.11rkv which are additional protocols that allow for faster handoff between APs but those newer protocols are only useful if both the AP and the client can leverage them. WAP on each floor will work, but my suggestion starts at the cheapest end hardware wise, with the option of adding APs later on. If running cable through tht walls is too expensive and you have Coax for cable already run all throughout the house you can also consider using MoCA adapters https://www.amazon.com/Actiontec-Bo...rd_wg=nGGv2&psc=1&refRID=TGQ4DFN8TWG1VCQQRXAS
     
  17. tangoseal

    tangoseal [H]ardness Supreme

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    You should get some Mesh setup.

    The Ubiquiti mesh stuff is very nice for home users.

    I went pro and used all enterprise grade Unifi and have 3 Mesh Points and an AC-LR and my wifi is retardedly overcoveraged haha
     
    Semantics likes this.
  18. Zangmonkey

    Zangmonkey I Realize My Disabilities - You Do Too

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    If you're open to it I've had surprisingly great results using plume.

    I route with an edgerouter x and I let plume manage all the ap mesh. Simple full coverage without having to dick with it all day.

    It's not really all that expensive and just simplifies the setup so much.
     
  19. Vengance_01

    Vengance_01 [H]ardness Supreme

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    I disagree. While mesh might be simpler I still would rather have dedicated runs and WAP's. Also my client perfectly switch from my 2 AP's without issues... and I don't even have minimum RSSI values. I just tweaked my power output and enabled band steering. I am also using DTIM value of 3 vs 1
     
  20. Mackintire

    Mackintire 2[H]4U

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    You are not mistaken, it is completely possible to that your setup works that way you suggest..and it should. But your comments do not conflict with that fact that in the end the client controls what AP it decides to connect to.

    Wireless is complex. To anyone that doesn't understand the science and math involved it appears akin to voodoo or magic. Once you do completely understand what's actually occurring and have the proper tools to monitor those interactions, it's no longer a mystery but your head will be full of calculus and your wallet will be lighter by well over $10k+. Honestly we don't need to have phd's in Wifi but we should strive to understand the fundamentals.

    As an Engineer I 'll leave you with this piece of advice. Engineers do not design things to be right... they design things to meet/exceed the specifications. Your goal is to have a working WIFI that is fast, secure and reliable.... There are multiple ways to get there.
     
  21. SticKx911

    SticKx911 2[H]4U

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    I recently had a similar problem. I went with a powerline adapter set and hooked up another wifi router to it as a repeater...in fact I have 4 ddwrt low end routers over my house all communicating via power line adapters and have full coverage all over and outside. Maybe $200 total. (4 refurb linksys routers and a 4pack of power line adapters).
     
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  22. antok86

    antok86 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Maybe see if your homes phone system is wired using cat5 and maybe covert it to be able to connect access points?? Just a thought (didnt read all the post above too long lol)
     
  23. Vengance_01

    Vengance_01 [H]ardness Supreme

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    If your phone jacks are cat 5e unifi makes in wall poe aps that go into a standard cat5 wall jacket
     
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  24. ThreeDee

    ThreeDee [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I have a 2,000+ sq/ft home .. only main floor and a basement though .. with one older model Ubiquit AP hard wired to an EdgeRouter X sfp , I can "cover" the whole house with the device centrally located on the basement ceiling (gets really weak on the one far end of the house). I added 2 more AP's to strengthen coverage and I plan on running a couple wireless cameras outside and a wireless video doorbell.

    Great "older" hardware that is pretty inexpensive and has great coverage and just works great ..

    This message approved by Tony the Tigerâ„¢
     
  25. SamirD

    SamirD 2[H]4U

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    I would see what type of wired backhaul you can use--wiring your own, powerline, moca, ethernet extenders over phone wire. Once you have at least one 'wired' connection to each floor/area, then you can simply wire in or put an ap there.
     
  26. stormy1

    stormy1 [H]ard|Gawd

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    get some help and map the wifi pathways in the house.
    Heating ducts will create dead spots.
    With a map and creative placement you can get around this.
    More often than not the best spot is the basement ceiling in the middle of the house.
    Some houses can not be covered by one, open architecture often concentrates the duct work in one wall creating an effective vertical metal rf block so you need an AP on each side of it.
     
  27. williacm

    williacm Gawd

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    I second this. Closing on a new house this Friday and I went with Unifi's AP in-wall pros. Prevents me from having to stick an AP on the ceiling and simplifies my setup.
     
  28. Zangmonkey

    Zangmonkey I Realize My Disabilities - You Do Too

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    Am I the only person who's used Plume?
    I recommend checking them out.
     
  29. bman212121

    bman212121 [H]ard|Gawd

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    This thread needs the return of the OP....

    People are still commenting in this thread and we've never actually heard if any headway was made on fixing their issues.
     
  30. SamirD

    SamirD 2[H]4U

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    I've always found Plume interesting as it reminds me of the old Meraki APs. It's just pretty expensive.
     
  31. Zangmonkey

    Zangmonkey I Realize My Disabilities - You Do Too

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    For a mesh network it's priced comparably to the ubiquity offering
     
  32. SamirD

    SamirD 2[H]4U

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    But Ubiquity is in another league though as its basically enterprise quality.
     
  33. bman212121

    bman212121 [H]ard|Gawd

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    I wouldn't go quite that far to say it's enterprise, but it's perfectly fine for small / medium businesses. There are a lot more features on an enterprise AP than there is for a Ubiquiti. They are probably in another league from Plume, but Meraki, Ruckus, Aruba are in a different league than Ubiquiti.

    Things like:
    https://documentation.meraki.com/MR/Client_Addressing_and_Bridging/MR_Teleworker_VPN
    https://documentation.meraki.com/MX...klisting/Creating_and_Applying_Group_Policies
    https://documentation.meraki.com/MX...egrating_Active_Directory_with_Group_Policies

    Are a bit more in depth than what Ubiquiti offers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  34. SamirD

    SamirD 2[H]4U

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    The quality though is up there with the others you mentioned. Feature-wise (and seems like even software/firmware-wise), they're still not up to par with the big dogs yet.
     
  35. bman212121

    bman212121 [H]ard|Gawd

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    Yes the quality of Ubiquiti is pretty good. Most of my co workers have UAP-PRO ACs at home for their wifi. If you needed like 1 - 10 APs for a job, I'd definitely be considering them for that application. When you have 1,000+ APs, I'm not sure if any of my co workers would want to go down that route with Ubiquiti running the show.
     
  36. SamirD

    SamirD 2[H]4U

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    :O That's a lot of APs! I wouldn't want to be running that type of show at all--what a nightmare!