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Thread: router? mesh router?

  1. #1
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Default router? mesh router?

    Hello!

    I'm looking for a solution for my parents network, mainly wifi. The issue is that currently they don't have good wifi coverage, but also their wired devices do not work that well. The cause of the former is the bad position of the router (in a technical space, next to a second internet-provider supplied router, the electrical cabinet and the water heater); the cause of the former is some older 100 Mbit switches.

    The internet provide supplies a modem-router, but as it has a bad reputation for security and has terrible range, I prefer to put our own router behind it. As the internet connection is via TV cable (coax), it is difficult to replace it. Currently, our router is an Asus RT-AC51U ( https://www.asus.com/Networking/RTAC51U/specifications/ , the point of 433 Mbit wireless combined with 100 Mbit ethernet ports escapes me). The infrastructure currently is as follows

    Code:
    provider-modem-router
    |- tv decoder (via in-wall cable)
    |- second tv decoder (via in-wall cable)
    '-. asus RT-AC51u
      |  (cable in wall from technical space to room)
      '-. tplink gigabit switch
        | computer
        | printer
        | NAS
        '-. 650 Mbps powerline adapter
        .-' 650 Mbps powerline adapter
        '-. dlink 100 mbit switch
          |- tv
          |- blue ray
          '- amplifier
    Wifi is quite weak everywhere, so I should put the access point elsewhere. The decoder boxes have get their IP from the provider's modem-router. I can easily move the RT-AC51u to the other room (using the in-wall cable to connect the provider modem-router to the wan port of the asus), but then I have no wifi in the living room.

    My current idea is to get a new gigabit router, and wire it that way, with the old router as access point in the living room:
    Code:
    provider-modem-router
    |- tv decoder (via in-wall cable)
    |- second tv decoder (via in-wall cable)
    '-. 
      |  (cable in wall from technical space to room)
      '-. new router
        | computer (could also be on wifi)
        | printer (could also be on wifi)
        | NAS
        '-. 650 Mbps powerline adapter
        .-' 650 Mbps powerline adapter
        '-. tplink gigabit switch
          |- tv
          |- blue ray
          |- amplifier   
          '- asus RT-AC51u (as wifi access point)
    It may still not be the best solution, the powerline give about 200 Mbit of throughput. I can still move the NAS in the same room as the tv, as my parents could actually access it more that way (it is configured to make a backup of the computer, but they don't really work on the NAS nor generate a lot of data, it does contain music and photos that could be viewed on TV if the network is fast enough - which it currently is not). The RT-AC51u would still limit the wireless speed, but as my parents only use tablets/smartphones there, the bottleneck of 100 Mbit should not be an issue.

    It would just require me to get a router, so that should not be too expensive. But now I'm also looking at mesh router options. It would allow me to forego the powerline adapters, and may be more stable as a result.
    What is the experience here with mesh routers? Many seem rather expensive solutions...
    I was looking at the Ubiquiti Amplifi range... they look elegant and interesting.

    Another idea I had was to put a switch and the router in the living room (the switch would split the in-wall cable to the decoder box and to the wan port of the router). But then I still need powerline or mesh to get to the other room, so I'm not sure that layout will give me much more benefits.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by VJ; 3rd January 2020 at 02:27.
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  2. #2
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    Gigabit router is a good idea. I recommend Mikrotik RouterBOARD hAP ac (RB962UiGS-5HacT2HnT) or 4011 (RouterBOARD 4011iGS+5HacQ2HnD-IN)

    Put the router where you need strongest signal and where parents use wireless devices most. Likely living room or kitchen. If you can't wire an AP you can use one as a repeater. Get something like PoE MIKROTIK mAP lite RBMAPL-2ND PoE,

    You don't need a switch in living room, you can most likely do it with VLANs on Mikrotik router. The ISP likely uses VLANs for TV, just ask them which VLAN they use and configure a port on Mikrotik so that it will pass that VLAN to TV decoder.

    VLANs rock, I did separate VLANs at work for video surveilance, phones, corporate network and guests as I started to run out of IPs on DHCP.

    I'm planning to install about 8 ubiquity APs at work once I can find someone to do the wiring. I can tell you more in two months or so.

    Forget power lines, bring a contractor from Poland to wire their house
    Last edited by UtwigMU; 3rd January 2020 at 05:37.

  3. #3
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    That is a bit the issue: they need wifi in two completely opposing parts of the apartment, and a single router just does not reach as it cannot be positioned central enough (the most central location seems to have too much interference). So for sure I would need two access points.
    I can find many topics on people asking about the VLAN tag the provider uses for the decoders, but all topics seem to end up with people resorting to double NAT (like my parents have). Important for me is that the configuration is stable as I'm not often at my parents place to help them if things go bad (or if the provider messes up things). The current double NAT works very well, so I am inclined to keep it like that; I also want the wiring simple enough so that if something fails, my father can easily get network on his computer by bypassing the router (this should be a simple procedure!).

    Need for equipment is not such an issue: we have a 5 port Gbit switch, a 650 Mbps powerlan kit, and also a 5 port 100Mbit switch and a 100Mbit router.

    The new router in the living room is an option but, without VLAN, I need a switch to split the cable from the wall, but then I need the powerlan adapter to reach the other side of the apartment, where there should be a second access point. This puts his computer on the powerlan adapter, basically it would be:
    modem -> switch -> router -> powerline adapter -> powerline adapter -> switch/access point -> computer

    As such, I think it would be better to have the router in the room where his computer is, as it would go
    modem -> router -> computer
    Any failure of the powerlan adapter or switch would only affect the TV and radio, but that is not so critical for them. And if something fails and he does not know what, a simple rewiring can put the computer directly on the modem. The powerlan could also be a bottleneck.

    The Ubiquiti mesh router I was looking at may be end of life (one shop has it listed as such). The other mesh options lack ethernet ports or have other downsides, so replacing the router may be the
    But you got me thinking: I could put my router at their place and get a nice Mikrotik one for myself.......
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  4. #4
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    I'm learning a lot by searching for routers... I wasn't even aware of the names Wifi 5 and now Wifi 6. A bit surprised to see that so many new routers still do not support WPA3 (or it is not listed in the specs - I think WPA3 is a requirement for Wifi 6 certification).

    Thinking of either moving my router (Asus DSL-N16U) to my parents and getting something new, or getting a new router for them.

    The cheapest would be to get them a rather normal router. It would also make sense to put the newest device at their place for reliability purposes (my router has around 5 years). But it could be fun to get a real ethernet router (Mikrotik) and then an access point...
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  5. #5
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    There are some things that are harder to do with Mikrotik such as proxying, OpenVPN or wireguard, dual WANs. A step up is Fortigate (€€€ but great, good for midsize business) or a Linux router.

    You can build a small router PC with ITX case/mobo and Wifi Card and use a router oriented or a stable long term distro (such as Centos with 10-years of updates). This is a solution for you and not for parents.

    With Mikrotik, you could leave management port open and firewalled to your static Poland IP so you could do some maintenance remotely directly on router through Winbox.

    On mikrotik you do everything either by Winbox or by shell (there is a shell in winbox as well).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76nK1LXyPMA

  6. #6
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Following your suggestion, I've been reading up on VLANs (quite a new thing for me). As a result, I'm still 100% sure I will not use it at my parents, mainly as I don't know it enough and am not at their place often enough to provide support. So the way that I would feel most secure is a double NAT. My father could easily replug the wan port of the router in case of problems.

    But I am thinking of using it at my place, mainly for learning it.

    As I understand, it a VLAN would allow me to filter the broadcast domain. I have a number of music players (Squeezebox) that use broadcasts for many purposes - at one setting, they send a broadcast every second with the elapsed time and other data regarding what is playing. Perhaps it is not too bad for the general performance, but it might be not stupid to put them on their own VLAN to optimize the network for other computers. Does this make sense?
    I have a smart switch that supports VLAN (D-LINK DGS1210-16), there are 4 music players all connected via ethernet and then some computers connected via ethernet and wifi. The broadcasts of the Squeezeboxes should be visible to 2 computers (one will be its server, the other will be a home automation server). Both these should not be limited to that VLAN.

    So how would it go? I define one VLAN for the Squeezeboxes and use this VLAN with the 4 ports of the switch to which they are connected. Then I keep the ports for both computers that should see them as untagged (to let them see it all), and then assign the rest of ports for other computers to another VLAN? Do I give each VLAN a different subnet?

    Mikrotik would be an option... I am also surprised by the relative low price of a Ubiquity Unifi Security Gateway ( https://www.ui.com/unifi-routing/usg/ ), add a Unifi access point to it and it is in the same price range as a decent home router... would give quite some options....


    Jörg
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  7. #7
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Reading a bit more... A few questions... If I define a VLAN for the Squeezeboxes (port-based), then - if the server's ethernet adapter supports it - I can connect the server to a trunk port (so it receives traffic from all VLANs), but I would have an issue with my smarthome server, which is not VLAN aware and should also be on multiple VLANs (it should see Squeezeboxes and be visible to wireless devices and computers. So now I'm thinking that I could solve it with a router that has 2 lan ports: one would be a trunk for multiple vlans to the switch, the other port would pass all traffic. The latter would go to both the server and the smarthome server. Does that make sense?
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  8. #8
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VJ View Post
    Reading a bit more... A few questions... If I define a VLAN for the Squeezeboxes (port-based), then - if the server's ethernet adapter supports it - I can connect the server to a trunk port (so it receives traffic from all VLANs), but I would have an issue with my smarthome server, which is not VLAN aware and should also be on multiple VLANs (it should see Squeezeboxes and be visible to wireless devices and computers. So now I'm thinking that I could solve it with a router that has 2 lan ports: one would be a trunk for multiple vlans to the switch, the other port would pass all traffic. The latter would go to both the server and the smarthome server. Does that make sense?
    I think you do router to switch trunk port and then separate VLANs. If your smarthome server needs to be on multiple VLANs but isn't aware you can use multiport NIC or more NICs and plug them in different VLANs (multihomed). Generally most server boards have at least dual NICs.

  9. #9
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    The smarthome server is a device (Loxone), not a computer... so there is no option to add multiple NICs. As it does not support VLAN, I guess it will be up to the router to direct traffic to it.

    But is something like this possible?
    Code:
    router--port1--> trunk for vlan10, vlan20 --> switch 
          --port2--> all traffic
    the trunk (port1) could then go to the switch, which has port assignments for the different VLANs, where as port 2 would connect to the Loxone server and other devices that need to see all traffic.

    Or is such a configuration not possible? This whole VLAN thing is new to me, so I'm trying to learn...
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  10. #10
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    Looks feasible on first sight, the VLAN thing is new to me as well and I was sweating when guys came to connect some alarm equipment at work and I had to create VLANs for it and forward ports on Fortigate.

  11. #11
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    I most likely will be getting a router to start playing with it, but not yet immediately. Still wondering between the Ubiquiti USG ( https://www.ui.com/unifi-routing/usg/ ) and a Mikrotik hEX S or so.
    The user interface of the USG appeals to me (they have an EdgeRouter which is similar in hardware but lacks the nice UI). Mikrotik might give slightly more for a slightly lower price (e.g. more ports), but seems to be more complicated in configuring (and I don't need more ports). For sure I would need to add an accesspoint later, and then the Ubiquiti interface would make things easier. But it will be something to do later; currently in the process of making order in my main computer systems and in the way data is organized.
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  12. #12
    Moderator VJ's Avatar
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    Might be faster than I intended... the router at my girlfriend's parents' is acting up (wifi access point is visible, but you cannot connect to it; web interface disconnects after a few seconds). They only use it as a bridge, and there is a second one, so it is not too urgent... But most likely our router will go there and I will get a new one.
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  13. #13
    Super MURCer UtwigMU's Avatar
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    Routers do act up. I have a surplus Mikrotik 2011 if you're interested.

  14. #14
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    Thanks for the offer, but perhaps keep it as a spare... My Linksys WRT54GC is now around 15 years old and has saved me in many situations.

    At my parents place, the main issue is the wifi range; as a router their current one is not bad but I made a mistake with the purchase. It is around 4 years old, but lacks gigabit (I checked everything but overlooked that point). At my girlfriend's place, two old Linksys routers are used as accesspoints (the operator's modem-router is used as main router); one is almost 20 years old and still going, the other one is 15 years old and started to act up (mainly wifi, but we are also suspicious of ethernet). My own router is 5 year old Asus with gigabit and it still seems to be fine.

    Current plan is:
    1. get router+access point of us
    2. move our router to girlfriend's parents place
    3. get new router for my parents

    The only problem with the plan is that our router also shares a usb printer. I would lose this with the router/access point I'm looking at. I was not expecting to have to sacrifice my own router so quickly. So either it means getting some simple device that allows to connect a usb printer to a network, or just get a new printer with ethernet (this was in the planning, current printer is a very old laser printer).

    So many considerations....
    pixar
    Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow. (James Dean)

  15. #15
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    A lot of Mikrotiks have USB port but check if you can share printer or get a Brother network duplex printer.

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