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Advice on better Wifi range coverage for my house?

lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
Issue: Everyday I noticed two Nest security cameras (both on 2.4G, -77dBm and -79dBm ish, both located in the far end of the router) consistently dropped off the network for short period of time then came back. Not a huge deal but just made me wonder what else I can do to improve the coverage (as most of the geeks will do, LOL)

Setup: fairly simple: 2100 sqft single story home, internet drop is located relatively in the middle of the house. In the past I have tried NG 7000 (still have it collecting dust), NG Orbi 3 packs and now RT-AC86U running stock FW 45717 bought in 2018. Normally I have 30-40 active devices on my network.

I really didn’t have good experience with mesh network and I saw AiMesh may be an even worse solution, will adding WiFi extender help in my case - just to bridge the cameras?

Thanks!
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
Using AiMesh in wireless (vs. wired) mode is identical to a WiFi extender/repeater and not one that is recommended if you want the fastest wireless speeds possible. If wired AiMesh or AP mode for the second router (an additional RT-AC86 would be my suggestion) is possible, then that is what you should do.

If a second wired AP isn't possible, then testing AiMesh in your WiFi environment is still worthwhile because, with 40 active wireless clients on your network, you are pushing beyond what most consumer routers are (easily) capable of (there is a fairly hard limit of 30 or 32 clients per radio on consumer equipment).

Before going to buy a second RT-AC86U though, you may want to flash the latest firmware from Asus (you're running firmware over a year old) and even better, flash RMerlin firmware instead. Note that you will need to perform a full reset to factory defaults after flashing either stock or RMerlin firmware from such an old version to ensure the router is using the defaults and options it is expecting. The last two paragraphs in the link below may help get the router to a good/known state for you.



With a (relatively) small single-story home, a single router should be able to reach everywhere within if you have located the router in a central position.

Upgrading to the latest firmware, doing a full reset, and ideally using (or at least testing with) new SSID's should give you the improvements you need with the hardware you already have.

If not, at least your network will be safer with current firmware and the AiMesh main/node network you set up will be much more stable and reliable too.

HTH. :)
 

lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
Hi L&LD, I have been reading a lot of your responses and thank you very much for the tips.


Two questions:

1. I have had issue with one of the 81XXX FW with random device dropping so I rolled back to 45717 and never had time to tinker :) What RMerlin FW version will you recommend for AC86U? 384.18? or 384.16? I don't run VPN on my router.

2. I currently have a "*" in the password of my 2.4G network (inherited from early days). I remotely remembered I was forced to not use "*" in my 5G password during one of the updates but I was too lazy to change the passwords in all my other 2.4G devices (since it still works). After reading the troubleshooting 101, will the special character cause any issue?

Finally it's time to do a clean house before I have to invest in another router. Buying another Wifi5 router doesn't seem to be a good investment at this time if I can tweak my current router to make it work.

Thanks again!
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
1. I suggest testing with the RMerlin 384.19 Beta 2.


The two links above show why I suggest Beta 2 today (your JFFS partition will be truncated to 47MB. May as well do this once and done).

Random devices dropping may be from the SSID, or just the need for a reset if it has never been done (even if you just stayed on stock firmware).

2. What is most important to me isn't the fact that 'special characters' may cause issues. Rather, the client retains certain microcode from an SSID that may not be applicable anymore (particularly when going to a new firmware or a new router).

Since it is so easy to test if the 'special characters' can cause issues (see steps 6 and 7 in the link below), it is up to you to decide if you really want that one-off setup. For myself and my customers, it is just easier to create new SSID's without any (possibly) future troublesome characters in the first place. :)

 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
1. I have had issue with one of the 81XXX FW with random device dropping so I rolled back to 45717 and never had time to tinker :) What RMerlin FW version will you recommend for AC86U? 384.18? or 384.16? I don't run VPN on my router.
I would say stay with Asus stock on this router. On my 2 RT-AC86U routers all Asus stock versions 81351 and up were more stable than corresponding Merlin versions. I was testing different FW during COVID stay home time. Merlin 384.14 is very good, after that Asus stock is better. Replace this router with something else when you have the opportunity. Unreliable hardware and many dead units. Most of them from 2018. I ended up with two dead, another SNB member with another two, many others with at least one, some with 3-4 RMAs. Good router, but only when it works. RT-AX88U is much better, for example.
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
NG 7000 (still have it collecting dust)
You may have a golden solution here for free. It was years ago, but I remember having a Tomato router with Wireless Ethernet Bridge on 5GHz radio and Access Point on 2.4GHz radio. Wireless 2.4GHz AP with 5GHz backhaul. What I don't remember is what router it was working on, Netgear R7000 or Cisco E2500. Here is your small weekend project. You may not need any extra hardware to make the cameras happy. Merlin won't help with range on your Asus router. Asus stock and Merlin use the same wireless drivers. There is a Freshtomato from 2020 for your R7000 to try. Google Freshtomato Firmware.
 
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lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
You may have a golden solution here for free. It was years ago, but I remember having a Tomato router with Wireless Ethernet Bridge on 5GHz radio and Access Point on 2.4GHz radio. Wireless 2.4GHz AP with 5GHz backhaul. What I don't remember is what router it was working on, Netgear R7000 or Cisco E2500. Here is your small weekend project. You may not need any extra hardware to make the cameras happy. Merlin won't help with range on your Asus router. Asus stock and Merlin use the same wireless drivers. There is a Freshtomato from 2020 for your R7000 to try. Google Freshtomato Firmware.
Thanks for the tips. I just flashed my AC86U to 384.14.2 and will let it sit there for a while (currently using my R7000 as the backup router to just keep a few critical devices up and running).
How does the 5G wireless backhaul work? I know how wired AP works but have never tried wireless backhaul. R7000 is supported by Freshtomato, is there a special mode that Freshtomato supports to make this backhaul work? Also I noticed that NG just released a security fix last month and unluckily R7000 was still covered, will Freshtomato be exposed to similar security flaws?
I will definitely give it a try and report back (once my AC86U is stable).
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
Not all routers can do what is described above, but I remember it working. Install Tomato and google for instructions how to set Wireless Ethernet Bridge. It's similar to Media Bridge in Asus routers. The difference is Asus doesn't allow WiFi clients in this mode. Tomato though allowed to activate the second radio as Access Point. Back then I was using Tomato by Shibby version. I don't remember what router was setup like this though, R7000 or E2500. The point is to save the bandwidth on 2.4GHz. You get the data on 5GHz radio and re-transmit it on 2.4GHz. I don't know about current Tomato security state. You are setting up bridge/AP though, not a router. Try it and see. If it works - great. If it doesn't - you've learned something new at least.
 

chadster766

Very Senior Member
I recommend the Linksys MX5300 for maximum wifi6 coverage with least amount of hardware.

 

lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
Not all routers can do what is described above, but I remember it working. Install Tomato and google for instructions how to set Wireless Ethernet Bridge. It's similar to Media Bridge in Asus routers. The difference is Asus doesn't allow WiFi clients in this mode. Tomato though allowed to activate the second radio as Access Point. Back then I was using Tomato by Shibby version. I don't remember what router was setup like this though, R7000 or E2500. The point is to save the bandwidth on 2.4GHz. You get the data on 5GHz radio and re-transmit it on 2.4GHz. I don't know about current Tomato security state. You are setting up bridge/AP though, not a router. Try it and see. If it works - great. If it doesn't - you've learned something new at least.
As my weekend home project, I flashed the R7000 to Freshtomato 2020.5. However, the R7000 kept refusing to join the 5G band of AC86U. I watched a few youtube video and checked the learntomato tutorial. Neither Wireless Ethernet Bridge nor AP+WDS work. I don't want to try dd-wrt.

Below is what I did (tried a few times with different settings)

- connected WAN to LAN on R7000 (client)
- disable DHCP on R7000 (client)
- set client IP in the host router (AC86U) DHCP IP pool
- set client DNS IP as the host router IP
- leave client 2.4G as AP
- set client 5G mode as Wireless Ethernet Bridge, SSID to match the host router 5G SSID and password matching host router's (WPA2-personal)
- reboot

In the overview page, the 5G signal quality section shows "zero" - can't connect to the host 5G as backhaul.

Did I miss anything here?
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
I have the E2500 in my spare parts box. Let me find a power supply for it and I’ll recreate the setup. Give me some time. Check the thread tomorrow. I need to play with Tomato a bit to refresh my memory and if I make it work I’ll give you the settings to try on your R7000.
 

lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
I have the E2500 in my spare parts box. Let me find a power supply for it and I’ll recreate the setup. Give me some time. Check the thread tomorrow. I need to play with Tomato a bit to refresh my memory and if I make it work I’ll give you the settings to try on your R7000.
wow, thank you very much!
 

lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
I recommend the Linksys MX5300 for maximum wifi6 coverage with least amount of hardware.

Thanks for the recommendation! My confidence for the mesh system still hasn't recovered from my past experience with NG Orbi 5300 system - my house isn't that big (2000 sqft) and even one Orbi can cover up to 2K sqft, having three units running ended up causing a lot of unnecessary roaming, and the throughput was horrible. All I need is to get a bit better range at the end of the house as that's where the cameras are located, and since I have 6 Nest cameras uploading to the cloud, I do need some good coverage.
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
Here we go. Tomato by Shibby 1.28 Max, router Cisco E2500. Main router IP 192.168.144.1

- Install Tomato, don't change anything yet
- In Administration, Restore Default Configuration, Erase All Data... click OK, wait for the reboot
- In Basic, Time -> set your time zone
- In Basic, Network, LAN, br0 -> IP 192.168.144.4, Netmask 255.255.255.0, DHCP Disabled
- In Basic, Network, Default Gateway 192.168.144.1, DNS 8.8.8.8 8.8.4.4 (any public DNS)
- In Advanced, Routing -> Mode: Router, DHCP Routes (check)
- In Advanced , Firewall -> Respond to ICMP Ping: (Check), NAT Loopback: All, NAT Target: Masquerade
- in Basic 5GHz -> Mode: Wireless Ethernet Bridge, Network Mode: Auto, Security: WPA/WPA2 Personal, Encryption: AES
- In Advanced, Wireless -> Country/Region: yours
- In Advanced, DHCP/DNS -> Use Internal DNS (check), Prevent DNS Rebind: (check), all others unchecked
- In Advanced, Miscelaneous -> Boot Wait Time: 5 seconds (just in case)
- In Basic 2.4GHz -> Mode: Access Point, Network Mode: Auto, Security: Channel: 11, WPA/WPA2 Personal, Encryption: AES

E2500 is on my desk with the power cord only. I'm writing this message connected to the 2.4GHz radio Access Point network. 5GHz radio Wireless Ethernet Bridge is connected to the main router. I have Internet on both LAN ports and 2.4GHz AP and access to the main router's admin page. The automatically assigned IP to my PC is 192.168.144.46 and I see it in device list on the main router. Set up via LAN and switched to Wireless after. Don't forget to click Save at the bottom of each page. Hopefully the R7000 allows the same setup.

Who invented AiMesh first? LOL
 

Stuey3D

Regular Contributor
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00R1PA9EO/?tag=smallncom-21

Try one of these first, I have 2 on my 68U that I am using as an AIMesh node in my garage and the range on them is very impressive. It will make one of your antenna’s a directional one though so you’ll need to tweak the other 2 to compensate for other devices, but for me it was a cheap option and works well.

I can now receive a useable 5GHz signal on my iPhone up at my house from the garage (35 meter distance) which was unheard of before, 2.4 is even stronger so strong that the 86U in the house can see and connect to it when checked in the wifi log. Distance between the 68U in the garage and the 86U in the house is 43 meters and that is with multiple walls in the way, don’t get me wrong at that distance the wifi is unusable as a link between the 86U & 68U but the fact it can see and connect is very impressive.

It’s a cheap option and saves complexity by adding a 2nd wifi device to your network (some devices wont roam very well with an extender) and most CCTV camera’s are only a single stream wifi so you’d only need one of those antenna’s.
 

Stuey3D

Regular Contributor
I’ve just rebooted my 68U and now it is seeing the 86U in the house on both 2.4Ghz and 5GHz frequencies, since the latest Merlin update my 86U is now holding onto the DFS channels better and as such my 5GHz is much stronger and because of that the 68U with those antennas is connecting to my 86U on 5GHz at a 43 meter range through a wooden wall of the garage and multiple brick walls of the house.
 

lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
Hi K-2SO, thank you very much for your detailed instructions. I have tried Freshtomato 2020.2/2020.5 and even the Shibby 1.28, and got the same results. I am attaching a screenshot of the overview page for your reference (from Shibby 1.28) - no matter what I do, the signal quality at the bottom of the 5G remains 0.... Looks like there is no way I can get the R7000 to join the AC86U. BTW, my AC86U is running 384.14, but from what I understand, this setting should work with any host router setting.... Anyway, good learning from a weekend tinkering :)

On the other side, my AC86U has been working like a charm over the past 2 days, no camera dropping off the grid (I put them on 5G band, all at -78~84dBm range), so even if this doesn't work out, I can still live with what I have. At least I don't have to shed out $ for an AX-88U for now. Have a good rest of your weekend, and thanks again!
 

Attachments

lucrabbit

Occasional Visitor
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00R1PA9EO/?tag=smallncom-21

Try one of these first, I have 2 on my 68U that I am using as an AIMesh node in my garage and the range on them is very impressive. It will make one of your antenna’s a directional one though so you’ll need to tweak the other 2 to compensate for other devices, but for me it was a cheap option and works well.

I can now receive a useable 5GHz signal on my iPhone up at my house from the garage (35 meter distance) which was unheard of before, 2.4 is even stronger so strong that the 86U in the house can see and connect to it when checked in the wifi log. Distance between the 68U in the garage and the 86U in the house is 43 meters and that is with multiple walls in the way, don’t get me wrong at that distance the wifi is unusable as a link between the 86U & 68U but the fact it can see and connect is very impressive.

It’s a cheap option and saves complexity by adding a 2nd wifi device to your network (some devices wont roam very well with an extender) and most CCTV camera’s are only a single stream wifi so you’d only need one of those antenna’s.
I wasn’t paying too much attention as I thought you were recommending an AiMesh solution. Panel antenna is definitely a great idea! Will check it out to see if I can find a similar 2.4/5G one in US. BTW, will such panel antenna pose any health risk?
 

Stuey3D

Regular Contributor
I wasn’t paying too much attention as I thought you were recommending an AiMesh solution. Panel antenna is definitely a great idea! Will check it out to see if I can find a similar 2.4/5G one in US. BTW, will such panel antenna pose any health risk?
Doubt it, WiFi doesn’t put out anywhere near as much power for it to be a health risk even with a panel antenna to direct it.

If you do go the antenna route make sure you reboot the router after installing it, I just unscrewed the old antenna and screwed the panel on without powering off and wondered why the signal was worse. After rebooting the signal improved significantly so I guess all the beam forming algorithms musta needed to be restarted to compensate for the new antenna.
 

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