Both the most boring and most important part of the connected home. There are three ways to go:
- Default: Whatever your Internet service provider gives you. All all-in-one box for wired and wireless Internet.
- Mesh: A collection of small boxes that plug in around your home for stronger, more intelligent coverage.
- Wired Mesh: A collection of small boxes each hard-wired to your Internet for even stronger more reliable coverage.
least tailored, weakest performance
- Benefits: Easiest to set up and a single point of troubleshooting.
- Challenges: A single broadcast point means weaker Wi-Fi the farther away you are. They typically run on default bandwidths, causing competition between neighbors.
- Conclusion: Adequate for small spaces with one or two devices and no interference (we’ll cover interference later.)
medium tailored, medium performance
- Benefits: Reasonably DIY, and most decisions happen seamlessly in the background (best frequencies to be on, hand-offs between nodes, etc.)
- Challenges: Wireless repeaters only repeat the signal that makes it to them, so signal weakens with distance. Also, tech support tends to be very limited.
- Conclusion: An impressively customizable solution for small to medium-sized homes with a modest number of connected devices.
Two of the most popular mesh network systems are Google Wifi and Eero. Both offer pretty advanced network settings, grant guest access without sharing your password, let you set bandwidth priority and parental controls. Both are easy to set up and use a really simple App. With a cheaper price and slightly more reliable performance, our preference goes to Google Wifi.
- Benefits: Wiring your access points gives each the strongest connection to broadcast, no matter location. More advanced controls handle large numbers of devices elegantly, as well as the ability to log into each device individually for troubleshooting.
- Challenges: Wiring takes away the ability to tweak locations later, calling for heat mapping ahead of time to determine where to place access points.
- Conclusion: The most powerful and reliable approach to home networking. Also the most expensive. Ideal for users with many connected devices or an intolerance for signal drops.
- 2.4 GHz: Longer distance but slower speeds.
- 5 GHz: Faster speeds but shorter distances.
2.4 GHz has been a standard for longer. The benefit is backward compatibility. The downside is it tends to get crowded (only 11 channels vs 23 on the 5 GHz range.)
The flaw with 5 GHz is that the higher frequency has trouble going through solid objects like walls and flooring.
The ideal setup is to make sure there are enough access points and run 5 GHz on all of them, while running 2.4 GHz separately for older devices.
Microwaves, baby monitors and cordless phones all run on the 2.4 GHz spectrum and can cause interference. Concrete, metal and mirror can cause major interference as well. Finally, nearby Wi-Fi networks on the same spectrum will be competing for bandwidth.
The ideal setup is to test your space ahead of time for potential issues and spread your access points strategically. Once installed, the system should scan and use the least populated spectrum.
Putting a router, repeater and wireless access point into the same chassis is convenient but flawed, as interference can occur within its own crowded internal components.
Think audio – Separate components (pre-amp, amplifier, turntable) can isolate vibrations and deliver cleaner sound than an all-in-one box. We find the all-in-one solution is sufficient for around 70% of homes.
For residences, we like Pakedge for its ability to group and prioritize categories of devices, and remedy issues remotely before they are noticed.
For commercial, we like Cisco Meraki for its granular control packaged in a clean interface, and for Cisco’s extremely fast reaction time to the last Wi-Fi breach.
We also prefer wireless access points that are powered over Ethernet, as running both power and Ethernet to each device can end up looking cluttered.
Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.