Please help: Need a stronger router for condo building than can reach people on different floors, get through brick walls - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 33 Old 04-25-2014, 12:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi friends,

 

I recently spearheaded the effort to get building-wide Internet set up in a 4-floor condo building (3 apartments per floor, brick walls along central stairs).  We have 1 modem and router together on the 1st floor (servicing that floor and the basement level), and an additional modem and router together on the 3rd floor (servicing that floor, the 2nd floor, and the 1 Penthouse unit on the 4th floor).

 

Some units are having trouble with the reach, which leads to "system time outs" while watching Netflix, etc.  I added a Netflix Wifi Extender ($70 at Radio Shack) to the basement level and 2nd floor, and that has helped, but not fully.

 

Am thinking a better plan might be to upgrade the router to something known to have strong reach that can fight up and down stairs and through brick walls.

 

Here is what I currently have:

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/dual-band-wireless-ac-router-with-4-gigabit-ethernet-ports/9754401.p;jsessionid=D4A19E562C4C8D86E96CFCAD68C53866.bbolsp-app04-150?id=1219041356835&skuId=9754401&st=linksys%20router&cp=1&lp=3

 

What would be better?

 

If it helps, here is the modem we have:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AJHDZSI/ref=pe_385040_30332190_TE_M3T1_ST1_dp_1

 

And we have the "Deluxe 100 Plus" service from Comcast:

http://business.comcast.com/internet/business-internet/plans-pricing

 

Remember we have 2 independent systems set up, so only half the building uses each one.

 

Thank you very much for your advice!

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post #2 of 33 Old 04-25-2014, 01:07 PM
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My recommendation is to install additional wireless access points connected via ethernet to central locations. You can use the same SSID and passphrase for easy switching. Just remember to use a different channel for the WAP.
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post #3 of 33 Old 04-25-2014, 02:13 PM
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The two top tier wireless routers out now are the ASUS RT-AC68U and Netgear Nighthawk. Combine one of these with a good extender such as the Amped Wireless REC15A (http://www.ampedwireless.com/products/rec15a.html) and you should be good to go.

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post #4 of 33 Old 04-25-2014, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
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ABSiNTH: thanks! If you had to guess, how much better are these products than what I currently have (see link)? 20%? Twice as good? Just trying to gauge if it is worth the legwork to return current and buy new. Thanks again.
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post #5 of 33 Old 04-25-2014, 07:32 PM
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The link in your OP is broken. What is the make/model? Theorhetical throughput rating maximums on 802.11AC are over 1 gbit so you should be able to get close to a wired gigabit connection on these (ideally of course). Your DOCSIS 3.0 modem allows you to connect to the internet on connections above ~25Mbps or so, and since you have a 100Mbit service from Comcast, you are good there. The beauty of the REC15A extenders by Amped Wireless is that they are the first decent 802.11AC extender that doesnt require you to purchase additional routers to use as repeaters (waste of money). These extenders simply plug into a standard power outlet and do not require any wired connections so they are extremely flexible placement wise. with 500mw of power! I have a 150Mbps connection at my house using the ASUS router I mentioned earlier. Running speed tests I can hit my internet connection maximum over wireless no problem. So the 802.11AC and power are plenty for what you have Internet connection wise, you may just need to snag a couple extenders.

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post #6 of 33 Old 04-25-2014, 07:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks ABSiNTH! Make/model of current router is LinksysEA6200. Box also says AC 900 Dual Band. I am not very tech savvy so did not follow some of the details in your post...are you also recommending a better extender? Most importantly please weigh in with your opinion of my current router vs the ones you have recommended. Would yours be a significant upgrade, reach-wise? Thanks again.
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post #7 of 33 Old 04-25-2014, 11:59 PM
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Can you see what happens if you put the wireless access points on the ceilings?  Omnidirectional antennas that all home routers/APs come with are pretty poor at multi-floor coverage, but if it's a problem of getting through walls, putting them on the ceiling can help a bit as it's less solid objects to go through (couches, TVs, tables, chairs, etc all add up).  It's why you see APs in offices on the ceiling (or maybe they just don't want people touching them!).  I also don't suggest using wireless extenders that just rebroadcast the signal if you can avoid them; access points connected via wiring are a much better option if you can run the cat5/6.

 

I have a few questions relating to the building's structure and who has poor signal quality:

 

  • You say three apartments per floor, with some sort of central stairs.  I'm having a hard time picturing this, but where are the wireless access points located in relation to the apartments?  In the middle between all 3?
  • Who is having issues connecting?  People on the second floor?  People far away vertically or horizontally from the access points, or both?
  • Can you run cables?
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post #8 of 33 Old 04-27-2014, 09:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gphoyas02 View Post

Thanks ABSiNTH! Make/model of current router is LinksysEA6200. Box also says AC 900 Dual Band. I am not very tech savvy so did not follow some of the details in your post...are you also recommending a better extender? Most importantly please weigh in with your opinion of my current router vs the ones you have recommended. Would yours be a significant upgrade, reach-wise? Thanks again.

If you are having issues in that building then yes, I would recommend one of those 2 routers I mentioned above, with the Amped Wireless extenders in places with weak or dead signal. The two routers I mention are AC 1900, so theorhetical throughput on them would be much better...not sure how important that is to you though if you only care about Internet surfing with not a lot of file transferring over the network.

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post #9 of 33 Old 04-27-2014, 03:26 PM
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Congratulations. By being a nice guy you have taken on the full time job of being a network engineer. Lucky you. At least I get paid for being one. Here's my best guess on your situation.

 

As you said you were not an expert, I assume you plugged in the wireless routers on floors 1 and 3, and did minimal setup. The routers, as a result,  both use the same default SSD channel. Usually channel 6 on 802.11bg routers. I have not seen the behavior of many 802.11ac routers yet.

 

This is the problem with Wi-fi in multi-tenant dwellings. If two routers are using the same channel it causes interference. The main symptom is suddenly being dropped or disconnected. The users on the 2nd floor are in the "war zone", and by adding extenders you've effectively added additional wireless access points all on the same channel. It's an arms race where there will be no winner.

 

I suggest you download inSSider from MetaGeek if you have an android device (phone or tablet) and walk around the floors and apartments.It will show you what channels are in use, and signal strengths. It labels the display with the SSID of the router (floor_1, floor_3 for the sake of argument).  

 

In the problem locations you should see the signal strength "trapazoids" for floor_1 and floor_3 jumping around wildly. In the better areas, the signal should be stable.

 

So first thing, set one router to use a different channel (ch 1 or 11). Your repeaters will automatically select the channel to re-transmit. This is going to be a crapshoot, and an ongoing headache. The repeaters if they are on floor_2 will arbitrarily select floor_1 or floor_3, not permanently, but temporarily. So users can still get dropped as repeaters randomly change their political affiliation.

 

Also you are "daisy-chaining" multiple users on to the same SSD channel. If you have 6 users connected to floor_1, the claimed 50Mbit throughput is divided by 6. Actually more than 6. For technical reasons, 7 or 8. Another reason repeaters are not a good solution for your application.

 

What you should use are "wireless access points" (wi-fi routers set up as APs) in place of repeaters.There are also "pro-sumer" wi-fi devices made by ubiquiti Networks, and others, that offer multiple antenna configurations so you can direct the rf directionally to minimize radio interference.

 

For the equipment you have, I would suggest setting your routers to different channels, and placing repeaters only on the same floors. NOT floor 2. This should result in best case "isolation" of repeaters and SSD channels for the equipment you have.

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post #10 of 33 Old 04-28-2014, 11:34 PM
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post #11 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 06:25 AM
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Most G consumer routers come with an auto setting that may or may not try to find the least interference for the channel.  One thing the guy 2 above me didn't mention  (probably didn't find it relevant) is that there are only 3 non-overlapping channels for wifi.  1, 6, and 11 (and 14 if you're in EU or wherever that's actually allowed).

 

I don't think OP is reading much anymore but if he is, he still hasn't clarified where the tenants are having issues.

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post #12 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ilovejedd View Post

My recommendation is to install additional wireless access points connected via ethernet to central locations. You can use the same SSID and passphrase for easy switching. Just remember to use a different channel for the WAP.

I agree, that's the way to go.

More powerful routers will never get the uniform coverage you can get with multiple low power devices.

6 TV's in the house on FiOS and we only pay $4.99/month to connect them all!!! Power to the CableCard and WMC7!!!
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post #13 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 07:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi all, OP here.  Sorry for the lag in following up.  I really appreciate all the insight and advice but honestly am a bit overwhelmed by the various theories in play, and crippled by my tech illiteracy.  

 

As I can understand it, 1 potential solution (aufVidyZen) is to adjust the channels that the systems are using.  Then use ""wireless access points" (wi-fi routers set up as APs) in place of repeaters.There are also "pro-sumer" wi-fi devices made by ubiquiti Networks, and others, that offer multiple antenna configurations so you can direct the rf directionally to minimize radio interference."  I just have no idea what this is or where to begin.  Can someone break it down and send links to the products to buy?

 

Another (ABSiNTH) is to upgrade the routers and wireless extenders.

 

A 3rd (ilovejedd, pylor) is to run ethernet wiring.  We'd like to avoid this unless it is the last resort.

 

As far as more details on the setup and who is having problems:

Each router and modem are mounted above eye level at a central point in the halls of floors 1 and 3.  Other floors in the building are: terrace, 2nd floor, penthouse level (1 unit and communal roof deck on what would be 4th floor).  Some residents are more vocal (and home more often) then others, but at least 2 of the 3 units on the terrace level were having reach issues.  We put the $70 Netgear wireless extender in their hallway, and it helped, but not enough.  Strangely, 2 of 3 units on the 1st floor are having issues even though they are on the same floor as the router/modem.  1 of them has strong signal but experiences system time outs while watching Netflix.  Another has consistently weak signal.  I live on that floor and it works perfectly for me, including frequent Netflix use.  2nd floor people were supposed to connect to the router and modem on the 3rd floor but one 2nd floor resident did better by connecting to the one on the 1st floor.  Other than that, have heard that it is hit or miss for the Penthouse (trying to connect to the 3rd floor system).

 

So that's where we are.  Please please dumb down all future posts as though you are explaining this to your grandmother.  She would probably have this figured out by now.

 

Thanks all.

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post #14 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 07:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gphoyas02 View Post

Hi all, OP here.  Sorry for the lag in following up.  I really appreciate all the insight and advice but honestly am a bit overwhelmed by the various theories in play, and crippled by my tech illiteracy.  

I've played the game that is before you, and FWIW I think you have received some excellent advice already.
Quote:
As I can understand it, 1 potential solution (aufVidyZen
) is to adjust the channels that the systems are using.  Then use ""wireless access points" (wi-fi routers set up as APs) in place of repeaters.There are also "pro-sumer" wi-fi devices made by ubiquiti Networks, and others, that offer multiple antenna configurations so you can direct the rf directionally to minimize radio interference."  I just have no idea what this is or where to begin.  Can someone break it down and send links to the products to buy?

Again FWIW my favorite supplier of low cost high performance routers and WAPs for indoor/outdoor installation is Engenius.

My own preference is to play four strong cards:

(1) High powered WAPs
(2) Multiple WAPs connected to the host router with CAT-5/6/6e.
(3) Carefully assign channels, realizing full well that any scheme that is dependent on careful channel choices can be upset when yet another tenant brings in his own Wireless router, which is going to happen many times.
(4) I also prefer using WAPs with POE so that I don't have to worry about providing power for each WAP. I've found that being able to mount the WAPs and their wiring out-of-doors can be a problem solver.

POE = Power Over Ethernet. Normal 100BTX ethernet does not use all of the wires in CAT-5 so why not use them to remote power the WAPs over a cable that is already there? Everything that plugs in can be co-located with the router.

In really desperate situations I've used a Wireless Bridge to receive a signal from one of my WAPs with a Yagi antenna, and connected that to a WAP. No wires required - essentially a wireless extender on steroids.

Engenius has inexpensive higher powered devices that are software configurable as WAPs, Wireless Bridges, Wireless Routers etc. and also support either internal or external antennas. http://www.engeniustech.com/ they are stocked by Staples, NewEgg, etc.
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post #15 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 10:06 AM
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aufVidyZen's recommendation to use access points is pretty much the same as mine and pylor's recommendation. We're not suggesting you run ethernet to each condo unit. It's just instead of installing a wireless repeater (which would pretty much halve your speed), we suggest installing a wireless access point connected via wire to the main router for greater reliability and throughput. For the wire part, there's cat5/6 (best) or Powerline networking or MoCA (coax/cable) if running ethernet cabling isn't feasible.

arnyk's recommendations are sound and are pretty much what I do, too.
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post #16 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 10:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the clarification.  I can see how running ethernet to another router on other floors would help people on those floors have a better and more reliable signal.  But how can I help the people who are on the floors where the main routers and modems are - and who are still currently having trouble?

 

Also, I talked to the Comcast tech who installed this system and she claims that the routers are programed on "auto" in terms of what channel they use, and that they jump around between channels until they find something with less traffic.  Does this sound right?

 

Thanks again.

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post #17 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 12:25 PM
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Are you using a Comcast provided modem/router combination? In that case, first thing I'd look into is if you can get a modem only (setup for bridge mode) and then actually buy a decent wireless router to use as primary. As for Auto mode, I've yet to see a router actually work properly on auto. More often than not, the routers I've used would use channel 2, 3, 5, 7 or 9 on auto which interferes with 1, 6 and 11. I highly suggest you go manual on this.

Before you start making changes though, do what aufVidyZen suggested:
Quote:
Originally Posted by aufVidyZen View Post

I suggest you download inSSider from MetaGeek if you have an android device (phone or tablet) and walk around the floors and apartments.It will show you what channels are in use, and signal strengths. It labels the display with the SSID of the router (floor_1, floor_3 for the sake of argument).

Doing a site survey would greatly aid you in determining what and how many equipment you need to buy and the optimum locations for placement.
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post #18 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 12:33 PM - Thread Starter
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ilovejedd: am using separate router and modem, that we bought ourselves rather than rent from Comcast.  I linked to the specific products in earlier posts if you are curious.  Will definitely try the manual channel idea.  Thank you.

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post #19 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 01:16 PM
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You're going about this the wrong way (I think).

With that kind of sq ft coverage for wifi, you're looking at Enterprise level equipment to be able to run it "right". Most consumer level stuff will run it as well, but your tenants aint gonna be happy, given the bandwidth hogging world we live in.

Step 1 - Stop thinking "Wireless Router". Start thinking "Router" + "Access Point(s)"
Step 2 - Get an enterprise grade WIRED router/firewall/UTP appliance or build one with freely available software like pfSense/m0n0wall/Sophos etc. Functionally they will give you 95% of the functionality that an off the shelf Enterprise router would give you. I'd recommend pfSense. It is by far the most powerful, flexible and most importantly, reliable, distribution.
Step 3 - Get some quality access points. Think Ubiquity type stuff, not the consumer grade stuff.
Step 4 - Plan. I *think* having one access point per floor would be best, but you be the judge.
Step 5 - Install/Run wires. (The access points *should* be hardwired to the router.
Step 6 - Tweak.

arnyk gave you similar advice. That's the way to do this "right"
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post #20 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 01:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gphoyas02 View Post

Thanks for all the clarification.  I can see how running ethernet to another router on other floors would help people on those floors have a better and more reliable signal.  But how can I help the people who are on the floors where the main routers and modems are - and who are still currently having trouble?

Higher powered WAPs

Relocate WAPs. If the apartments have a decent amount of windows per unit putting WAPs outdoors (under the eves for example) can work better than inside along hallways. Depends on the structure of the building. Any wall with steel in it is bad. A stick-built building is what you dream of. BTW Most of the Engenius WAPs are designed for outdoor mounting. They run $50-130 each, depending.

More WAPs

Possibly external antennas
Quote:
Also, I talked to the Comcast tech who installed this system and she claims that the routers are programed on "auto" in terms of what channel they use, and that they jump around between channels until they find something with less traffic.  Does this sound right?

It can work.
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post #21 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 02:16 PM
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I think OP may be in a bit over his head here.  Did you consider having a company come in and do this for you?  I agree with what the previous posters have said in terms of

 

  1. You need more wireless access points, you can't run a 4 floor building with 2 routers and connections then have wireless extenders.  Wireless extenders are quite possibly the worst option there is
  2. People who are pointing you to directional antennas probably didn't know that you had them in a central location.  Directional antennas are just what they sound like, they project their signal in a cone directly in front of them (this cone varies depending on the antenna).  Omnidirectional antennas (standard for all consumer routers as far as I know) broadcast in a very simple doughnut pattern, meaning they spread it all around them but it's generally not as strong.  Those pointing you to higher powered WAPs are correct.
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post #22 of 33 Old 04-29-2014, 07:11 PM
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ilovejedd dropped the magic word, MoCA. I think one problem you have is not having ethernet  wiring throughout the building; which is going to make installing Access Points a headache. MoCA lets you send ethernet IP over cable wiring. If your condo is fairly new you can install MoCA modems to carry ethernet. One indicator that this would work is RG6 cable everywhere. If you see RG59 (older building) then you can use DECA units from DirecTV. MoCA uses a high frequency that RG59 can't deliver reliably. DECA uses a lower frequency which is stable on RG59.

 

Using the cable system in your building you can add access points connected to MoCA/DECA "recievers".

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post #23 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 04:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aufVidyZen View Post

ilovejedd dropped the magic word, MoCA. I think one problem you have is not having ethernet  wiring throughout the building; which is going to make installing Access Points a headache. MoCA lets you send ethernet IP over cable wiring. If your condo is fairly new you can install MoCA modems to carry ethernet. One indicator that this would work is RG6 cable everywhere. If you see RG59 (older building) then you can use DECA units from DirecTV. MoCA uses a high frequency that RG59 can't deliver reliably. DECA uses a lower frequency which is stable on RG59.




Using the cable system in your building you can add access points connected to MoCA/DECA "recievers".

Never heard of MoCA before today, and did a double take when I first saw the adapters, since Ethernet started out running over coax.

http://www.amazon.com/Actiontec-Ethernet-Adapter-without-Routers/dp/B008EQ4BQG

However, it does seem to be a possible solution for a situation where coax is already all over the place and Ethernet needs to follow it. It does seem to include a POE-like facility which potentially makes things even that much easier.

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post #24 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 05:51 AM
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I remember ethernet over coax back in the early/mid 90s. If I accidentally ran my cable (it was snaked all over the floors -- poor startup) over with my chair my terminal (yes, I said terminal) lost connection. It seemed those connectors were always an issue too.
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post #25 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Also, I talked to the Comcast tech who installed this system and she claims that the routers are programed on "auto" in terms of what channel they use, and that they jump around between channels until they find something with less traffic.  Does this sound right?

 

Generally this is true. 

 

It depends on the equipment installed. Basically you have (with 802.11bg)  three non-overlapping channel assignments: 1, 6, 11; because modern AP's each use two adjacent channels to carry double the data rate.As you add more AP's in a multi-tenant dwelling there is "no place to go" that doesn't have a conflict. Turning on a microwave, walking around with a cordless phone, even the body mass of humans moving around can cause an AP to change channel assignment.It's a dynamic process.

 

 

Many service providers don't want you touching the settings in "their" equipment, but they will let an owner connect to a unadvertised company web site to change settings on a web page that sends a command to reset the owners wireless router/access point with the new settings. This is so neighbors can't go to war with each other with higher power settings, setting publicly visible SSID's with potty-mouth messages, or deliberately setting channel assignments to knock out their least favorite neighbors internet service in retaliation. Do people do that? Yes they do, in Silicon Valley. Nothing says "stop watching netflix and go to bed" like zapping the Bro's internet connection.

 

I live in an area of high density single family homes, but there are still issues with getting various wireless access points to "play well with others". Now that neighbors know I'm a network engineer with some expensive network analyzers, I'm frequently called on to restore peace in the wireless shootouts that get started here.

 

I'm replying to this thread at length because there is a interesting business model here. By using Comcast Business Broadband the original poster has found a way to make "cord cutting" a practical reality. Rather than paying the cable company for individual  "high speed" (bogus) service with video bundles they don't want, the tenants of an apartment building or owners of a condo can get true high speed internet (Enterprise network class bandwidth) for their community. This is, in miniature what Google and others are doing with community based networks. There is a whole subset of network engineering, "Mesh networks", that addresses constructing ad-hoc local area networks. Comcast and others are trying hard to make sure this baby dies in it's crib.

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post #26 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 01:58 PM
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What you really need a a solution with central management of multiple waps.

If you have the funds I would look no further than Rukus http://www.ruckuswireless.com
We have had excellent results in both small and very large structures.

A lower cost alternative would be something from Cisco in the small business line http://www.cisco.com/cisco/web/solutions/small_business/products/wireless/index.html
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post #27 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 02:00 PM
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Wait till you see what you can do with Wifi-Direct.... smile.gif That really is mesh networking.
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post #28 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Never heard of MoCA before today, and did a double take when I first saw the adapters, since Ethernet started out running over coax.

http://www.amazon.com/Actiontec-Ethernet-Adapter-without-Routers/dp/B008EQ4BQG

However, it does seem to be a possible solution for a situation where coax is already all over the place and Ethernet needs to follow it. It does seem to include a POE-like facility which potentially makes things even that much easier.

Live and learn - why I conference!

This may not work-as I understand it, the frequencies used by MoCa are usually not passed between the runs for apartment buildings. My extremely vague recollection was that the possibility of other people ending up on your LAN was something MoCA users were worried about but decided was probably not an issue because of the aforementioned lack of frequency passing.

If there are twelve units in the building, I would consider getting a quote to have a contractor set something up. I think that this is going to turn into a big timesuck for the OP.
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post #29 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 04:39 PM
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Quote:
My extremely vague recollection was that the possibility of other people ending up on your LAN was something MoCA users were worried about

With something like a Ruckus, Cisco etc. system you can do all kinds of things for isolation.
I'd consult with a couple experts, review your needs and concerns and get a couple quotes.
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post #30 of 33 Old 04-30-2014, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by trans_lux View Post

With something like a Ruckus, Cisco etc. system you can do all kinds of things for isolation.
I'd consult with a couple experts, review your needs and concerns and get a couple quotes.

No, no my point was the opposite. That he might have trouble using MoCA to provide internet access to WAPs across units because I seem to recall that it *did* isolate different apartments from each other with most setups.
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