Thick walls - need a mesh for AX (or AC?)

lukacs.akos

New Around Here
Hi!

Just registered, maybe you can help me:

I have a ~100m^2 house, but the walls are pretty thick (around 50cm or 20 inch) and made of brick/stone - including some of the internal walls. For example there are two thick walls between the home-office room and living room. I highly doubt any single router or access point would have adequate coverage even on 2.4Ghz. Right now I have ~30Mbps downlink, and use the ISP's router and two older TP-Links. Forget about 5GHz, coverage on 2.4GHz is OK-ish, but switching to different AP is a pain... Soon should get 1gigabit from my ISP, so time to upgrade the WiFi as well. Otherwise not much needed: 3-4 laptops, 4 phones / tablets, and couple of IoT gadgets. Two access points should be enough I think. Maybe a third for garden, but I think that would be optional / even manually switching to a different AP would be OK.
Doing some ethernet wiring is OK. Some tweaking would be OK, but would want this to give me a stable WiFi all around my home, not a new hobby :D

Some ideas I have gone thru:
- hack around with OpenWRT: I'm affraid that's beyond my current skill level, and recommended Belkin RT3200 is just not available basically anywhere in EU. And would need this for work, not to experiment :)
- get some proper enterpise-y APs. Ok, but checking local prices, they are not really cheap. Any opinions about ZYXEL NWA50AX? That seems to be the only one competitive?
- maybe the biggest - baddest AP in the attic: Right now there is no insulation in the attic, and a single old TP-Link router covers a big portion of the house. Survived one summer, but I'm afraid nothing would like the 50°C (~120F) summer and -10°C (~ 10fahrenheit) winter temperatures :/ A single ubiquity 6 LR would cost about 75% of the three piece Netgear SXK30 system
- off the shelf mesh - not really cheap. But should "just work" after some wiring. Right now wouldn't care about advanced features I may miss. A Netgear SXK30B3 (3 units) would cost about as much az 2x Ubiquity 6 Lite, and less than 2x Omada EAP620HD
- Asus AI mesh - Just get two RT-AX55, plug in some cables, and done? Two would be slightly cheaper than a single Ubiquity 6 lite. Or AX56? AX58?

But, do I need AX at all? Not a lot of wifi activity here, right now nobody is gaming, so low latency doesn't matter. Just going with AC might lower the cost, and might just buy some proper APs. But than I would still spend a nice sum of money (at least here) on something, that might not be "future-proof". All the dilemmas...

Price-wise here Netgear SXK30B3 with 3 units, or 2x Ubiquity 6 Lite would cost about the same. 2x TP-Link Omada 620HD would be slightly more expensive. And any of those would be 50% more expensive than even 3* Asus RT-AX55.

Any ideas? Thanks!
 
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Crimliar

Senior Member
If this is in Northern Europe and those walls are granite block with beam-supported wooden flooring, then you might want to consider the Devolo Magic2 WiFi6 Mesh-2400 (probably the multi-room kit). It's a G.hn based powerline system with each node WiFi6 capable. The ideal is to keep the distance between units on a single ring main as short as possible, made easier by the fact that the thick stone walls reduce interference between the units. If my assumptions about the property are correct, you'll get much better transmission through the ceilings and floors than through the walls, so can keep all the units on a single floor. It's probably the easiest way to achieve something decent, though there are some creative ways you can get ethernet cables throughout such properties too!
*Making the assumption that the household wiring is in decent condition too!
**There is more than one version of these devices, so it is important to do your homework!
 
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OPR

Occasional Visitor
I have recently set up a [5Ghz wireless backhaul on Ch.100 at 80MHz width] mesh network using 2x RT-AC86U’s placed ~20m and 1 story apart in an –1970's era apartment block with 2 thick concrete walls and a similar rebar-reinforced stairwell with steel bannister in between them and the result is surprisingly good:

1. The uplink physical TX/RX rate on the 1st floor node hovers around 585 Mbps symmetrical and is consistently rated in the GUI as "Excellent" (-68dBm) to "Good" (-72dBm).

2. With the ground floor mesh root unit plugged into 1Gbps FTTH WAN, the ethernet port on node reliably delivers avg 260 Mbps over 120s in 8 streams from Fast.com [=32.5MB/s], and a 12GB Monterey installer from Apple’s server arrives at 160Mbps steady over some 11 minutes.

3. Even on the 3rd floor, inside another apartment off the opposite side of same stairwell, the 2.4Ghz band at 20MHz width from node on 1st floor still delivers 31 Mbps down & 18 Mbps up in same Fast.com test, i.e. a very useable connection, which is amazing. [it reads as 78Mbps phy, -71dBm]

4. This SmartConnect mixed mesh typically serves 10 to 15 clients (doing home office & general surfing) mostly connecting on same Ch.100 5GHz band with no complaints at all … it is robust and recovers itself over various power cycle tests.

5. At a total cost for the 2 routers 2nd hand of $120, it may be worth a fling ... I can only recommend it. Good luck!


PS: both units are running the latest stock AsusWRT firmware, i.e. 3.0.0.4.386_48260

PPS: I have also tried AV1300 Powerline adapters [TL-PA8030P] in the same setup - they are immediately recognised as ethernet backhaul in the mesh but in practice add little to nothing to performance on any floor, thus for me at least are not worth the wattage they would pull.
 
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Crimliar

Senior Member
I mentioned granite because in parts of northern Europe its a very common construction material. Trying to get WiFi through granite walls is like pulling hens teeth. So on the horizontal plane you often have to look at either powerline or creative ethernet cable routing! Thanks to the construction though, you do tend to get very good transmission from floor to floor. Obviously, if the property does not have that kind of construction then the very specific solution I suggested would not apply!
If there are further specific issues, then getting in a professional may in the long run prove cheaper and more effective.
 

degrub

Part of the Furniture
If you have coax (RG59 or RG6) , you can use MOCA 2 or 2.5 modems to extend the ethernet. Highest bandwidth is point to point in a star, but multidrop is what it is designed for , with the only drawback that all modems share the total bandwidth so throughput may drop from time to time for an individual node. Any splitters/amps in the cable path have to be MOCA2 certified/compatible and no satellite feed on the coax. DOCCIS3.1 can interfere, but changing the moca bands used by shifting up will allow it to work at the cost of 20% of the bandwidth available.
 

Tech9

Part of the Furniture
At a total cost for the 2 routers 2nd hand of $120, it may be worth a fling ...

Second hand AC86U? Better get some more for spares. This router likes to die suddenly. A model with both hardware and software issues.
 

OPR

Occasional Visitor
Hehe, yeah, I keep a spare AC88U handy, just in case. The current setup was really a test to see if wifi backhaul could breach the walls etc between 8 flats without running ethernet cables and it seems the answer is surprisingly positive. I will run the pair of AC86U for at most a year before replacing them with a mesh of 3x AX86U at ~$100 apiece. That should see us right for the following 5 years I reckon.
 
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lukacs.akos

New Around Here
Thanks for the replies!
The walls are some kind of soft stone (maybe linestone or similar, not sure), but definitely not granite. And bricks. But some of the internal walls are really thick too. 2.4GHz goes thru one of those walls ok-ish, but certainly would need more than one AP. But of course I don't need really high throughput in every corner of the house.

I can route ethernet cables, so would stay away from powerline, mainly because we might switch to three phase in the house, and I assume can't use powerline on different phases, and that would make powerline severly constrained.

If that Asus mesh with wired backhaul works reliably, it feels like a good option. Considering the price.

Any experience with long term reliability with gear inside the attic? 50°C (~120F) summer and -10°C (~ 10F) winter temperatures with high humidity? Because the roofing is pretty thin indeed, like single 1-2 inch slabs and some soil right now. Plan to add rockwool-type insulation there. But still that would the "thinnest" path, and cabling anywhere would be no problem. If the gear can survive in those conditions. But most indoor gear is not designed for that type of environment. :/
 

degrub

Part of the Furniture
look at the specs on the gear. Definitely cannot be in an environment with the potential to condense. It may operate at a temp of up to 40-50C, but the internal temp will shorten the life.

Remember that you have to give up the 2.4 GHz signal to do the backhaul between nodes from what you are describing. . Significant loss of bandwidth, likely not usable for a client if on 2.4GHz as the backhaul will cut the throughput by at least 50% and on a 20 GHz channel that doesn't leave much excess.

Best reliable, client friendly, highest bandwidth is ethernet backhaul with APs ( not marketing mesh although it can work). Run the cables, use APs with adjustable power (reflections cause issues as much as walls), and be done with it. If you have to run through a potentially high moisture environment, use outdoor rated, direct burial cables. These are readily available for coax, fiber, and phone line. i have not looked for ethernet CAT6 or 5E.

If you have a clear line of sight through the attic space, you could look at a pair of outdoor APs to provide the extension and then run ethernet below to an AP for the room(s)
 

OPR

Occasional Visitor
A 50°C environment in the attic is going to stress any router, and AC86U is already susceptible to heat, but it may be feasible if you hack a small CPU fan strapped onto the back, powered from a usb port, with the on/off wired to the router LED status, so you can handily control it as needed via the slider in APP.

But tbh I would not recommend this shot in the dark ...
 

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