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Author Topic: About backhaul, overlapping channels, and a lot of other things I didn't know...  (Read 2245 times)

wraith808

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A while ago, I invested in a Netgear Orbi, in large part because it was an affordable mesh system, and Netgear had been good to me.

We moved a bit ago, and had the same base + 2 satellite hookup, and everything was fine. We had an absolutely ridiculous number of devices hooked up when my wife was running a pandemic pod, and it worked from one end of the house to another, with no drop in speed.

Fast forward to earlier this week. With no change in devices, locations of satellites, or pretty much anything, the satellite in my wife's office stopped giving her good performance. Some times it would just cut out totally. That's when I looked past the good reviews and found something rotten underneath.

Looking into people with the same problem, I found out about backhaul- or the intermediate links in a mesh network. For some reason, mine was always showing as poor now, even though the satellites never changed position. I tried moving them everywhere, and no joy. I tried resyncing, and nothing. I found places that said you had to have your satellites at least 30 feet from each other, and realized from that, maybe my system for the larger house was too much, and dropped a satellite. Nothing. I found out that each satellite actually had a dashboard, and it said it was too far from the base, so I moved it. Then I found places that said you shouldn't have more than two rooms. And about overlapping channels and you shouldn't use auto, you should use 1,6,or 11. And that perhaps someone had a new device, and I should get a wifi sniffer- so I checked Netspot, and tried to analyze and find the best channel for both 2.4 and 5Ghz. I saw there was new firmware- some said don't upgrade, and others said upgrade. I figured I had nothing to lose... so upgraded, and it seemed better.

... for a day. I added back in both satellites, and one has good (most of the time) and the other poor (most of the time)- which is better than both Poor. Looking deeper into the problem, trawling the Netgear boards, and even springing for support, the only thing I found was that this happens with Orbi routers, and no amount of time spent with tech support helps.

Hopefully, replacing them will make things better.

Shades

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There should always be 5 empty channels between the channels you use for your WiFi equipment. And as WiFi equipment is only allowed on 11 channels (except for Japan, they have 13 WiFi channels), you can have 3 options in that range: 1, 6 and 11. Any other combination leaves you only only 2 channels to choose from.

Also, when your neighbor has WiFi, say for example on channel 1, the closest WiFi node in your network should use channel 6 or 11. If you have more than one WiFi device in your house, you have to alter the channels so they don't interrupt the WiFi network of your neighbor. Why that consideration? Well, as you are clearly more aware then they do, you can work around these obstacles. And it will end up in a better WiFi covered network for yourself. It also prevents your neighbor to buy repeaters for "getting a stronger signal" where they need it to be.

More often than not, the signal strength of the WiFi device is set to "strong". Depending on the location of your and their WiFi devices, these can drown out the WiFi signal for both you and your neighbor. Which is then "solved" by repeaters, creating an even bigger mess. And, as there is a great variance between signal strength of WiFi devices, this can become a problem.

If your whole mesh system started to fail without changing anything on your end, it might be because of the neighbor adding things to his WiFi network, started using a microwave close by or you are troubled by other (external) sources of disruptions. It might prove prudent to investigate this further, before investing (heavily ?) in a new WiFi mesh system. Because external disruptions can occur at any given time you can never be really sure that you have "fixed" the mesh part. Remember, when WiFi devices are set to "Auto" with their channel selection, they select the best channel at the moment they are turned on. This does not change anymore and if another device with a static channel is turned back on, both devices won't work properly anymore. Either go full "auto" with every WiFi device in your place and from all your neighbors, or manage it properly by selecting channels 1, 6 or 11 for your own network as well as those from your neighbors. Going "Auto" might sound simpler, but it will always result in a mess. Once you have your and your neighbors channels set up correctly, you will see that the WiFi networks everywhere will work a lot better. 


Best thing to do, in my not so humble opinion, is to dump mesh. WiFi is crap to begin with. Mesh hardly improves on that, even with separate backhaul channels on different frequencies. WiFi is nothing more than radio signals on either a very congested frequency or a frequency that doesn't carry very far. Those separated frequencies might help for a while, but it is sub-par at best. 

As a sufferer (read: maintainer) of WiFi networks, I have spent way too much time finding out why WiFi signals stop working. After the umpteenth complaint about: "WiFi doesn't work!" from colleagues, friends and family members, I got very fed up with the crap that is WiFi. Now I have one UTP cable running through the house, as much out of sight as I could get it and setup WiFi routers to be dumbed down to Access Point duties. The UTP cable is a daisy chain between these WiFi routers and the ISP's modem. Sure, it wasn't fun setting those up. Or getting questioned the whole time by better halves to make sure the cable is invisible.

However, even those persons stopped complaining about a piece of cable being in sight somewhere, as WiFi became much more reliable. 3 WiFi routers as AP for an area 90 meters wide and 90 meters deep. Often with 20 people or more (pre-Covid) and guess what? No-one is complaining about WiFi not working anymore. Do yourself a real favor, use a UTP cable as backhaul, don't trust WiFi to be capable of this, it simply isn't, no matter how much the manufacturer of that type of equipment wants to sell their product to you.

You can even run this cable around the house, if you and/or partner is appalled by having such a cable inside your house. But whatever you do, don't waste more time and money on WiFi than you have to.

4wd

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And as WiFi equipment is only allowed on 11 channels (except for Japan, they have 13 WiFi channels)...

Pretty much everywhere except NA is allowed 13 channels, (Japan can use 14 with caveats).

wraith808

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If your whole mesh system started to fail without changing anything on your end, it might be because of the neighbor adding things to his WiFi network, started using a microwave close by or you are troubled by other (external) sources of disruptions. It might prove prudent to investigate this further, before investing (heavily ?) in a new WiFi mesh system. Because external disruptions can occur at any given time you can never be really sure that you have "fixed" the mesh part. Remember, when WiFi devices are set to "Auto" with their channel selection, they select the best channel at the moment they are turned on. This does not change anymore and if another device with a static channel is turned back on, both devices won't work properly anymore. Either go full "auto" with every WiFi device in your place and from all your neighbors, or manage it properly by selecting channels 1, 6 or 11 for your own network as well as those from your neighbors. Going "Auto" might sound simpler, but it will always result in a mess. Once you have your and your neighbors channels set up correctly, you will see that the WiFi networks everywhere will work a lot better. 

I'd agree with you, if not for the fact that this is reported several times in relation to NetGear Orbi (and I don't see the complaint anywhere else). And no, because of the size and layout, without doing a lot of work, there's no way to hardwire the house. But thanks for the input- it was more a rant as I saw the same thing continually on the Orbi sites and looking with the same keywords on the Nest hub page, I don't see the same problems (and it has 4x4 instead of 2x2).

Stoic Joker

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And no, because of the size and layout, without doing a lot of work, there's no way to hardwire the house.

Any chance of straddling the fence with Powerline networking? I use it quite often to get out from under a ton of pickle class situations, and it hasn't let me down yet.

wraith808

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And no, because of the size and layout, without doing a lot of work, there's no way to hardwire the house.

Any chance of straddling the fence with Powerline networking? I use it quite often to get out from under a ton of pickle class situations, and it hasn't let me down yet.

Ick. I tried that in my house that had basically a faraday cage around my office, and hated it. There are just too many reqs that are based on you knowing the history of the wiring in the house for me to ever fall in love with that option.

Stoic Joker

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And no, because of the size and layout, without doing a lot of work, there's no way to hardwire the house.

Any chance of straddling the fence with Powerline networking? I use it quite often to get out from under a ton of pickle class situations, and it hasn't let me down yet.

Ick. I tried that in my house that had basically a faraday cage around my office, and hated it. There are just too many reqs that are based on you knowing the history of the wiring in the house for me to ever fall in love with that option.

Bummer, I've always had really good luck with it. And admittedly have a bit of a soft spot for it, since it was invented here in my home town (almost got a job there 20 years ago). Worst issue I've ever had with it - back when it was new - was with bad building grounds. But a quick retightening of the ground lugs in the panel (tip I got from one of the engineering team during the interview) got it running just fine every time.

We keep a couple of the TP-Link TL-PA4010 kits in stock at all times, and have used them in some really sketchy environments without issue.

The TrendNet TPL-407E2K is another kit that we've used extensively in the past as well. It has a built-in passthrough plug for applications with limited power outlets, which can be really handy since you can't put any UPS/power conditioning equipment between these things because it will block their connection.