AIMesh vs 3 separate AC86U?

Livin

Regular Contributor
I've been running 3 separate AC86U (one per floor w/ wired backhaul) for nearly 2 yrs. Curious if AIMesh would bring me any benefits (beyond central mgmt) or anything that would cause me issues/challenges?

2 years ago I tried three different mesh systems (Netgear Orbi, TP link, etc)... all had major problems with signal reach and Wifi cams didnt stay connected. I wasted 30 hrs of time in setup/test/tweak over a 2 month period.

Reason I need 3 routers...
(1) house has a lot of metal beams so Wifi signals dont get everywhere easily without multiple routers.
(2) I have 10 Wifi cams which try to roam and dont stay connected IF on 2.4Ghz, but are rock solid on 5Ghz. So I use MAC address exclusions to ensure they stay on the router they have the strongest signal with.

thx for the help!
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
I've been running 3 separate AC86U (one per floor w/ wired backhaul) for nearly 2 yrs. Curious if AIMesh would bring me any benefits (beyond central mgmt) or anything that would cause me issues/challenges?

2 years ago I tried three different mesh systems (Netgear Orbi, TP link, etc)... all had major problems with signal reach and Wifi cams didnt stay connected. I wasted 30 hrs of time in setup/test/tweak over a 2 month period.

Reason I need 3 routers...
(1) house has a lot of metal beams so Wifi signals dont get everywhere easily without multiple routers.
(2) I have 10 Wifi cams which try to roam and dont stay connected IF on 2.4Ghz, but are rock solid on 5Ghz. So I use MAC address exclusions to ensure they stay on the router they have the strongest signal with.

thx for the help!

I would want to try it to find out. :)

OE
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
I would agree with OzarkEdge, with some caveats.

First, I would not take down a working system. I would be willing to try/test with 3 new AX class routers instead. If they don't work, you only need to plug in the current setup and power it up.

(RT-AX88U, RT-AX68U, RT-AX86U, and GT-6000 are all above the RT-AC86Us you're using now. If you have significantly faster ISP speeds than 500Mbps, symmetrical, any of the mentioned routers will give you a noticeable throughput boost, and the last two will not only do that but also give you substantially higher LAN speeds too for select devices, (or all devices, with a few additional 2.5GbE switches).

Secondly, 2 years ago, I was calling AiMesh, AiMess. Not today. :)

Thirdly, if you need Guest networks to propagate throughout your home, AiMesh will do that today (for GN 1 on each band).

Selling your current routers can offset some of the cost of the new routers (while they're still worth something).

Note that your wired backhaul, if of good quality Cat5e or better and less than ~100 feet, will also work well with 2.5GbE backhaul (for the latter two routers).

If you're just thinking of simply re-purposing the existing routers into an AiMesh network, I would say don't. Not that it won't work, but specifically; do not take a working system down.
 

fisherman

Occasional Visitor
I've been running 3 separate AC86U (one per floor w/ wired backhaul) for nearly 2 yrs. Curious if AIMesh would bring me any benefits (beyond central mgmt) or anything that would cause me issues/challenges?

2 years ago I tried three different mesh systems (Netgear Orbi, TP link, etc)... all had major problems with signal reach and Wifi cams didnt stay connected. I wasted 30 hrs of time in setup/test/tweak over a 2 month period.

Reason I need 3 routers...
(1) house has a lot of metal beams so Wifi signals dont get everywhere easily without multiple routers.
(2) I have 10 Wifi cams which try to roam and dont stay connected IF on 2.4Ghz, but are rock solid on 5Ghz. So I use MAC address exclusions to ensure they stay on the router they have the strongest signal with.

thx for the help!
I have two AC86U running AiMesh and the system is working exceedingly well.

It seems to me that trying AiMesh should be easy enough, as well as fall-backable if you save config files?

I'm with OE. If it were me I would certainly want to try it out.
 

drinkingbird

Very Senior Member
I've been running 3 separate AC86U (one per floor w/ wired backhaul) for nearly 2 yrs. Curious if AIMesh would bring me any benefits (beyond central mgmt) or anything that would cause me issues/challenges?

2 years ago I tried three different mesh systems (Netgear Orbi, TP link, etc)... all had major problems with signal reach and Wifi cams didnt stay connected. I wasted 30 hrs of time in setup/test/tweak over a 2 month period.

Reason I need 3 routers...
(1) house has a lot of metal beams so Wifi signals dont get everywhere easily without multiple routers.
(2) I have 10 Wifi cams which try to roam and dont stay connected IF on 2.4Ghz, but are rock solid on 5Ghz. So I use MAC address exclusions to ensure they stay on the router they have the strongest signal with.

thx for the help!

I've never used aimesh but have used other mesh systems and they seem to be no different than just setting the same SSID on each router. They just give you some extra convenience, and often implement some roaming assistance to force clients to reconnect when their signal gets weak. But still plenty of problems with "sticky" clients connecting to a weaker AP or not roaming when a better signal is available. The systems I toyed with didn't give you much flexibility to disable or tweak those roaming assistance features and were quite frustrating. In your current setup for your cameras and other non-moving devices, I would create a guest network with different name on each of your 3 routers so you can point each device to exactly the AP you want them to connect to (you can even set that guest network to 5Ghz only so they don't even attempt 2.4). Using MAC exclusions can delay the connection (depending on the device, can even be a pretty significant time) and since many wifi cameras (definitely battery powered ones) connect every time they record a clip, then disconnect, that can cause issues. For devices that are always on or on for long periods of time, it is fine to use MAC exclusions usually as long as you don't mind some initial connection delay sometimes.

If you do go the GW route, use GW2 or 3, as 1 puts the devices on a different subnet and that can cause issues. You'll probably need to enable "access LAN" on them also.

Of course if you're using one of the camera systems that requires a single SSID for all cameras, then that won't help. Decreasing the power of your APs to try and keep them to one floor each may help ensure each camera only connects to the closest AP, but you won't be able to dial it in exactly perfect. If the MAC blocking is working for you and not causing missed clips, then you can stick with that.

In general, it is the device that decides where to connect and with a camera that comes on and quickly tries to find a network, it will connect to whichever beacon it sees first. You can decrease the beacon interval which may or may not help. Aimesh probably won't buy you anything over your current setup other than a bit of convenience. In reality, all it is doing is what you've already done manually. Features like roaming assistant and smart connect (which you can enable regardless of whether you have mesh set up) are basically hacks to try and override client behavior. In some cases they help, in others they hurt. I guess the one feature you'd gain is the backhaul of the Guest Wireless 1 between all 3 devices so that subnet will span the whole network and be a single Layer 2 between all 3, but since you can use GW2 and 3 which share the main LAN subnet and will use your current wired backhaul, that isn't a big gain.

Personally I have 2 APs, with one main network (same SSID) across both for mobile clients, and any clients that support it set to "aggressive" roaming. For devices that don't support tweaking the roaming, I have roaming assist in the APs set to -70 and have found it to work well. Then a guest network on each AP with 2 different names for static devices to ensure they only connect to the one I want them to connect to. I have noticed in the past few years, even without tweaking the roaming settings on clients, they seem to roam much better. But older devices and even some newer ones still exhibit the "hang on as long as possible even if I can't connect to the internet".

I did just help someone set up a Blink camera system and that one only supports a single SSID if you're using the synch module (unless you use multiple synch modules). It will accept both "SSID" and "SSID_EXT" automatically for people who use extenders, but I still see the cameras connect to the much weaker main router ignoring the extender from time to time. I suspect even if I removed the "_EXT" from the extender it would be the same. Blocking the MAC in the main router just results in the camera never sending that clip. Then the next time it connects, it hits the extender and sends the new clip fine. Its a fairly frustrating design. If you don't use the synch module and rely strictly on cloud storage, you can set different SSIDs and it is more flexible. That only works for blink mini (and possibly the old XT outdoor) though, the current outdoor cameras won't work without the synch and a single SSID. For them, I plan to reposition their main router in a more central location and up higher to try and reach all the cameras without the extender. The other annoyance with that system is the synch module maintains a totally separate direct 900mhz LFR connection with the cameras so it also has to be centrally located (granted the lower frequency reaches much further, and the data sent over that connection is pretty small, so not as big of an issue).

Ubiquiti was toying with a roaming setup where every AP used the same MAC address, channel, and SSID. Essentially the client had no option but to connect to the strongest signal and it maintained that connection as it roamed around, never knowing it was changing APs. But it was very problematic from my experience, you had to tweak it a lot to try and make sure you had a tiny bit of overlap between APs, but not too much. It was impossible to get dialed in just right. We're close to having much better roaming technologies but we'll need 6E capable routers and devices before that happens.
 
Last edited:

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
Routers in AP Mode with the same SSIDs vs AiMesh have the same roaming capabilities. AiMesh offers Guest Network to nodes and somewhat central management. AP Mode offers more control and higher performance on different Wi-Fi channels. AP Mode can achieve better roaming with power adjustment available.
 

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