Best setup for smart home / IoT

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leman

New Around Here
Hi all, looking for advice on how to upgrade my current setup of (apparently failing) AC86U as main router + AC88U as an AiMesh node with a focus on stable operation of WiFi-enabled smart home devices (i.e. slow 2.4hz clients).

I'm currently at around 40 WiFi clients (most being at 2.4hz) and experiencing issues with clients disconnecting and failing to connect back over prolonged periods of time. Basically waking up daily to a non-working smart home setup. The issue potentially is due to failing AC86U (which seems to be flaky on 2.4hz radio side), but not really sure as the issue is intermittent. I tried setting up the wireless settings normally recommended for Asus routers in noisy environments (e.g. https://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/9yz4q4z3) but that did not help much. Ended up with a single AC88U as a main router (no AiMesh) on latest Merlin beta firmware which seems to be the most stable setup for me yet, but still testing.

Wondering if upgrading to AX88U or jumping the ship in favor of small enterprise WiFi equipment (no ideas where to look at in this field) may help. Main goals are:
1. STABLE operation with up to 100 WiFi client concurrently (most will be slow 2.4hz devices - as mentioned above I now have only 40 but would like to have sufficient headroom)
2. Adequate support of fast 5hz AC devices
3. 8 LAN ports (now have only 4 LAN ports used on a main router but would like to have some headroom again)
4. AX support would be good as a futureproof feature but is on the lower end of priority list - have only 1 device supporting WiFi 6 currently
5. Staying with Asus would be also good as I'm used to them, having gone through several generations of Asus home network products
6. Coverage is a non-issue as my AC88U (with no AiMesh setup) seems to cover the whole area I need quite reliably
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
STABLE operation with up to 100 WiFi client concurrently
Stay away from home AIO routers just because of this requirement. Keep an Asus router as a router only, if you prefer. RT-AC86U is the better router of the two, but with low reliability record. Upgrade switch/wireless part to SMB 8-port switch and 2 APs. Spread your devices on different radios between the APs. I have good experience with Omada setup. Very similar performance to UniFi system. How big is the area you need to cover?
 

leman

New Around Here
Maybe you stability issues was caused by running an additional node when you did not need it.
I started with just AC86U which was unstable, so I added AC88U that I already had from my previous apartment where I did have coverage issues. Just wanted to try it out, but it didn't cure things (made a bit better though - could be that AC88U as a node just took the burden off the failing 2.4hz radio of AC86U).

So yes, maybe the unnecessary node was not the best solution indeed and even added some issues on its own, but that's not the root cause of my issues unfortunately.
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
Wondering if upgrading to AX88U
Read this discussion first:
RT-AX88U may not solve your 2.4GHz connection issues.
 

leman

New Around Here
Stay away from home AIO routers just because of this requirement. Keep an Asus router as a router only, if you prefer. RT-AC86U is the better router of the two, but with low reliability record. Upgrade switch/wireless part to SMB 8-port switch and 2 APs. Spread your devices on different radios between the APs. I have good experience with Omada setup. Very similar performance to UniFi system. How big is the area you need to cover?
The area is around 120m2 with relatively thin walls (no issues for wifi coming through). The router is right in the center of this space. Would I really need to APs to cover this area or is it to spread the devices between them? Should this be 2.4hz on one AP and 5hz on the other (as this way the 2.4hz one will have considerably higher load)?
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
Oh, this is an apartment? 40 devices already with plans to expand further? Interesting... Your IoT obsession is the issue here, not the routers. :)
2.4GHz is overcrowded in apartment buildings. I don't think you have any good solutions when you have little available bandwidth to work with.
 

MichaelCG

Very Senior Member
I agree with some of the previous posts...for 100 concurrent 2.4GHz clients, you really need to spread this across more than one AP. If you are using WiFi enabled smarthome devices....I would highly suggest moving on to Z-Wave or Zigbee....although Zigbee also operates in 2.4GHz and may not be the greatest experience depending on how noisy the RF environment really is.

To try to "help" 2.4GHz, you need to have devices as close to the Router/AP as possible to keep transmit power down as much as possible. Even with 100 devices, that is a lot of devices for a single radio to handle. Even enterprise gear doesn't really like that many clients per radio. But as previously stated, 2.4GHz is already usually a big hot mess in apartments, so this may be a challenge just due to crowded airspace which you can't do much about other than move clients physically closer to the AP and/or move your devices to a difference frequency band (Z-Wave).
 

leman

New Around Here
Thanks guys, I know what you mean and wanted to get away from WiFi as much as possible. Said 40 WiFi clients is the smaller half of the overall zoo, the remainder are mostly Zigbee, and a couple of Z-Wave and 433mhz devices.

So basically 8-port switch + 2 APs to start with? Is there a way to spread 2.4hz across different Aps?

My quick Google shows UniFi 8-port switch + 2 AP AC Pros are not much more expensive than AX88U...
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
I would try not AiMesh, but RT-AC86U as router and RT-AC88U as access point side by side working on 2.4GHz channels 1 and 11 and 5GHz channels 36 and 149. Simulated "3-band" router with extra 2.4GHz channel. You get 7 LAN ports available as well with no extra hardware.
 

leman

New Around Here
You mean AC86U on 2.4ghz channel 1 + 5ghz channel 36 and AC88U on 2.4ghz channel 11 + 5ghz channel 149? Would this prevent all 2.4ghz devices joining a single AP?
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
Use different SSID's and assign devices to different radios. IoT devices don't move around. Stationary 5GHz devices assign to one of the 5GHz bands, mobile devices to the other. Use what you've got first and see if it improves the situation. With not enough bandwidth available in your WiFi environment you may end up spending money for nothing.
 

leman

New Around Here
I just set up AC86U as an AP and split the channels per above. I understand it's suboptimal compared to AC86U as a main router and AC88U as an AP, but to my understanding the difference should be not that material for my use case (pls. correct me if I'm wrong).

I kept SSIDs the same for now as it's a pain to change for most IOT devices and basically requires a manual restart and setup of each, so I want to be really sure this is really worth the hassle. I can see the clients gradually migrating to AP from the main router (and surprisingly it's a back and forth process) and will report if the stability improves.
 

K-2SO

Very Senior Member
it's a pain to change for most IOT devices
Makes sense now. You are IoT obsessed because you are lazy. ;)
The idea was to spread manually the devices across multiple radios in order to squeeze some more bandwidth from what's available. Same SSID means you have no control over what AP devices connect to. Of course they jump back and forth. Your two APs are too close to each other in this apartment.
 

leman

New Around Here
Definitely true :)

But minding I have doubts re. my AC86U health I reckon spending a couple of hours resetting the lights (and then resetting them again tomorrow if it does not help) would not be a wise time investment. My way of thinking is that unless I constantly see all the devices connected to one of the APs the "spreading" concept works (so maybe I'll get the occasional short-term device dropouts from constant roaming, but no the long-term offline cases), right?
 

MichaelCG

Very Senior Member
When you get into multi-AP setups, you must think through your power settings and AP locations well. Generally you want to drop your transmit power on 2.4GHz to very low. The better you tune the radio transmit power, the better behaved your clients generally get on roaming correctly between the two APs.

I personally am not a fan of manual SSID on each AP....but in such a small space I can see the value. I have 5 APs across my house using a single SSID and for the most part, my clients behave correctly and jump AP to AP as needed.
 

leman

New Around Here
Thanks for all the advice, guys. After adding the AC86U as an AP and setting up the channels I reduced the TX power to balanced on each (was max by default), I had no connection issues so far. Some devices roamed to the new AP, but the majority remained with the main router.

Will see how it goes, but ultimately, as you both say, I will apparently need separate SSIDs and manual distribution of clients between APs. I would ideally like to retain a single SSID, but my quick google shows that mapping devices to a specific AP in case all APs share the same SSID is not an option available anywhere. Asus has a Roaming block list, but it prevents router steering the clients and not clients from roaming themselves, I think. On Ubiquity forums I saw restricting clients to specific APs was possible in the previous versions of their controller software, but not anymore. Omada system mentioned above does not have this option as well, I think. Is this functionality available anywhere or it's generally not possible due to WiFi networks architecture specifics?
 
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leman

New Around Here
Happy to report my IoT devices connection was good in the last couple of days. Apparently the change of channels did the trick (and specifically channel 1 on 2.4ghz as this is the setting for main router AP which the majority of devices still stick to) as there seems to be no other material changes compared to my previous AiMesh setup which proved to be unstable...

Thanks again for all the support.
 
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