Author Topic: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???  (Read 1626 times)

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Offline cliffyk

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Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« on: May 09, 2022, 04:55:56 pm »
Are the "happy homeowner" class of these pretty much all the same? I ask because not thrilled with the performance of a $15 Wavlink device (from the Amazon warehouse) I bought a higher-end TP-Link extended on Craigslist--it was better but still had little "wow" factor. I got signals in the -60 to -65 dB range from 55 feet away...

So, going "nuts" I got a $100 Netgear AC-1900  thingy from Walmart--the 55 ft signals dropped to -65 to -68 dB! Just took it back...

WTF? Any comments?
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Offline kripton2035

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2022, 06:03:53 pm »
my experience tells me that they are absolutely not reliable, any brand.
the only thing that really works are mesh routers, and you should stock to the same brand if you don't want any trouble.
have good results with synology mr2200 and mr2600
 

Offline Rick Law

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2022, 09:03:42 pm »
my experience tells me that they are absolutely not reliable, any brand.
the only thing that really works are mesh routers, and you should stock to the same brand if you don't want any trouble.
have good results with synology mr2200 and mr2600
( RL: bold added )

Trouble is, it appears to me every manufacturer has their own definition of "mesh routers", and your ISP has some say in which ones (manufacturer/model) you need to be compatible with their stuff.

This experience was days under a year ago, things may be better now: Then, I was helping a relative setting up the ISP/WiFi.  The ISP's modem is equipped with WiFi and "mesh WiFi network".  Looking at their website at the time, they just mean multiple AP's (access points) with same broadcast names.  In practice, switching from a weaker (say bedroom) to the stronger (kitchen, now you are there) is entirely up to the device you are using.  If the bedroom's AP signal is weaker and thus slower but it is still strong enough not to loose signal, it will stay latched on the weaker bedroom WiFi AP.  Only by turning the device's WiFi off and back on would it find the stronger signal AP.

Besides, a weaker signal but directly connected may still be faster than a hop thus with extra latency -- after all, your local mesh-based AP will be using that weaker signal for back-haul if they are not hardwired to the router.  In theory, that local AP should be best positioned to have best connection.  In practice, that doesn't work so well.  I was testing download speed using various internet download speed tests.  Direct connect (with weaker signal) vs nearer AP with WiFi back-haul: The direct connect beats WiFi back haul every time, at least in that experience.

Looking for better alternatives, we went shopping.  While shopping at Best Buy, one manufacturer has sales posters that merely described their "better than traditional Wifi new mesh Wifi network" as "aesthetically pleasing" so it doesn't have wire all over the place connecting black boxes with big transformer power plugs as compared to "traditional WiFi" -- that's it, it was merely a better looking box that you don't have to hide.  They may have better sales posters now, but that doesn't give me much confidence.

The ISP (and the ISP's modem) has been replaced twice since.  I am not sure how the ISP's tech set it up anymore.  I stayed away at arm's length so I don't need to be the volunteer 24hrs tech-support.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2022, 09:05:21 pm by Rick Law »
 

Offline cliffyk

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2022, 12:17:53 am »
Thank you all for your valued input.

edavid, my providing my observed signal strengths was not to imply them unreasonable or unexpected, but to document that the $100 (at Walmart, $149 "MSRP") NetGear device delivered no better (perhaps worse depending on the accuracy/repeatability of my monitoring device) signal than the $15 WavLink "el cheapo" from Amazon's "warehouse" (returned merchandise dumpster)--and which has been running at 138+°F for 18 months or so; which has prompted me to seek an alternative.

Unfortunately at 75, blind in one eye, and Parkinson's to boot, dragging Cat 6 cable through the attic is not an option--and my goal (to get reasonably fast WiFi connectivity to my metal building "Faraday cage" electronic shop some 85 feet from my hard-wired LinkSys EA6900 router (up and running 24/7 for 4 years now ) is quite likely unreasonable. Had a trench with a cable in in at the "old" house...

Any thoughts on that conundrum?

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Offline Rick Law

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2022, 03:28:35 am »
...
You can usually put the ISP's device in bridge mode and use your own router.
Or, turn off the WiFi and use your own mesh APs on the LAN side.
...
Depends on the ISP.  With one of the local ISP my relative was trying, you must use their supplied combo modem which is a modem+router/firewall+WiFi.  It was a UBEE made by FoxConn, I found the manual and setup info (and IP) on UBEE's web for that model - but after fumbling around for a while unsuccessfully, further research shown their ISP actually disabled the local setup.  All set up must be done via the ISP website's subscriber account-admin pages.   The combo device has reduced to horribly limited functionality.  It's be almost a year now, but I recalled other than port forwarding, there is nothing else you could do on their "firewall/router" nor their WiFi AP - can't do a darn thing with that AP at all other than renaming the broadcast name for that lone AP.  The virtual access point feature (available on plain UBEE's manual) is not there (there is a reason I point this out, read on).  Good that that was merely at my relative's place (and user requirements is just going to the net)...

That experience actually made me think, the ISP could be using the "virtual access point" feature on these combo-modems (at customer sites) to enable them (the ISP) to sell WiFi anywhere on their offering.  I see new access points with ISP-name popping up once powered up, but I don't see any indication of any virtual AP in the account-admin pages.  I don't know if the ISPs actually do this, but I can imagine such a modem at the dentist's office paid for by the dentist -- with the virtual access point available for the ISP's "WiFi anywhere" customers.

At my own home, I use a plain cable modem going into a real router/firewall and branch out to real WiFi's that I can control.  I am much happier with that set up.

...
Quote
In practice, switching from a weaker (say bedroom) to the stronger (kitchen, now you are there) is entirely up to the device you are using.
That's plain old WiFi, not mesh.  In a mesh system, the weaker access point will kick the client off to make it reassociate with a stronger access point.
Yeah, I know, but that doesn't stop them from labeling and marketing them as "mesh".  That actually was what prompted me to post the earlier reply.  "Mesh" meaning depends on who is claiming their stuff to be "mesh" and not much beyond that.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2022, 03:37:19 am by Rick Law »
 

Offline cliffyk

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2022, 05:50:19 am »
I have seen real-world "side-by-side"comparisons showing "mesh" to have only a 10% or so speed advantage over plain ol' non-"mesh" devices/systems. Combined with the prices this lead me to consider it "MEH-sh" as part of my plans...
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Offline kripton2035

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2022, 10:23:20 am »
the mesh routers are mainly far easier to setup than non mesh one. you can then move them to optimize the wifi range.
on other routers you have to maintain the order in which they are set. it can become a challenge.
 

Offline themadhippy

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2022, 11:27:47 am »
Quote
I don't know if the ISPs actually do this, but I can imagine such a modem at the dentist's office paid for by the dentist -- with the virtual access point available for the ISP's "WiFi anywhere" customers.
BT in the uk certainly did
 

Offline cliffyk

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2022, 12:19:26 pm »
Here in the "States" Xfinity (Comcast) buries public access into it's modems--you can turn it off, but only via their online account settings with a well hidden option:
============================================================================================

============================================================================================
Most subscribers do not disable it and it's commonly available (such as at my Dentist's office).
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Offline cliffyk

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2022, 12:30:01 pm »
the mesh routers are mainly far easier to setup than non mesh one. you can then move them to optimize the wifi range.
on other routers you have to maintain the order in which they are set. it can become a challenge.

Unfortunately, "easier-to-use" and "sub-optimal" often go hand-in-hand...

It's a corollary to "If you buy 'the cheapest there is', there is a good chance you will get the 'cheapest there is'..."

In the "old days" IBM sales staff responded to customer's "sticker shock" by telling them "No one was ever sorry they bought the best there is."
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Offline David Hess

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2022, 12:41:21 pm »
My experience is that WiFi range extenders which operate within one band are never reliable.  What can work is distribution to the access points on a separate band, which in practice means 5GHz, so there is no self interference on 2.4GHz.  Best of all of course is distribution with wired Ethernet, which may not be an inconvenience when power has to be supplied to the access points anyway.
 

Offline madires

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2022, 01:51:31 pm »
Have you looked into powerline adpaters? There are also models with integrated WiFi. If you prefer WiFi only then look for routers/APs supported by OpenWrt which runs quite stable. I've set up WiFI based networks across multiple buildings and the common consumer stuff with its genuine firmware simply sucks, totally unreliable.
 

Offline ejeffrey

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2022, 03:54:06 pm »
the mesh routers are mainly far easier to setup than non mesh one. you can then move them to optimize the wifi range.
on other routers you have to maintain the order in which they are set. it can become a challenge.

Unfortunately, "easier-to-use" and "sub-optimal" often go hand-in-hand...

It's a corollary to "If you buy 'the cheapest there is', there is a good chance you will get the 'cheapest there is'..."

In the "old days" IBM sales staff responded to customer's "sticker shock" by telling them "No one was ever sorry they bought the best there is."

Mesh systems are definitely and explicitly sub optimal.  The optimal setup is multiple ceiling/wall mounted APs with non overlapping bands, wired backhaul, band steering and fast roaming.

That is impractical for most homes.  Tri radio mesh is second best.  That is, each mesh node has a 2.4 and 5 GHz radio for clients and a separate 5 GHz radio for uplink.  This avoids the airtime conflict between client data and uplink and also allows the satellite nodes to use non overlapping bands.  The more expensive mesh systems support this.

Next best are dual radio mesh systems.  The problem there is that the uplink is shared with the client connection.  Most mesh systems offer this either exclusively or as a cheaper option.  It's good for lighter traffic locations but the throughput is less.

Single point wifi extenders are the worst.  They tend to be dual radio, but the lack of central management means they are generally worse at roaming and harder to configure correctly.  They are also bigger and more obtrusive, so are often placed sub optimally while many mesh nodes are designed to be placed in plain sight for the best signal.

One thing to keep in mind: you may need a lot more mesh nodes than you would need in a multiple wired access points setup.  Wired backhaul access points only need to be placed so that their coverage overlaps.  Mesh nodes need to be placed so that the center of each mesh node is in the strong coverage area of it's upstream node.  A mesh node on the table next to your laptop isn't actually helping you.
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2022, 06:32:17 pm »
That is impractical for most homes.  Tri radio mesh is second best.  That is, each mesh node has a 2.4 and 5 GHz radio for clients and a separate 5 GHz radio for uplink.  This avoids the airtime conflict between client data and uplink and also allows the satellite nodes to use non overlapping bands.  The more expensive mesh systems support this.

Moving to the 5 GHz band where multiple channels are available does not prevent conflict, even if separate antennas are used for transmit and receive.  When the transmitter is operating, even if a nearby receiver is not desensitized by the strong out-of-channel signal, then noise from the transmitter on the receiver's channel will deafen it.

Commercial Wifi equipment has provisions to synchronize so that all transmitters operate at the same time, followed by reception with no transmitters active within the same band.
 
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Offline Rick Law

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2022, 07:45:59 pm »
Quote
I don't know if the ISPs actually do this, but I can imagine such a modem at the dentist's office paid for by the dentist -- with the virtual access point available for the ISP's "WiFi anywhere" customers.
BT in the uk certainly did

Here in the "States" Xfinity (Comcast) buries public access into it's modems--you can turn it off, but only via their online account settings with a well hidden option:
[...]

Most subscribers do not disable it and it's commonly available (such as at my Dentist's office).

Now I can consider my suspicion as "well founded".

The trouble with merely an option in their online account settings to "turn it off" is (a) the option needs to continue to exist and (b) they must respect that option.  When they start using your money (ie: your electricity, your hardware) without your explicit permission, they already shown they have no respect for you as a customer...

When I was doing the research for that year-ago experience, I found this for Verizon:  Some reviewer was recommending that (not verbatim but worded from my recollection) "while the G3100 (then current) was good, one should get the earlier generation of the Verizon modem/wifi which was cheaply available on ebay, turn off the WiFi and use you own for better through put and bang for the buck."   If the earlier modem's WiFi turn off switch is local, that would be a way to ensure your line is indeed yours only -- at least until they stop supporting that earlier modem.
 

Offline tszaboo

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2022, 08:22:02 pm »
Honestly, just get a standard router, that supports this mode. Newer Asus ones do, they cost less than than fancy range extenders, and they have more antennas.
 

Offline cliffyk

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2022, 06:50:49 am »
Have you looked into powerline adpaters? There are also models with integrated WiFi. If you prefer WiFi only then look for routers/APs supported by OpenWrt which runs quite stable. I've set up WiFI based networks across multiple buildings and the common consumer stuff with its genuine firmware simply sucks, totally unreliable.

I have, from 3 makers--all flaky--requiring frequent re-setting and re-configuration...
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Offline cliffyk

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2022, 06:54:54 am »
Quote
I don't know if the ISPs actually do this, but I can imagine such a modem at the dentist's office paid for by the dentist -- with the virtual access point available for the ISP's "WiFi anywhere" customers.
BT in the uk certainly did

Here in the "States" Xfinity (Comcast) buries public access into it's modems--you can turn it off, but only via their online account settings with a well hidden option:
[...]

Most subscribers do not disable it and it's commonly available (such as at my Dentist's office).

Now I can consider my suspicion as "well founded".

The trouble with merely an option in their online account settings to "turn it off" is (a) the option needs to continue to exist and (b) they must respect that option.  When they start using your money (ie: your electricity, your hardware) without your explicit permission, they already shown they have no respect for you as a customer...

It's a "cable" company, that and customer respect and service do no belong in the same sentence...
 
Quote
When I was doing the research for that year-ago experience, I found this for Verizon:  Some reviewer was recommending that (not verbatim but worded from my recollection) "while the G3100 (then current) was good, one should get the earlier generation of the Verizon modem/wifi which was cheaply available on ebay, turn off the WiFi and use you own for better through put and bang for the buck."   If the earlier modem's WiFi turn off switch is local, that would be a way to ensure your line is indeed yours only -- at least until they stop supporting that earlier modem.
-cliff knight-

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Offline EPAIII

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2022, 10:01:39 am »
I am in the process of setting up a new WiFi system in my home now. My old one was, actually is as it is still running, a low end WiFi router from Walmart and a couple of equally low end extenders. We used this for around eight or more years. But the problems were constant. My new system will be a mesh network with at least two repeaters.

One thing I have discovered in many years in broadcast engineering is antenna HEIGHT is, within reason, a prime factor in how far a signal travels. That applies inside a house (at least a one story one) due to the fact that most furniture is below 4 or 5 feet tall so if the WiFi antennae are above that level, then the signal does not have as much to travel THROUGH. I have the new router just a foot below the ceiling in my office and plan to have the repeaters at least six feet off the floor. I/we will see how this works out.

So that is my tip for the day. The higher, the better. For the antennae anyway.

Oh, one more thing. While I do not like buying the lowest cost items, I also have learned that the most expensive ones are often just a lot of glitter and no real performance advantage over the middle of the line models. You need to spend your money judiciously.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2022, 10:05:23 am by EPAIII »
 
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Offline JohanH

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2022, 10:41:19 am »
I have three ceiling/wall mount access points in the house. All connected to Gbit LAN. These are Zyxel NWA1123AC series (older) and NWA50AX (the newest one). Because I use only three, they run on channels 1, 6 and 11 on the 2.4 GHz band and for various reasons channels 36, 52 and 100 on the 5 GHz band. This allows them to have wide channels and little interference. I recommend the Zyxel NWA50AX, relatively cheap and it supports latest standards and have a strong signal. They run off 12V (also support PoE, but I don't use it) and one of them is connected to a home made UPS consisting of a small 12V lead battery and charger (that also feeds a switch and some other devices).

This is in my opinion the ideal setup for a small house. Rock solid, never any issues. I've never used extenders, but my instincts say to avoid them.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2022, 10:50:35 am by JohanH »
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #20 on: May 28, 2022, 11:09:04 am »
One thing I have discovered in many years in broadcast engineering is antenna HEIGHT is, within reason, a prime factor in how far a signal travels. That applies inside a house (at least a one story one) due to the fact that most furniture is below 4 or 5 feet tall so if the WiFi antennae are above that level, then the signal does not have as much to travel THROUGH. I have the new router just a foot below the ceiling in my office and plan to have the repeaters at least six feet off the floor. I/we will see how this works out.

So that is my tip for the day. The higher, the better. For the antennae anyway.

I just installed this.  If it was any higher, then it would be outside.
 

Offline EPAIII

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2022, 02:36:29 am »
Well, there you go. If it is near the center of your house I bet it works great. Through the ceiling and, at most, one wall. I love it.

Unfortunately for my house, which is U shaped, I would need at least three attic mounted ones and my attic is not easy to access except over the garage. In previous houses I had added additional access holes in places like closets, but I haven't done that in the present one. And I am getting too old for that kind of work. If I get desperate enough, I may hire someone to do it. For now I am trying high (6' to 7') locations on the walls.



One thing I have discovered in many years in broadcast engineering is antenna HEIGHT is, within reason, a prime factor in how far a signal travels. That applies inside a house (at least a one story one) due to the fact that most furniture is below 4 or 5 feet tall so if the WiFi antennae are above that level, then the signal does not have as much to travel THROUGH. I have the new router just a foot below the ceiling in my office and plan to have the repeaters at least six feet off the floor. I/we will see how this works out.

So that is my tip for the day. The higher, the better. For the antennae anyway.

I just installed this.  If it was any higher, then it would be outside.
 

Offline Rick Law

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #22 on: June 02, 2022, 07:11:25 pm »
Well, there you go. If it is near the center of your house I bet it works great. Through the ceiling and, at most, one wall. I love it.

Unfortunately for my house, which is U shaped, I would need at least three attic mounted ones and my attic is not easy to access except over the garage.
[... ... ...]

Some houses, particularly townhouses, are a bit more packed in.  Narrow but multiple floors.  So it is not just through the ceiling, but floors as well.  Just one floor at an angle would cut the signal down rather significantly.

If cable TV cables are installed in the house, MOCA modem could help nicely.  I was using 2.4G back-haul and it was iffy.  Upgraded to 5G wireless back-haul and watching a movie was still a stop and go affair.  Eventually, I switched over to MOCA for the back-haul and never looked back!
 

Offline David Hess

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2022, 03:24:43 am »
Well, there you go. If it is near the center of your house I bet it works great. Through the ceiling and, at most, one wall. I love it.

Performance has been outstanding.  The roof is steel so provides some shielding from the neighbors.  I already had a conduit for antenna coax into the attic so installing the Ethernet cable was not difficult.

Before I was using a Nanostation, which has a sector antenna, in one corner of the house and while it worked, I suspect it was picking up too much of the neighbor's Wifi inhibiting transmission leading to dropped clients.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2022, 09:02:07 am by David Hess »
 

Offline JohanH

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Re: Wifi repeaters/range extenders???
« Reply #24 on: June 04, 2022, 07:40:24 am »

I just installed this.  If it was any higher, then it would be outside.


Wouldn't work in my house. We have thick walls and lots of insulation. I struggle to get 5 GHz signal through one wall, even with open doors. Even in this relatively small house (150 m²), I need an AP on each floor and downstairs I have strategically placed two. Many devices just drop the 5 GHz in next room to the AP and go for 2.4 GHz. Now with the newest AP the 5 GHz signal seems stronger (Zyxel NWA50AX) and I can max out the fiber Internet speed (currently I have 250/100 MBit), even from a phone.
 


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