Home Networking Experience with Fibre Broadband

Note: This is a republish of a post (dated 26 December 2013) on my old Blogger account, nickimaru85.blogspot.com, which has been terminated.

The purpose of this post is to share my personal experience when setting up a home network solution that utilises one of Malaysia’s fibre broadband solutions (in my case, TM UniFi). Since this post focuses on the home network, it should be applicable to other broadband solutions.

DISCLAIMER:

  • As mentioned earlier, this post explains about my experience with my home network, so some of the solutions mentioned may not be suitable for other home networks.
  • It is highly recommended to perform backups of all network configurations from all network devices before changing the home network structure, in case of need to fall back to the old configuration. This has helped me tremendously when testing out which solution is best for my home.

One of the most discussed topics in most home networking forums appears to be the wireless range/performance problem. There are many causes of low wireless performance, such as:

  • The wireless router supplied from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) does not have good wireless coverage
  • The position of the wireless router at home is not ideal to cover all wireless devices

Therefore, in order to overcome the wireless performance issue, I have (over the span of 2 years) researched and tested several home networking solutions in order to fix this problem. To help visualise the solutions, I will first provide an illustration of the basic fibre broadband network that was installed at my home.

Network ideas 01 default

Figure 01 – Default wireless setup

As per the above diagram, the default wireless router provided by the ISP does not have good wireless coverage. Furthermore, the Internet connection speed is also reduced due to the WiFi signal not being able to penetrate effectively through concrete walls.

Using a laptop, I went into every room to perform PING tests to the main router, and performed Internet speed tests using www.speedtest.net. NOTE: subscribed fibre broadband speed = 20Mbps

ROOMPING TEST TO ROUTERSPEED TEST
BEDROOM 1Not available, due to WiFi signal only being available at a specific corner of the roomNot available
BEDROOM 2Between 10ms - 30msAveraging around 9Mbps
BEDROOM 3Intermittent, not stableNot available
BEDROOM 4High PING, averaging 125ms, due to concrete walls and other furniture3Mbps - 5Mbps
LIVING ROOMStable, 1ms17Mbps - 19Mbps
DINING ROOMBetween 10ms - 30msAveraging 12Mbps

In my opinion, laying network cables and installing wireless access points to specific rooms in the house would result in a stable and fast Internet connection to all wireless and wired devices. However, doing so will take some planning and a longer time period to complete.

Knowing that I am unable to lay network cables to every room, I set myself a target of each room having a minimum Internet connection speed of at least 10Mbps or higher. In order to achieve this, I have tried the following solutions:

Solution 01 – Replacing the default wireless router

I tried to tackle the problem at the source, which is the default wireless router. I replaced it with an ASUS RT-N56U wireless router, which I bought 2 years ago. The RT-N56U did greatly improve the wireless performance, however the signal to BEDROOM 1 and BEDROOM 3 was still weak, only getting about 1Mbps – 3Mbps. BEDROOM 4‘s wireless connection was better due to the router having a stronger WiFi signal and being on the ground floor, averaging a connection speed of 9Mbps – 10Mbps.

I recently replaced the RT-N56U with another ASUS product, the RT-N12HP, which I bought 1 month ago. Although lower in specifications and features, the RT-N12HP does have a wider wireless coverage. However, like the RT-N56U, the wireless signal had better improvements on the ground floor, but not much for the upper floor.

Solution 02 – Wireless extender

I bought a wireless extender with hopes that the Internet connection speed would improve for the first floor. The model that I got was an Aztech WL556E. Setup with the wireless extender is shown below:

Network ideas 02 extender

Figure 02 Extending the wireless with Aztech WL556E

When configuring the WL556E to repeat the router’s wireless signal, the extender reported that the signal strength from the router was a 65 out of 100 (the higher the value, the better the signal). Therefore, positioning for wireless extenders do play an important role in transmitting a better signal. Results-wise, the Internet speed for BEDROOM 1 and BEDROOM 3 did improve, however it was only getting about 5Mbps – 6Mbps.

Solution 03 – HomePlugs

BEDROOM 1 has a gaming desktop computer which is used to play online games. To ensure that I have a stable connection and not experience any dropped connections, I got an Aztech HomePlug HL110E starter kit, which provided a more stable connection as compared to a wireless connection. Setup is as follows:

Network ideas 03 - homeplug

Figure 03 – Using Aztech HL110E for gaming desktop

The HL110E managed to provide a stable connection (3ms PING to router) and I was getting 18Mbps speed test results on the gaming desktop.

Solution 04 – Combining the solutions

My current home network setup for the Internet connection is as per diagram below:

Network ideas 04 - current setup

Figure 04 – Current home network setup

I configured the RT-N56U to access point mode, so the main router to the Internet is still the RT-N12HP. At both floors, I am able to get speeds averaging about 13Mbps – 15Mbps, higher than my original target of 10Mbps per room. Fastest speed is still within the LIVING ROOM area.

As for the gaming desktop, I did lose the direct connection to the RT-N12HP via HomePlug, but I got a TP-Link TL-WN8200ND USB wireless adapter, which did give me a stable PING test result of 1ms – 3ms to the RT-N12HP located downstairs.

Closing notes:

  • I did not immediately come to the conclusion that I had needed to setup my home network as per Solution 04. All this testing was performed over the course of 2 years, due to time and budget constraints.
  • Wireless is always convenient as it allows your devices to be portable, however, network cables are still the best in terms of stability and file transferring speed performance.

Home network devices mentioned in post:

ASUS RT-N56U: http://www.asus.com/Networking/RTN56U/
ASUS RT-N12HP: http://www.asus.com/Networking/RTN12HP/
Aztech WL556E: http://www.aztech.com/my/wireless_wl556e.html
Aztech HL110E: http://www.aztech.com/my/homeplug_hl110e.html
TP-Link TL-WN8200ND: http://www.tp-link.com/en/products/details/?model=TL-WN8200ND

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