As our computer networks grow - from a single family computer of a few years ago to today, where not only may each family member have multiple connected devices, our dwellings now have devices of their own! The Internet of Things is creating further demand on our networks, and many of us, even with relatively new homes, are finding our connectivity lacking. This series of articles describes some of the problems, and offers some solutions for folks to implement. Topics include:
- current status
- use of an access point(s)
- Wi-Fi extender
- mesh networks
Most internet installations will be either copper wire (telephone wire) or Fibre Optic installations. Traditional copper installations use either one or two telephone circuits to provide up to 50 Mbps internet to the customer. The telephone company's installation ends with a gateway device which has one, or two telephone jumper cables between the gateway and common telephone wall jacks. A Fibre Optic installation will commonly have an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) then an Ethernet cable connecting the ONT to the gateway device or a router. In many instances, especially in new homes, these various devices are placed in or near the electrical panel, or near the telco demarcation point. Neither of these are central to the dwelling, and are often far from users, who may be far from the basement corner where the utilities enter the home.
Option 1 - renovations
Ready access to the wall space between the closet and the living room provided an opportunity to move my gateway to a more central location in the house. Although requiring running some new Ethernet cable, it would be a fairly straightforward task, placing the main point of connection both wired and Wi-Fi in the centre of the house. My shopping list included:
- low voltage mud ring, to allow a clean installation through the wall
- six outlet ethernet connector cover plate
- six Cat 6 wall jacks
- power bar with USB
- a selection of short Ethernet cables, and a few long ones.
- sufficient bulk Cat 6 Ethernet cable to complete the task
- a side table for the living room with an enclosed base - chosen by my better half
This plan would bring Ethernet cables from the ONT to the Gateway / router in the central location in the living room and from there to the Media centre, the computer, and the basement room. The Gateway / router, a switch, and any IoT bridges needing to be centralized would be hidden in the side table, keeping the tangle of wires usually associated with such installations invisible. The only modifications needed for the side table might be the addition of some internal shelves, and openings to allow the cables to enter/exit, and for some cooling air movement. This also has the advantage of allowing a ready location for charging cables or charging pads for easy device charging.
Many newer homes have Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable run from a common point near the electrical panel to the rooms of the house. In many instances the installation tech places the Gateway / router in that location, which may not be the best location for propagation of Wi-Fi signal. It may be possible to move the Gateway / router to another location in the house, more centrally located to the users, or another option may need be chosen.
Option 3 - Wi-Fi extender
There's lots of options, so you can choose that which works best for your needs. In most instances, you are best to run your network independent of the devices supplied by your ISP. This allows you to manage your network to meet your needs, using the ISP equipment solely for connection to the Internet. It also makes it straightforward to switch equipment, either as you receive upgrades from your ISP, or as you change suppliers.