A Mesh Network Configuration Journey

MarcMarc Moderator, Beta Tester Posts: 1,672
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I’m writing this in hope that you can benefit from my experiences configuring, troubleshooting and finally reaping the benefits of a mesh network.  

Let me start with my network equipment history.  About a year ago I was running a Linksys WRT3200 with a Linksys RE9000 range extender.  Though advertised as a fairly powerful setup, for my multistory residence it left me with dead zones and constant range extender disconnects.  

So fast forward a few months and I took the plunge and decided to go mesh.  Because I was a little hesitant with the whole mesh concept, I started cautiously and bought what was a then new concept for Linksys, the Mesh router.  This is effectively a stand alone router that can control or participate in a mesh network.  This gives a bit more flexibility in being able to extend a network in different ways.  Add mesh nodes (which I ended up doing) or just put a few range extenders in.  Your call....

I followed their recommendations and bought 2 additional nodes.  That gave me 3 total.  I have 4 floors, including my basement, that I was trying to light up and if you use their configuration utility, I should have been in their sweet spot...In actually,  it was not.  

My basement houses my cable modem and the main router.  For the first node i skipped a floor and installed it in my living room.  Finally I had the last node in the bedroom floor (One above the living room), which had always been my trouble spot in past configurations. 

Long story short, this was not an ideal setup.  There are three bedroom on that floor and i thought by leaving the node in that hallway, I would be covering all three bedrooms.  After all the node is supposed to handle 2000 square feet.  I can tell you that nothing could be further then the truth.  My amazon fire sticks could barely hold a signal and web surfing was slow.  I played with moving the node around that floor, and eventually settled into leaving it in one of the bedrooms.  That setup worked for at least two of the bedrooms but the third still suffered from weak signals and disconnects.  The worst part of this was trying to force the clients to connect to their closest node, done by a careful orchestration of reboots.  Otherwise in many instances they would just just connect to the basement, which just killed their throughput.

So now I was faced with reassessing placement and quantity of nodes.  So I started over again, picking up 2 more nodes which brought me to a total of 4 nodes and one main router/node (5 network pieces in total).  My first placement scheme was to spread them out so the house would be evenly saturated.  The result of that exercise was that I had once again a suboptimal network experience on the upper floors.  Then it hit me...

I was thinking hub and spoke and that’s just not how these things necessarily work.  It’s when I started to think of these as a back haul network where each node was put in place to extend the signal to the next is when it all clicked into place.  I put a node on the floor directly above the basement.  I put another node in the hallway right above it.  Then I added another 2 nodes to the bedroom floor and voila!  The bedroom nodes now were communicating to the hallway, the hallway to the den and the den to the basement.  

The further benefit was that the network became much more resilient to accidental node power downs.  I’m thinking because of the additional nodes I pout in place.  Speed did not suffer, 4K video was fine on the upstairs tv as was youtube and other web surfing activities.  I noticed that from time to time the nodes do some sort of discovery and do switch which nodes they communicate with (that’s includes the devices on the network as well) and thankfully no longer to my devices detriment.

So my lesson learned is its not necessarily a bad thing to add a bit more capacity to ones mesh network then the rule of thumb says.  The benefits for me at least far outweighed the cost because i saw a marked increase in stability and throughput.
Thats Daphnee, she's a good dog...
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RobinLee_Bo

Comments

  • Lee_BoLee_Bo Member Posts: 272
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    Thanks for the story.  I have found that quality of equipment also makes a huge difference.  I've been using Linksys for years and years but recently decided to upgrade (during my furlough) my network to Ubiquiti and pulled cat6 cable to every room in the house.  Now I have a Ubiquiti Dream Machine and two AC-PRO access points covering 3 floors / 3000 sq ft with no issues.
    Marc
  • MarcMarc Moderator, Beta Tester Posts: 1,672
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    I would love to pull cable to each room.  

    But I did end up using a run I had (used to use it for my old xbox) from the basement to the family room.  I forgot to mention that.  From that run I plugged in the family room node and it made a difference.  The relay nodes started choosing it to connect to versus directly to the basement, which added stability to the upstairs nodes as well as better throughput as they had a shorter distance to connect.
    Thats Daphnee, she's a good dog...
    Lee_Bo
  • Lee_BoLee_Bo Member Posts: 272
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    Marc said:
    I would love to pull cable to each room.  

    But I did end up using a run I had (used to use it for my old xbox) from the basement to the family room.  I forgot to mention that.  From that run I plugged in the family room node and it made a difference.  The relay nodes started choosing it to connect to versus directly to the basement, which added stability to the upstairs nodes as well as better throughput as they had a shorter distance to connect.
    Well I had the time so I decided to remove all the old coax cable from the house and while pulling out the old cable, I pulled through cat6 cable and terminated each end, one end into a plate and the other into a punchdown panel.
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