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Improve Your Home Wi-Fi with Mesh, Powerline, MoCA, or More Routers

If you’ve made it this far through the pandemic without cursing your home Wi-Fi, congratulations! You’re a rare bird, and you don’t need this article. Read on, however, if you’re not getting the performance and coverage you want or you’re not sure what steps to take to improve your networked life.

Pay Attention to the Internet Connection

Your Wi-Fi network performance for Internet-based tasks is, of course, dependent on the speed of your Internet connection. If you’re stuck at low double-digit speeds from an incumbent carrier, it might be time to look at new local wired and wireless competitors, like T-Mobile’s 4G/5G home broadband service in some markets. (See “T-Mobile Offers Unlimited 5G Home Broadband Service,” 14 April 2021.)

You may also be able to call your provider and get a better plan or pricing by threatening to switch to a competitor. Over the last few years, I negotiated my 1 Gbps service from CenturyLink from its initial monthly price of $155 down to $85 as the company lowered what it charged new customers and then was willing to drop my fees to match.

If your Internet connection is as souped-up as you’re willing to pay for, let’s look at options to extend your home network and boost performance and coverage.

Connect the Network Dots with Cables

Despite having focused much of my tech writing on wireless networking for over 20 years, I often find wired connections work best. That’s true in nearly all cases except mesh wireless networking, which can sometimes benefit from a wired network, too! Most of the time, connecting a broadband modem and Wi-Fi base stations with wires provides the best throughput. It also gives you the option to plug in computers and streaming video boxes that need high throughput.

When it comes to wires, you have three options, each with varying costs, availability, and installation hassles: Ethernet, powerline, and MoCA.

Ethernet

All wired networking stems from Ethernet, a decades-old standard that’s affordable even in its gigabit flavor. The wiring, switches, and other elements you need to build or extend an Ethernet network will likely cost only tens of dollars. If you have access to crawl spaces or an attic, or if you can drill through even a single wall, you can pull Ethernet cable.

I used to buy a box of Ethernet cable, cut it to length, and crimp RJ45 connectors onto the ends. But because finished and tested Ethernet cables cost so little now, I prefer buying pre-made cables that I know have been tested to work—unlike those I made from scratch. For installing plugs in walls, I like double-sided wall plates that have a jack on either side.

Ethernet cable

Look for “Cat-6” cables, where the “Cat” means “category” and the “6” refers to a set of electrical specifications designed to allow for certain kinds of performance. You can pay a little less for Cat-5e, but it’s not worth the savings. Cat-6 has better insulation to protect against interference, and it’s designed for the long haul. If you want to use 10 Gbps Ethernet when that becomes affordable for home use, you can with Cat-6 cabling.

Modern Ethernet switches, cards, and other hardware have auto-sensing, auto-switching ports: long gone is the need to have special patch cables or flip switches. You just plug it all in. 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps devices can work on the same network with no additional effort or slowdown.

If you can’t easily access the innards of your home to run Ethernet cable, two other options have matured into great alternatives to or extensions of Ethernet.

Powerline Networking

Your home electrical wiring can carry both power and data by adding powerline networking adapters. A powerline adapter forms a network with other adapters plugged into the same leg of an electrical circuit in your home. The current generation of technology offers raw rates up to 2 Gbps.

Powerline adapters must plug directly into a wall socket and typically sport at least one gigabit Ethernet jack. Some also include a pass-through electrical plug, a built-in Wi-Fi router to extend a network, or a second Ethernet jack. Prices start at as little as $50 for a set of two with a data rate up to 1 Gbps.

TP-Link AV1000

If you live in a shared home or in a building with electrical wiring that may extend beyond your domicile, you can press a button on each adapter to enable security, much like simple Bluetooth pairing.

Powerline technology may not work across any two outlets in a home depending on how the electrical panel is set up, but the current generation is far more tolerant of wiring issues than the earlier ones.

MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance)

Over a period of several decades, many new and renovated homes were wired for cable TV with coaxial cable in every room and a central wiring panel that distributed services from a provider’s incoming wire. MoCA takes advantage of this infrastructure by encoding 1 Gbps or 2.5 Gbps over coax, with adapters offering one or more Ethernet jacks. It’s more robust and reliable than powerline networking, but it’s also more expensive. A pair of 1 Gbps adapters costs nearly $140.

Motorola MoCA adapters

You may need to secure a network created via MoCA adapters if you have cable broadband or video service. A point of entry (PoE) filter prevents neighbors within a short distance from tapping into your network with their own MoCA gear. These filters are readily available and cost about $5. You can also (or instead) set a password on MoCA adapters that encrypts traffic between them via a Web administration interface, much like setting a password for a Wi-Fi network.

A Real-World Example

In my home, we hit the wall (almost literally) when my wife set up a new office space for her coaching business in our bedroom. Despite having an Ethernet-connected Wi-Fi router in a basement guest room directly beneath where she worked and a wireless extender in our bedroom, she could not get reliable throughput—critical for her video sessions with clients.

After buying some Ethernet cabling and gear and tracing empty spots in the house, I realized adding more wire would be very involved and might require bringing in a cabling specialist. Our house has largely wood lath and brittle plaster walls from the 1920s that are difficult to drill through without causing a lot of damage. Since we have no coax in the house, I tested to see if powerline networking would work for our situation.

I purchased a pair of powerline adapters: the TP-Link AV1000 (TL-PA7017P kit, $52.99). They use the AV2 standard, which offers up to 1 Gbps, and each has one Ethernet port. (If you need higher throughput, the TP-Link AV2000 units (TL-PA9020P kit, under $100) have two Ethernet ports and a raw data rate of up to 2 Gbps.)TP-Link Wi-Fi extender

Given we already had a Wi-Fi range extender (the TP-Link AC1750 WiFi Extender, model RE450, $59.99) in the bedroom that couldn’t pump out more than 1 Gbps, we checked to make sure the TP-Link AV1000 could deliver the maximum data rate we needed. It did: that pair of plugs provided the wired extension, and our Wi-Fi range extender’s Ethernet port took its incoming connection from one of the powerline adapters. Problem solved.

Upgrade Your Wi-Fi Router

Upgrading to current Wi-Fi gateways or switching to mesh networking can solve problems of both low throughput and spotty coverage.

You may have outdated Wi-Fi gear. A lot of people do, and that included me until the pandemic hit. Then I had to add into the mix the bandwidth demands of two kids requiring full-time video-based remote learning. While most of my equipment supported at least the 802.11n wireless network standard (Wi-Fi 4), I upgraded everything that didn’t to 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5). (For an explanation of generations, see “Wi-Fi Switches from Obscure Protocol Names to Simple Generation Numbers” 5 October 2018.)

To give you an idea of how easy it is to fall behind the networking curve when everything is working fine, I wrote about Apple adding 802.11ac to the AirPort Extreme Base Station over 8 years ago (see “802.11ac Promises Better Coverage, but Won’t Hit Advertised Speeds,” 13 June 2013).

A household with only 802.11n devices likely can’t keep up with multiple family members using videoconferencing, streaming video services, or bandwidth- or latency-intensive Internet services and games. Upgrade to 802.11ac for a substantial difference, or future-proof with the latest standard, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6), which now doesn’t cost much more than 802.11ac.

If I were making the change today, I’d probably switch to 802.11ax, which offers more efficient use of the wireless spectrum and higher potential maximum throughput than any previous version. The techniques in 802.11ax include advanced strategies to avoid interference with other routers and nearby networks. It can also target individual devices by varying power across multiple antennas to “steer” or “beamform” signals to where they best overlap for reception.

As one example of a modern 802.11ax router, take a look at the TP-Link Archer AX20, which at $99.99 can offer throughput that maxes out at 1.8 Gbps across 2.4 and 5 GHz bands and has four gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. (Neither I nor TidBITS have any relationship with TP-Link. I chose to standardize on TP-Link gear for cost, features, and management via its Tether app.)

TP-Link Archer AX20

Switch to Mesh Networking

Conventional routers like the TP-Link Archer AX20 still require wired connections to other routers to extend the network, using any of the techniques above for extending a network. Many people have instead opted into mesh networking, which can rely entirely on wireless communication among network components, called nodes.

As far as the client hardware is concerned—a computer, phone, tablet, or other device—the nodes act exactly like regular Wi-Fi access points. But when communicating among each other, nodes determine the most efficient way to send data packets between source and destination, whether to and from the Internet or among devices on the network.

Nodes don’t require any wiring. You just set up two or more of them, often with iPhone app assistance about optimal placement, and they find each other and start routing data. The NetGear Orbi and Blackhawk and Amazon Eero (see “Eero Provides Good Wi-Fi Coverage in a Handsome Package,” 25 June 2016) are three of the most popular hardware options, but D-Link, Cisco Linksys, TP-Link, and others also have mesh offerings. (The Linksys Velop is the only one sold in Apple’s stores. See “Velop Provides First-Rate but Expensive Wi-Fi Mesh Networking” 9 July 2018.)

Three Eero nodes

Mesh networking has one drawback: it uses Wi-Fi frequencies to communicate with both client hardware and other nodes. That means every re-transmission of data between nodes reduces the overall network throughput. With a busy network full of streaming data, that approach can cut into your performance and result in lower throughput, choppy video, and slower downloads and uploads.

If you need high and consistent throughput, I recommend purchasing either so-called “tri-band” mesh nodes or nodes that have wired backhaul:

  • Tri-band: A tri-band node has three separate radio systems. One is devoted to the lower-throughput, backward-compatible, and better-penetrating 2.4 GHz band, while the other two work over the high-throughput 5 GHz band. One of the 5 GHz radios is dedicated to intra-node communication, dramatically improving overall throughput.
  • Wired backhaul: It might seem ironic to get a mesh node and then rely on Ethernet for backhaul, but it’s a good alternative. By purchasing nodes with Ethernet ports designed for intra-node communication, you can opt for a cheaper dual-band mesh model and use Ethernet (or powerline or MoCA) to get the highest throughput. You still get most of the benefits of mesh networking: intelligent and dynamic routing, minimal configuration, and flexibility.

Mesh networking nodes that meet my high-throughput recommendations cost about the same as the comparable number of traditional Wi-Fi gateways.

The original dual-band Eero with Ethernet backhaul is $199 for a three-pack; the Eero 6 Pro with both Ethernet and a tri-band radio system runs $599 for its three-pack. The difference? The plain Eero promises coverage with three nodes over a smaller area than the Eero 6 Pro (5000 square feet/465 square meters versus 6000 square feet/557 square meters) and up to 500 Mbps of throughput compared to 1 Gbps.

A similar price split exists at NetGear, even comparing two sets of nodes that all have tri-band radio systems and Ethernet. The three-pack Orbi AC2200 Mesh WiFi System (bundle number RBK23) costs $299.99 and promises a maximum speed of about 1.3 Gbps over 6000 square feet. The three-pack Orbi AX4200 WiFi Mesh System (bundle number RBK753) is $449.99 (that’s $100 off its list price) and claims up to 4.2 Gbps across 7500 square feet/697 square meters.

A trio of Orbi nodes

Speed Up!

If you’ve been suffering with a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t provide the coverage and throughput you need for Zoom calls, Apple TV streaming, and everything else you want to do, there’s no reason to live with it any longer. Just spend a few minutes evaluating your needs, how much you’re willing to spend, and the physical constraints of your home. Then decide whether it makes sense to jump to a modern mesh network or rely on one of the wired solutions with additional traditional Wi-Fi routers.

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Comments About Improve Your Home Wi-Fi with Mesh, Powerline, MoCA, or More Routers

Notable Replies

  1. Good article. Some additional points:

    • Cat 6 cable is only rated for 10Gbit/s over shorter distances (up to 55m, but I wouldn’t push it that far). To reach the maximum distance of 100m, you need to use Category 6A cable, which is a bit more expensive.

      And don’t try making your own Cat 6/6A cables. In addition to needing certified connectors, there are a lot of fiddly things you need to get right in order for the entire cable to support that bandwidth over the maximum distance.

    • Many 10G Ethernet ports (including the ones Apple ships) also support 2.5Gbit and 5Gbit operation, which should work more reliably than 10Gbit speeds if your cables and connections are not completely up to spec.

    • The key specification for powerline networking these days is HomePlug AV2. It is backward compatible with the older HomePlug AV standard, but is not compatible with other kinds of powerline networks.

      Although products advertise speeds up to 1.3Gbit/s, don’t expect to actually realize these speeds. But throughput around 500Mbit/s is definitely achievable, which makes these good options for many households.

    • You need to be careful with MoCA. Transceivers can use a wide variety of frequencies and you need to pick ones that won’t be used by other services on the coaxial cable (e.g. cable/satellite TV services).

      If you aren’t running TV services over your coax, then you don’t have to care. Otherwise, be sure you get transceivers known to be compatible with your TV services (Comcast, FiOS, Dish, DirecTV, etc.)

      Additionally, MoCA requires your coax splitters to be bi-directional. Splitters designed for basic TV services (whether analog or digital) are one-way and won’t support MoCA. They also need to support the frequencies used by your MoCA system. If you are already running TV services that involve bidirectional data (e.g. FiOS or Dish network), then your splitters should already be bidirectional and supporting the required frequencies. If not, then you might find yourself needing to get new splitters.

      It’s worth pointing out that Verizon FiOS (don’t know about others) actually use MoCA internally for distributing service from the ONT where the fiber terminates to the rest of your home. If you get MoCA transceivers that are compatible, they will automatically start moving data to your FiOS router without any additional equipment.

    • Another useful point. If you want to start with traditional Wi-Fi and reserve the option to later upgrade to a mesh network, Linksys makes several standalone “Mesh” routers (including the MR8300 that I’m using) which can pair with Velop nodes. So you can buy a standalone router now and add remote mesh nodes later as you decide you need/want them.

      I don’t know if the other makers of Mesh systems (Eero, Netgear, others) also offer products to allow this kind of flexibility.

  2. If your home needs an Ethernet run longer than 150 feet, I probably don’t know you.

    Edit: Well, maybe the Engsts do, but they live in the country.

  3. More seriously, this is a good general point: I generally tell people to buy powerline or MoCA gear from a place that offers easy and zero-cost returns because it might not work for them. In fact, I bought two kinds of powerline and we decided to keep and use the “1 Gbps” version, as noted in the article, because our Wi-Fi extender couldn’t deliver anything like 1 Gbps.

    In testing in that room, we can hit a couple hundred Mpbs to the Internet in each direction, which is overkill for our needs, so it was the right (and cheaper) solution.

  4. Gave that exact same advice to my brother who recently was wondering about extending wifi over to his cabana. He’ll be trying some powerline adapters as an Ethernet backbone, but I made sure he got them from a place that makes returns simple in case his wiring doesn’t play along.

    When it comes to powerline adapters and mesh routers, I find Wirecutter offers good advice and interesting bits of information.

  5. WRT MoCA, I considered it for my home, but quickly decided it would be too painful.

    Most (but not all, sadly) rooms in my home have coax cable, coming together in a wiring cabinet in the basement.

    Comcast’s cable (used for Internet only) is connected to the cable running to my office, where the modem resides.

    The downlink from my satellite dish connects (via a tap and a bidirectional splitter) to three rooms (where the TVs are). Dish uses MoCA for IP communication between the devices (with the Hopper DVR acting as a bridge from my Internet connection to the other two devices).

    I was originally hoping to just use MoCA to connect the two coaxial networks (Comcast and Dish) together and let them all share data. It was at that point I learned that the two systems use completely different sets of frequencies. The MoCA frequencies used by one would clobber the services (TV for Dish and DOCSIS for Comcast) used by the other.

    So for me, a MoCA solution would require an Ethernet switch in the basement, with two different-frequency MoCA interfaces to bridge data between the two segments.

    I quickly decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I ended up getting three powerline adapters, using them to bridge from my office (where the modem and router live) to two distant rooms, where I have cheap Wi-Fi routers in bridge mode acting as access points. One of these days, I plan on replacing those routers with Velop nodes to convert my wireless LAN into a mesh, which should make everything more reliable.

    FWIW, I also have an Ethernet cable running from one of these access points to the Dish Hopper, since it wasn’t very reliable running over Wi-Fi.

    I realize that this is probably not a typical scenario. If you’re getting your Internet and TV service from one company (fiber or cable), then there should be an available band of MoCA frequencies you can use, so you just need to do some searching to make sure the transceivers you get are (or can be configured to be) compatible.

  6. Another limitation of PowerLine Adapters that I found out the hard way is that speeds are degraded if the outlet is GFCI protected. I would guess that the same is true of a surge protected outlet.

  7. Hate to be an old fuddy-duddy, here, but when I see all these alternatives and the hair-pulling & product returns often necessary to make them work, I just think plunking a modest 1G ethernet switch in the basement and running a few legs of wire up in the house would be well worth the day of dust.

    Yes, I know rental persons can’t do that so mesh for them, I guess, but in all the hoo ha about high-speed wifi and backhaul and all that, the fact that Ethernet floats far above the turgid wifi through-put waters and for less cost seems to be lost. :grinning:

    P.S. I have a neighbor who had some networking problems and upon examining them I discovered to my horror that he had strung an ethernet cable (in the air!) between his house and his coachhouse. It wasn’t the cable, it was a wonky router. The cable’s still working fine after 10 years. I’m still horrified but there you go. . . .

    Dave

  8. If I coulda, I woulda. And you note it’s my first recommendation: cheap, easy, works.

    Powerline and MoCA work just fine in a lot of other circumstances.

  9. Tee hee! I’m not accusing you of anything, Glenn! It’s good to find out what new things will make things easier. That said, it astonishes me how many people spend hours, days, trying to make new wifi things work when a drill, some cable, and a couple hours squirming around in funky dust-filled corners of the house result in vastly better networks.

    Dave

  10. Our house is a combination of an 18th century stone cottage, a modern timber frame extension and at the far side of the deck our offices.

    I used Ethernet where we could, connecting the AppleTV in the TV room and our office Macs,yes with the cable tacked onto the edge of the deck…

    What ended up becoming a five point Orbi mesh network for the rest of it. The cottage alone took two of them, walls are that thick, the house kinda sprawls and testing ended up with more stations than I’d hoped for. That said, the Orbis performed well, matching the wired speeds in general, for five of us, all Zooming and remote working, three lecturers and one 3D artist and one student.

  11. I was unaware of GFCI affecting it.

    The manufacturers all tell you to plug the adapter directly into an outlet and not into any kind of power strip. The filters and surge suppressors found in most strips will filter out the high frequency signals used to carry data - completely undermining the device’s ability to operate.

    I don’t think anybody disagrees. There is nothing better than actual Ethernet. But depending on your home, installation can be a time consuming and messy process.

    My previous home was a 1-story home with a basement (with a dropped-ceiling) and an attic that is open enough to walk around in. I ran many different wires through this home, including Ethernet, coax (for the roof antenna and later cable TV) and speaker wire for surround audio in the living room.

    My current home is two stories, with a fully-finished basement (drywall ceiling) and an attic with so many cross-braces that you really can’t do anything in there. To run Ethernet through this house, it would require significant amounts of removing and replacing drywall (and then re-painting), or running conduits on the outside of the house (ugly and probably violating my HOA’s covenant). I don’t have the ability to do that in a way that would look good afterward, and I don’t want to pay contractors to do it for me.

    Hence my decision to use powerline.

    Dangerous. Cable like that can attract lightening. If it isn’t properly shielded and grounded (like other outdoor cabling - TV, antenna, etc.), that lightening strike can cause very expensive damage.

    I’m not surprised it worked for carrying data, but it’s a bad idea. I would strongly recommend replacing it with an optical fiber, so there is no outdoor electrical connection between the buildings. And consider burying it to avoid physical damage.

  12. David, wich is the fastest Powerline adapter? Thanks.

  13. I don’t have enough information to name any brands/models, but look for something that complies with the “HomePlug AV2” standard. This is the fastest powerline standard currently available.

    Within that standard, look at what the manufacturers are advertising and get the fastest units that fit within your budget.

    If you need to add more nodes in the future, you should be able to mix-and-match units from different manufacturers as long as they are all HomePlug AV2 compliant. (You can also mix AV2 with AV units, but AV will be slower).

    I bought mine seven years ago, before AV2 was affordable. I am using three TP-Link brand 500 Mbit HomePlug AV adapters. They work great for me, since my Internet service is only 100M.

  14. With mesh systems where “nodes determine the most efficient way to send data packets between source and destination…” some of us have found that this confuses wifi-dependent devices such as the original Homepod.
    Also some mesh system require online registration. I don’t see how this is necessary as it is yet another security risk.
    Fortunately for me an upgrade to a better (single) router and replacing some old ethernet hubs (and cables) solved my issues.

  15. Thank you so much, sir.

  16. I have one of these in the UK where thick masonry walls are more common. These make the passing of wi-fi signals more difficult from room-to-room and make the installation of ethernet cabling more tricky. I have one of the Devolo Magic 2 Triple kits and also bought an additional receiver unit. Getting it working quickly and reliably was hardly plug-and-play but I am now very impressed with the speed and stability. My experience was their iOS app is poor but their Devolo Cockpit software for Mac works well, despite a weird UI. One further note about PowerLine not mentioned before: if you are still into listening to vinyl records using expensive moving coil cartridges, you might well experience interference to your listening from the ‘dirty’ mains.

  17. Moving coil cartridges are super-sensitive and (as far as I know) only used by high-end audiophile equipment. Most non-junk turntables use moving magnet cartridges, which have a higher signal level and shouldn’t be as sensitive to interference.

    If you use a moving coil cartridge, you may also require a stronger phono pre-amp than the one built into your receiver, since the signal level is lower.

    See also: Comparing Moving Magnet and Coil Phono Cartridge Types

    All this having been said, dirty power is a problem for all audio equipment. Using a good power filter on your audio equipment is important. Noise comes from a wide variety of sources in your home. Especially equipment with large motors, like air conditioners and refrigerators.

    And, of course, proper grounding is important. The ground lug in your turntable must always be connected to a corresponding ground lug on your amplifier in order to prevent loops that you will hear as a persistent hum.

    I am surprised you can hear noise from powerline networking, however, since the HomePlug frequencies (2-28MHz) are much higher than the audio frequencies your phono cartridge will be sending to your amplifier (the range of human hearing - generally 20 kHz and below).

  18. I set up MoCA a year ago and it has worked great for us.

    Regarding the PoE Filter – is that needed if you’ve swapped out the cable amplifier outside your house for one designed for MoCA? I installed this Commscope unit and the documentation says nothing about whether it serves as a PoE filter as well:

    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0779YQD38/

  19. So far, you’ve all neglected the critical issue of latency. “Speed” or “bandwidth” is not enough. Zoom, similar modes of video-conferencing, and real-time control of a remote process, require low latency – which Wi-Fi does not provide, partly because Wi-Fi is simplex; whereas Ethernet cable is full-duplex.

  20. I don’t think it’s a substantial issue anymore. I tried to find any modern discussion of it and it’s absent. There are likely very few applications in which Ethernet’s lower guaranteed latency makes a difference. From what I can tell, modern Wi-Fi latency is in the low milliseconds to maybe 20 to 30 ms?

    Zoom’s tech support notes:

    • Latency: The delay between packet being sent and received. Typically, a latency of 150ms or less is recommended. Higher latency values will result in noticeable delays between video and audio. For example, the time between you speaking and the other user receiving the audio on their end.
  21. We can’t prove anything with a few anecdotes. I’ll say only that, as an amateur radio operator, I frequently operate remote radio stations via the Internet, and that it’s well known to my fellow remote operators and me that one MUST not have any Wi-Fi in one’s Internet connection.

    In addition, I’ll mention that my wife sees clients about 20 hours per week via Zoom, and that 802.11ac Wi-Fi at 5 GHz with claimed speed of hundreds of MB/s works poorly for her; whereas Cat 6 Ethernet cable works flawlessly. Our Internet service is Verizon FiOS, 75 MB/s up and down, with no other video or big file transfers competing, and no significant interference from other Wi-Fi networks. -CCC

  22. I mean, this does sound like urban myth, but I expect you test it and find it’s lacking. It really reminds me of the kind of Wi-Fi tech issues of many years ago, but you do have 802.11ac, so go figure.

    There’s an easy way to diagnose the problem: Zoom has a Statistics item in Settings (why Settings? why anything in Zoom) and you could test a connection over Wi-Fi and Ethernet to see where the issues are.

    We have gigabit Ethernet and typically achieve extremely low latency to the Internet and 200 to 300 Mbps downstream and higher rates upstream with 802.11ac.

  23. I don’t use Zoom much myself, as I was unaware of its Statistics feature. I’ll play with that when I have time. However, I have done a lot of latency monitoring by means of PingPlotter, Standard version, currently v5.19.1.6774, while I have been connected to remote amateur radio stations. PingPlotter has shown repeatedly, consistently, that occasional episodes of high latency occur while my computer is connected to my router by Wi-Fi; but they do not occur while my computer is connected by Ethernet cable.

    Just now, just for you, I ran PingPlotter for 10 minutes while my MacBookPro (16-inch, 2019) was connected to my IQrouter, just 10 ft away in the same room, by Wi-Fi at 5GHz with TX rate = 866 Mb/s, with no streaming, no Time Machine, nothing else loading my LAN or my Internet connection. Then I switched to a Gigabit Ethernet cable connection (I thought!) and ran for another 10 minutes. In both cases I was connected to a remote station that I use often. (This station is connected directly by fiber to FairPoint’s node in Portland, ME.)

    PingPlotter shows me where — in which hop — latency occurs. In the first 10 minutes, PingPlotter showed one instance of about 50 ms latency and another of about 140 ms latency, each time in the first hop, between my Mac and my router. In the second 10 minutes, it showed five instances of about 250-second latency, again in the first hop. I smelled a rat; and, sure enough, I found that I had neglected to change a setting and my computer had continued to use Wi-FI.

    Then I made sure that Wi-Fi was disabled and my Mac was using its Ethernet cable connection; and I ran PingPlotter for another 10 minutes. This time, latency never exceeded 58 ms end-to-end; and the maximum latency of the first hop (between my Mac and my IQrouter) was about 2 ms.

    I saved screen-shots of these results and I’ll e-mail them to you directly if you ask. Idunno what the TidBITs Talk reflector would do if I tried to post them here.

    While I was typing this message, PingPlotter continued to run for yet another 10 minutes; and this time end-to-end latency remained under 40 ms, while first-hop latency remained around 1 ms.

    I have observed similar behavior for about four years, with several different Macs, with two FiOS ONT’s, and with the Wi-Fi access points of two different IQrouters, one v2 and one v3. As I’ve mentioned, many of my fellow ham radio operators have observed likewise.

    -CCC

  24. A problem I have found with my mesh network (Deco) is that my computers do not automatically connect to the feature 5 ghz band and often connect to the slower 2.4 ghz band, particularly after sleeping. There is no way I have found to force them to use the 5 ghz band. The signal strength for both is about the same. The only way I have found to get them to connect to the 5 ghz band is to cycle the airport connection on and off until they grab the 5 ghz by chance. Once connected, they will usually stay there until the next sleep. I could turn the 2.4 off, but I have devices which only work with it. The older routers allowed you to give the two bands different network names but that created problems of it’s own.

  25. Depends on whether the amplifier has a filter built in. If it doesn’t (as seems to be the case for this one), then you will want to keep your filter.

    For those unfamiliar with MoCA, it uses your in-home coaxial cable for LAN traffic.

    If you have cable TV/Internet service entering your home via copper coaxial cable, then the cable in your home is physically connected to your neighbors via the shared cable. A PoE (point-of-entry) filter is a device that should be installed where the cable enters your home (before the first splitter). It keeps your MoCA signals from leaking out to other homes and keeps any unfiltered MoCA signals from your neighbors from entering your home.

    If, on the other hand, you don’t have a coaxial cable connection to other homes (e.g. a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) solution, where your coax terminates at the optical transceiver where the fiber enters your home), then a filter shouldn’t be necessary.

    Regarding the amplified splitter in question, if it doesn’t advertise itself as having a built-in PoE filter, I would assume it does not have one. This actually makes sense, because a filter is not necessary for all installations (e.g. an FTTH system) and you may be using it in conjunction with other equipment (maybe in the middle of a network instead of at the point of home-entry), where a filter would cause problems.

  26. Okay, that makes sense. Presumably I should install the filter upstream of this amplifier?

  27. Yes. On the cable as it enters your home, before it reaches any other equipment (like your amplified splitter).

  28. Glenn, I have a lot of respect for your writings, to the extent that I now wonder what I’m experiencing. With distressing frequency, I click to open a new tab in my browser, and nothing happens for one to ten seconds. By nothing, I mean that Firefox opens the new tab, but it sits there empty, with the message at the bottom that data is being transferred. By distressing frequency, I mean about 5% to maybe 10% of the time. And it’s with a wide range of web sites. Any ideas what is going on? (What I described was with my AirPort Express. A few days ago, I got a new AX50. While it is still too new to draw conclusions, but the problem does seem to be reduced.)

  29. Sounds like it could be an over-zealous firewall rule. I had to disable my router’s built-in intrusion detection features because it was treating my own outbound connections as some kind of attack - causing hundreds of broken connections whenever I loaded a web page with a lot of embedded content.

    I blogged about this back in 2014:

    Despite the headline, this can affect routers from all vendors, not just Comcast.

  30. Okay, thank you very much David! I really appreciate the advice.

  31. As I mentioned above, some wifi routers seem to be too smart for their own good. Maybe they are bogged down trying to optimise the connections instead of giving a fast simple connection. Just a thought - not my area of expertise! :blush:

  32. The Google Wifi AC1200 Dual-Band Whole Home Smart Mesh only supports 802.11ac, 802.11n (2.4 and 5GHz frequency bands), 802.11g, 802.11b, and 802.11a, so not the latest WiFi 6 technology and it has no USB ports. Consumer Report rated it 13th of the 19 Mesh routers they last evaluated with good data security and privacy but only average throughput.

  33. Definitely test this in Safari too. If the problem is systemic, it will affect all browsers, but if there’s something wonky with just Firefox, Safari will work normally.

    I’ve been seeing something a little similar to this in Brave on my M1-based MacBook Air with the betas of macOS 12 Monterey. I haven’t figured it out yet, but it seemingly doesn’t happen in Safari, so I suspect it’s an issue between Brave and Monterey.

    My suspicion is that if you’re really experiencing latency problems, the slowdowns would continue across all connections from all sources, so you’d notice more than initial page loading issues. Regardless, some speed tests, like Cloudflare’s, will report on latency as well.

  34. Hello. I want to replace my aged A1470 Time Capsule (with a potentially failing drive) with a faster router. It is bridged to a TP-Link RE550 in my garage, and bridged to a TP-Link 220 in my vintage Airstream office, out in the yard. There are a couple of MacBook Pros (including mine) on the network, as well as a few Apple devices.

    I can administer the Time Capsule on the Airport utility, and can use TP-Link’s Tether app for those devices. That said, I’m far (quite far) from being a networking maven. I don’t want to cable any of the network by Ethernet. The other issue is I want to continue using the wireless backup capability of the Time Capsule, so the new router would have to have a USB port for an external drive and some kind of helpful software for managing wireless backups.

    I am wondering if anyone can suggest a new router that would work easily with Macs and my existing setup. Another question is if the 802.11ac capability of the two older TP-Link devices would slow down the capability of a new 802.11.ax router? As it is, my throughput in the Airstream is slow, and for most of my business needs (except the occasional video call) it is OK, but far from robust. Thanks for any help!

  35. I’ve got a TP Link A20 that does up through 802.11ac and it works fine for me.

    Frankly…I’ve found that network backups via Time Machine are a PITA and subject to frequent failures…I had setup identical destinations on 2 different Macs running the same OS version and set up identical Time Machine setups for two laptops…and found that they just intermittently and random fail for no reason I could ever figure out. So…eventually I gave up on them and did a roll your own Time Machine like solution using CarbonCopyCloner. Setup a shared folder on each of the remote Macs…one a mini in the entertainment center and the second on the iMac fileserver/Lightroom photo processing machine back in the office…both of those are always on. I set up CCC jobs using the Remote Macintosh destination option and selected /Users to be the only thing backed up since we keep data on either the iMac file server, DropBox, or in home directory…with alternating backups between the two remote Macs…it’s been running flawlessly for going on a year now and it even works if the laptops are asleep at night. If you’ve got a Mac that’s always running…that’s what I recommend instead of Time Machine for laptop network backups.

    As to upgrading the main router to an ax router…anything connected to the slower ac routers should not have an impact on the performance of the ax router…especially with mimo, dual band and all the other jazzy stuff that’s in newer routers. The only issue might be getting the downstream wireless points connected…are they cable connected now or bridging wirelessly?

  36. Thanks Neil. I will look into the A20. I have had my problems with Time Machine/Time Capsule as well. I do periodic backups with CCC to an external drive as well as the regular ones to Time Capsule, as does my girlfriend. I do regularly turn my machine off, but I’ll check out your backup solution, which sounds possible.

    The other access points are wireless: the garage is probably 75 feet from the home office router, which has to stay where it is (my girlfriend, who is often on video calls, needs it there), and the Airstream is another 25-40 feet, so I don’t want to deal with cables. Thanks for your thoughts!

  37. Thank you for that pointer. Since I have the new Wi-Fi router, the AirPort Express is unplugged from everything. But I used to enable every privacy and security setting I could find, so I could easily have shot myself in the foot. If I get a spare hour or two, I’ll hook up the AirPort. connect to it, and poke around with AirPort Utility for settings that might be over-zealous.

    It happened in Firefox on two different computers, but either more dramatically on mine or the other user is simply more tolerant. (Well, the other user is absolutely more tolerant. But maybe the issue was less significant on that computer.) Of course, if Firefox is wonky, then it could be wonky on both computers. Neither of us uses Safari regularly, but I experience this again, I will try it.

    In two tests, the latency was in the high and low 30s milliseconds on average, and the max was under 50 ms. If my math is correct, 50 ms would be 1/20 of a second and so latency would not account for the delay that caused my complaint.

    As I said, I now have a new router (AX50) and I haven’t noticed the significant delays with it.

  38. Gotta say that sounds like the router is the weak point. But sub-50ms latency should be enough for most purposes. It shouldn’t impact Zoom. But I don’t know the real-time latency issues of remote ham radio operation.

  39. Another good tip: storms and cable runs. I have a garage over 75’ from home. I had foresight to install twin conduits for comm/network and for power from the house/switching for lighting at garage-3way.
    A few years back, lightning struck the woodlands behind my property. I never witnessed it (heard it!) but I suspect the EMP from it was the culprit of why the next day, the nearest garage door opener died. Other one was fine. So troubleshooting found the board was dead (it was the newest of openers in the garage but 1 month past warranty. Board was $40 and some reprogramming of remote code-pair).

    My point is that having a long run of ethernet in the ground as now resulted in a possible storm issue. I seem to have some issue with a switch in the garage although everything is on good UPS/surge protection, that started after a big storm this summer. An article about a storm had me thinking maybe the storm was the issue with my hardware in the garage. Maybe I need to think about end-to-end fiber (which will still need either special hardware switch or Fiber to ethernet transceivers at each end.
    I am also asking if ANYONE has experience and luck with Orbi, reach out to me. I am frustrated with their support that I have RBR40 w/ two active satellites (a spare third I am thinking of using) and I backhauled with ethernet. Well, on the Orbi app, it shows one is ethernet connected, but the other is 2.4Ghz. I tried reseting, bring to house (this is the garage one btw) close to main Orbi base station, but it doesn’t reset (amber) but goes red. I think there is too long a process to connect to ethernet and wait for it to show up. There is no diags for the unit, but it did let me update all to latest firmware (which, for me, I have to use Google Chrome as all other browsers don’t work right). The iOS app is just dumbed down (I prefer using IP login and management). Plus the garage is not climate controlled and fear even this summer heatwaves might have affected the ORBI.
    I am considering replacing it, but I may only stay in this home another year, so doing fiber run AND updating hardware might be foolish. For now, I will try using the spare, but Orbi-Netgear support is just… silly.

  40. If you want to consider this, look for Ethernet switches with one or more SFP ports in addition to the usual RJ-45 (copper) Ethernet jacks. Although you can get specialized transceivers, they will cost more than using SFP-capable switches.

    Put one switch on either end of the conduit. Get appropriate SFP transceivers to plug into the switches’ SFP ports and run the fiber between the transceivers.

    The important things too keep in mind when looking for equipment:

    • Switches with SFP ports tend to cost more than those without, but not always. An Amazon search finds several small Gigabit Ethernet switches with SFP ports for under $100, including some really inexpensive units (e.g. this 5-port switch for $10).

      (I am not recommending any specific product here. I only mention that $10 switch as an example of an inexpensive switch that has an SFP port.)

    • You need to plug an SFP transceiver into each switch’s SFP port. They are sold separately. While they can be expensive, a basic one for Gigabit Ethernet can be quite affordable.

      Note, however, that they aren’t universally plug-and-play. Although the technology is pretty generic, some switch vendors have firmware preventing you from using SFPs that were not certified by them (which can cost a lot). If you get a brand-name switch (e.g. Cisco), then you will need to ensure that the SFP transceiver you get is compatible. If you get a generic no-name switch, then it probably won’t matter.

    • SFPs come in different speeds. For a Gigabit switch, you want to use a plain SFP, which may be advertised as 1.25Gbit or Gigabit Ethernet.

      You do not want to get a transceiver labeled “SFP+” (10Gbit), “SFP28” (25Gbit), “QSFP” (quad-channel, 4Gbit), “QSFP+” (quad-channel, 40Gbit) or “QSFP28” (quad-channel, 100Gbit). These will cost a lot more and probably won’t be compatible with a Gigabit switch’s SFP port. The quad-channel variants won’t physically fit in the socket either.

    • Within each speed SFP, they support different kinds of physical media. Common types include:

      • 1000BASE-SX (multi-mode fiber up to 550 m distance)
      • 1000BASE-LX (single-mode fiber up to 10 km distance)
      • 1000BASE-EX (single-mode fiber up to 40 km distance)
      • 1000BASE-T (your usual copper cable interface)

      You will want 1000BASE-SX. Multi-mode fiber is much less expensive than single-mode fiber. At the speeds and distances you require, you have no need for more than that.

      Note also that fiber types are not interchangeable. If your transceiver requires single-mode fiber, you can’t use multi-mode and vice versa. And both ends of the fiber must be the same type. If you put (for example) 1000BASE-LX on one end and 1000BASE-EX on the other, it won’t work.

    • Within each fiber type, there are different kinds of connectors. You will probably find your SFP using an LC connector. It really doesn’t matter what kind your SFP uses. Just make sure the fibers you buy have the same kind of connectors.

    • Look for fiber designed for outdoor conduit use. The connectors and glass are the same, but the insulation will be more durable. This will be easier to work with when you pull it from one building to the other.

    • Don’t try making your own cables. Although it is possible to buy bulk fiber and attach the terminating connectors, it is difficult and requires expensive equipment. Just buy pre-built cables for the length you require with the connectors you require.

    • When installing fiber, be careful not to pull on them with a lot of force or bend them sharply around corners (the bend radius) because doing so can damage the glass fiber inside the cable. If you need to tack them to a wall, don’t staple them, but use a cable clip that can’t crush the cable (e.g. this Amazon listing)

  41. Can’t resist sharing…Due to the pandemic, I haven’t been able to my daughter and her family for over a year. My son-in-law fixed up their (unattached) garage as a movie theater, I helped him insulate it on. our last trip there.
    They were having a weak Wi-Fi connection, so he and my granddaughter dug a shallow trench and ran an ethernet cable to the garage. It’s working fine, but next time I’m there, I think I’ll help them run it through a plastic conduit.

  42. Great article, but I’d like some advice. I am a psychiatrist, I see my patients virtually from our basement, using HIPAA-compliant video conferencing software using my iPhone 8 as my device.
    (Interestingly, I type my notes an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard connected to my iPad Air which is logged into the Windoze-based record system at my clinic. I use an external monitor.)
    I’m often the only user on our WiFi, which is a Netgear R7900P, which uses 802.11ac; it feeds off a cable modem using our Xfinity signal. I typically get 60-80 mbps up and 5-6 down. Direct ethernet is better, like 127/6, but no way to hook up ethernet to my phone, as far as I know.
    My iPhone can’t handle anything beyond 802.11ac. My signal is sometimes too slow for good connection. Would there be any point in upgrading my router?

  43. Fellow psychiatrist here. It sounds like your speed is ok for what you are doing. I see more problem with the patient/client end of the video connections on my video appointments, and there is not much you can do about that. That said, there is a lightning to Ethernet adapter for about $20 you can try.

    Curious, do you tend to use the vertical video orientation?

  44. Thank you for your response….since we’re talking shop, I’ll mention that I use doxy.me for most appointments, doximity (which I pay for) for others, and Skype for one patient who prefers it (and knows of the HIPAA concerns).
    Yes, I have a mini-tripod with an iPhone adapter, and use it in vertical orientation. My having used an adapter to have my iPad drive a display has really saved my neck, along with a sit/stand desk adapter.
    I guess you’re right, most of the connection issue may be on the patients’ side of things. Doxy.me help files suggest I should use a faster connection; I may try the ethernet adapter.

  45. Glen, I know this article is almost a fortnight old, so maybe I’ve missed the bus, but I have a naive question that I have found very hard get a definitive answer for, so here goes:

    I live in a big house in France with 60cm thick stone walls. I have a very fast fibre connection which I can use via Ethernet in various parts of the house, but the house is so big that I have to also use additional routers at the ends of a couple of the Ethernet connections so as to ensure that there is wifi everywhere.

    What I want is to be able to wander through the house with a device connected to the internet and not lose the connection. For me this doesn’t work. I told my routers to use the same SSID and password, but really there are as many networks as routers, just with the same name. An iPhone, iPad etc typically connected to one of these will not automatically switch to the most powerful signal if I move to a different part of the house: on the contrary, the signal will become progressively degraded until I have to turn wifi off on the device and turn it on again to get the local connection. As my household is addicted to this wandering behaviour, this is clearly a pain.

    What I can’t find out looking at the descriptions of Mesh systems is if they avoid this problem, i.e. by providing one indivisible network throughout the house. If they do, the wandering problem would be solved, admittedly at a somewhat high price. Can you explain if I would be safe with Mesh? As it is, I don’t want to spend a lot of money to be disappointed.

    In passing one might ask how public wifi systems work in large spaces like railway stations, museums, trains even? This problem doesn’t seem to exist in those places.

    Thanks for any insight.

  46. It’s a great question. Technically, roaming is a function of the device (called a station or STA) connecting to a Wi-Fi base station (a basic service set or BSS). You’ll sometimes see STA and BSS in more detailed descriptions of the process.

    With standard Wi-Fi base stations, the only thing you need to is set the network name or SSID, security type (WPA2, etc.), and passphrase exactly the same across all base stations. It sounds like you’ve done this. At that point, your “station” or laptop, phone, etc., handles all the interactions. Its operating system or radio firmware makes all the decisions about when to hand off among identically named (or even differently name) networks.

    I found a really terrific article at SmallNetBuilder that has some good advice in it. If you have routers from different makers, running different firmware, a little too old, etc., this might all explain what’s going on. It notes that mesh has no secret sauce on roaming, but does ensure that all the nodes are running a variety of identical 802.11 protocols and delivering information perfectly required for those protocols.

    I hope this helps!

  47. Commercial (infrastructure) Wi-Fi systems consist of multiple components:

    • A router. Typically just one for the entire site, although there may be redundancy in order to gracefully handle failures. A rack-mounted device somewhere in the building’s wiring closet.

    • A Wi-Fi controller. Again, typically one for the site, but maybe with redundancy. A server running the control-plane Wi-Fi protocols (e.g. authenticate connections, generate keys, etc.) Also typically a rack-mounted device, probably located near the router.

      Depending on how it is configured, it may be controlling one or more Wi-Fi networks (e.g. public vs. employee access), and those networks will connect to different ports on the router (either physical ethernet ports or VLANs sharing a physical port).

    • Multiple access points (APs). These are what you see scattered throughout the building. They all connect to the controller, usually via Ethernet cables. They are often powered by the Ethernet, in order to simplify installation.

    With these infrastructure networks, there will be one Wi-Fi network for each network configured on the controller. All the APs configured to be a part of that network are just that - multiple access points for a single network.

    Consumer devices (like a typical SoHo Wi-Fi router), combine all the components (router, controller and AP) into one device. Of course, this is at a conceptual level - there is probably only one chip doing all the work.

    While it should be possible to design a mesh system along these lines (e.g. the node connected to the modem acting as router, controller and AP, and the rest of the nodes only acting as AP), I don’t think that’s how it’s actually done.

    According to a paragraph on Wikipedia Wi-Fi mesh networks appear like a commercial (infrastructure) network to clients, but have the router/controller functionality distributed among all the nodes, which negotiate among each other to determine how traffic should be routed through the mesh.

    I suspect the primary reason for this is that with an infrastructure network, all of the APs connect to a single controller, whereas with a mesh network, the connections between the nodes are ad hoc. It may not even be possible for all of the nodes to directly communicate with each other, especially if they are using Wi-Fi for inter-node communication.

    See also: Service set (802.11 network) - Wikipedia

  48. I can just add to this that a common complaint our network people here on campus have to follow up on is when people claim to have terrible wifi reception in locations where there is usually very good coverage. Turns out, at least in their experience, Macs are particularly affected by this.

    Apparently, Macs tend to hold on to a specific access point longer than many PC notebooks running Windows. This can lead to a situation where your Mac will show very poor throughput to wifi because it has in the meantime been moved to another location but it’s still trying to communicate with an access point that it used to have a good connection to. Instead of quickly givng up on the old access point and reconnecting to a better AP in the new location, it will try to keep alive the connection to the old AP.

    I remember experiencing this in one particular location a lot with a 2013 MBP. The threshold at which a Mac seeks to connect to a better AP is not something the user can affect. So the only fix they can offer for Mac users when it happens, is to turn off wifi and turn it back on. That will force the Mac to connect to whichever AP shows best throughput at the current location rather than to the last AP it was connected to. Not an elegant solution, but it works.

  49. There is nothing better than actual Ethernet

    One word: Fiber.

    (And no, I don’t mean Metamucil!)

  50. “…for people who value their sanity in building a home network…”

    Though I would agree that fiber has come down in price in terms of adapters and equipment.

  51. My reply was no more than pedantry. Fiber is clearly better than Ethernet, if by better you mean faster.

    For me, better means the best compromise between performance and price. Using that metric, I have to admit that Ethernet is better. I sure wouldn’t use Fiber in my home network — it’s far more than I need, and far more costly than I can justify.

    As a guy who came up from AppleTalk/Localtalk, and Farallon Phonenet, I’m thrilled with my Cat 5e and Gigabit switch (though my Airport Time Capsule (3rd gen) is the weak link, and I plan to upgrade it shortly.

  52. Well, fiber can definitely go faster. The theoretical maximum bandwidth is hundreds of Gbit/s on each of multiple optical wavelengths.

    But for use in your home, it’s far less clear. Most people won’t be buying equipment with faster than gigabit speeds, because faster equipment costs a lot more. If everything is Gigabit Ethernet, then fiber will have the same bandwidth as copper, if everything is properly installed.

    And fiber transceivers (probably SFP modules in your routers and switches) and interfaces for your computers are an additional cost.

    Fiber’s main advantage, for home use is:

    • Immune to electrical interference. Especially important if you run it outdoors (in a conduit or overhead) - it won’t attract lightening and can’t create ground loops (e.g. if two buildings have different ground potentials)
    • Future proof. Properly installed fiber can go much faster than Gigabit Ethernet speeds. So you can move to higher speeds in the future by replacing your switches, interfaces and transceivers without pulling new cables through your walls and conduits.

    But I suspect that it’s not worth the added cost for most people.

  53. Yep…if one has an outbuilding needing wired access a run of buried fiber with a pair of transceivers on the ends is better for protection against lightning strikes…but beyond that for the vast majority of us the added expense of fiber isn’t worth it. That said…if I was building a house today I would run both fiber and cat 6E cables everywhere…but would just put the fiber in as a future proofing thing and not actually use it everywhere because the cost of tipping and transceivers doesn’t really buy one much beyond the lightning protection.

  54. Not wanting to monopolize…but I’m SO lost…
    As I said before: I’m often the only user on our WiFi, which is a Netgear R7900P, which uses 802.11ac; it feeds off a cable modem using our Xfinity signal. I typically get 60-80 mbps up and 5-6 down.
    So all that is about the basement. Upstairs, I have used a TP-Link RE200 (v.2, with latest firmware) which was giving us pretty good signal, but often with a message on my iPhone to the effect that I need better security than WPA. Reading on a user forum, I was able to get to WPA2 through a complex hack, after a couple of months, it’s gone wonky. I often get messages that I’m using the wrong password, or that my Wi-Fi is not connected to the internet. Unplugging it, we get weaker, slower signal (from downstairs), but do connect. Rebooting and setting it up again does not fix this.
    Our house is actually wired with ethernet. Can I just run a cable to a second router, such as TP-Link Archer A7, and give its network the same name as what I have downstairs, or will there be a conflict? Or should I try a different extender?

  55. Wireless range extenders (like your TP-Link RE200) work, but they’re not ideal. They’re using the same Wi-Fi signal for communication with the primary router that they are using for communication with your devices. So they will, by necessity, reduce the total amount of usable bandwidth.

    Mesh systems (e.g. the 3-band Linksys Velop devices) often work around this by operating on multiple bands (e.g. two 5 GHz radios and a 2.4 GHz radio), reserving one for communication between the nodes and making the others available for your devices. Systems that only have two radios generally don’t do this.

    If you’ve already got Ethernet in the walls, then you’ve got a better option:

    • In the room where your main router is (the Netgear connected to your cable modem), run an Ethernet wire from one of its four LAN ports to a wall jack.
    • In the room where you need better connectivity, set up another router. Configure it to operate in bridge mode (so it won’t be creating a new LAN). Configure it’s Wi-Fi as you like (I do this in my home and configure the remote router to use the same SSID and password as the main router so my devices will automatically connect to either). Run an Ethernet wire from one of its ports (shouldn’t matter if it’s LAN or WAN, since it’s in bridge mode) to a wall jack.
    • In the location where the various wall jacks come together (typically a panel in a utility or storage room), set up a Gigabit Ethernet switch. Connect the lines from each room to the switch. If the switch doesn’t have enough ports for all the rooms, then make sure to connect the ones where you have connected equipment.

    This is pretty much the same as what we’ve been discussing above, but using Ethernet instead of MoCA or powerline adapters.

    You may see some issues with communication being interrupted as you roam throughout the house, as your devices switch from one Wi-Fi router to another. If this is a problem, then the solution is (as we discussed above) to replace your routers with two or more nodes of a mesh network. They cost more, but they’re designed for this purpose and tend to work better. You can (and should) continue using your Ethernet for the nodes to use when communicating among themselves.

  56. Wow! Thank you.

    I’m unclear on one thing: do I need the Ethernet switch if I’m just running just the one connection from the downstairs router to the upstairs one?

  57. Technically, no. It is possible to use a female-female connector designed for Ethernet extension.

    Use of a small unmanaged Ethernet switch as a network hub provides some future-proofing and also provides a test point for debugging any connectivity problems. My favorite small switch is the Netgear GS105NA which has metal case and appears to dissipate heat better than plastic cased devices. It can be found online for less than US$30.
    .

  58. Not necessarily, but it is probably a good idea.

    If, in your wiring panel, you’ve got cables from all the rooms with individual RJ-45 connectors on each one, then you could just locate the two you need and connect them to each other, as @james.cutler described.

    If the cables all terminate on a patch panel (for example: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08G5B9PB6), then you could connect the two ports you need with a short cable. (This is why they sell 6" and 12" cables - so you can patch ports without making a tangled mess of cables.)

    But switches are really cheap these days. You can get a small (5-8 port) GigE switch for under $20. If you use one, then you can add additional routers/mesh nodes to other rooms, or just have jacks for wired network connections. This may be useful for devices that won’t be moving about your home (desktop computers, smart TVs, large game consoles, etc.)

    And if you want to get fancy, depending on who makes your wiring panel, you might even be able to get an Ethernet switch that mounts inside the panel, for a very clean look. For example, this one is designed to mount in Legrand On-Q panels.

  59. Thank you, David…but it’s simpler than that, I think, no switch panel. Our previous owner (around 2000) put in a Ethernet socket in the basement, right near where the Xfinity cable comes in, so it’s close to our router, and as far as I can tell, he put in one on the floor above (which is in the living room and pretty much the middle of the house) and just dropped a cable down to the one below.

    At the moment, my RE200 seems to be behaving adequately, but there may be an upstairs router in my near future.

    It’s a bit more sophisticated than what I did in our old house: my wife and I used two basement bedrooms as our offices, with a laundry room in between. I had my Kaypro in mine, she had her Mac SE in hers, and I ran a RS-232 between the rooms, through the laundry, so we could share files. That took a lot of small-scale soldering on each end of the cable! [She now makes baskets, and all those little wires ended up as part of a really fancy basket.]

    Great group of helpers here, thank you! I’m glad I’m a TidBits subscriber.

  60. Then your job is even easier. If you just have two jacks that are directly connected, just plug each device into one and you’re done.

    Interestingly, this is what I did on my previous home. When we finished the basement and I relocated my office to that location, the Wi-Fi no longer reached the entire house, so I fished a single wire to put a jack in the living room, where I placed an access point. I guess I’m not the only person who does things like this :slight_smile: .

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