Wireless networking with seamless handoff

Discussion in 'Networking' started by FlorentR, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. FlorentR

    FlorentR New Member

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    Hi all,

    I have a house where the router is located in the basement, and there is a big slab of concrete above it, so we don't get good signal on the first and second floor. As a stopgap measure, I've set up a Powerline network with spare equipment that I had laying around. It works, but it has significant drawbacks:
    • Throughput is very limited (this is due to the nature of the electrical system of the house: long wires + crossing circuit breakers) - a few MB/s, whereas I'd like to be able to stream 4k content throughout the house; subjectively, it also feels like the powerline network introduces non-negligeable latency, but I haven't measured.
    • Devices might latch on to the "wrong" access point (one that is further away, but still reachable), meaning extremely slow speed, bordering unusable
    • Handoff when moving about the house is manual and slow (~ 5-10 seconds)

    So I want to ditch the Powerline solution, wire a few rooms throughout the house directly to the router, and from there establish a fast and reliable WiFi network for those devices that won't have a wired connection.

    At first I thought that I would need mesh networking, e.g. Google Wifi, Netgear Orbi, etc. But after reading a bit about it, it seems like the problem these devices solve is how to cover the entire house with wifi without having to connect each access point with wired ethernet (hence the "mesh"). This is accomplished by using part of the wifi spectrum to establish a "backbone" communications channel between nearby access points, all the way back to the router. They also provide seamless handoff between access point, but this is not the primary reason for getting one of these units. Although I will note that at least some of these devices (e.g. Google Wifi) also work with a wired connection, in which case they provide a faster, lower-latency connection.

    It looks like what I need is a system that implements 802.11r so that I can have seamless handoff. So something like Ubiquiti Unifi AP would fit the bill? Looks like it requires a wired connection, so no putting an AP in a part of the house that doesn't have a wired connection yet (unless I revert to using a Powerline adapter...).

    Is all of the above correct? In my case, is there a reason to choose the Ubiquiti solution? Or should I just go with Google Wifi, so I can have fast, low-latency connections where I can connect them in a wired fashion, and still have the possibility to have decent connection where I don't have wired Ethernet yet?

    Thanks!
     
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  2. ttabbal

    ttabbal Active Member

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    Ubiquiti can do it, but 802.11r handoff requires support from the client side. Every device has to support it for it to work properly. The best option for most clients is to turn down the power level of the 5Ghz signals and put them on different channels. This causes the signal to drop faster, so the client will drop the connection sooner and switch to the stronger signal. That's not foolproof either, but it seems to work well for most people. Generally, 2.4Ghz can be disabled on all but one AP as it has better coverage, though less throughput.

    You are correct about how mesh systems work. If you can get a wired connection to the APs, it is better. Some of the more expensive mesh systems use a third radio so you don't get hit by the receive-buffer-send speed drop, but even the best wifi can't compete with even 1Gbps wired. And that third channel is now a source of interference for the data you really care about. If for no other reason than that if your local wifi has other users you might not have clear channels to use.

    Ubiquiti can do wireless backhaul, which is similar to the mesh setups. I don't know if they make any APs with the third radio. I don't know if the Google version does either, as I've never been interested enough in them to find out. I had access to the house before drywall went in, so I have wired in every room.
     
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  3. Evan

    Evan Well-Known Member

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    Hand off between AP’s or rather lack of until the performance is so poor drives me crazy !

    I admit I haven’t tried very hard and my apartment has a lot of competition on the radio waves but I can’t really make it work well.
    No question wired back haul is highly preferred over wireless though !
     
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  4. FlorentR

    FlorentR New Member

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    Thanks for the reply, that's very useful information!

    Just curious: if Ubiquiti can do wireless backhaul, does that make it a mesh networking solution? (you say "similar to") Or are there differences that I'm not aware of?
     
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  5. amalurk

    amalurk Member

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  6. ttabbal

    ttabbal Active Member

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    I think it's really more of a semantic difference. Mesh generally implies a multi-point solution that is somewhat automated. The wireless backhaul is more of a static setup that you have to configure. The results are much the same for most people that aren't doing lots of APs, but the difference might matter to people.
     
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  7. DanielWood

    DanielWood New Member

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    I take a different approach. 2.4GHz is limited to 20MHz channels to reduce overlap. Power is set to low.
    5GHz gets medium power levels, but 40MHz.

    The key thing I do to encourage roaming is set the minimum datarate to 18Mbps. I have found this works wonderfully in my enterprise deployments.
     
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  8. aero

    aero Active Member

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    With ubiquiti access points you can set the minimum rssi for client connections which helps a ton in controlling roaming behavior.

    +1 for ubiquiti
     
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    Tha_14 likes this.
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