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Upgrade time ... RT-AC66U-B1 to RT-AX68U?

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2x RT-AX86U Pro are £470 on Amazon UK. There is no need to purchase the older gen RT-AX86S in this case, £26 difference. In my opinion 2x routers/APs won't be enough to cover your place unless you are happy with 2.4GHz band speeds. With your 135Mbps/20Mbps ISP line £4xx later you won't see much improvement compared to what you currently have.

with each AP presenting a different SSID

Not sure why your system was set with different SSIDs. The APs can work with the same SSID.
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Not sure why your system was set with different SSIDs. The APs can work with the same SSID.
Largely attributable to my general ignorance and British Standard idiocy* - I wasn't sure if SSID duplication would cause issues. But partly so I could easily know which AP my devices are connected to, hence general ignorance was never propely dispelled.

With your 135Mbps/20Mbps ISP line £4xx later you won't see much improvement compared to what you currently have.
... which suddenly makes proposed £470 investment seem a bit premature, leading to:

Plan B (the cheapskates way)
  • RT-AC66U-B1 - main router on floor 1. Needs 2.4GHz to penetrate ceiling fireproofing to below-ground basement (floor 0). Already works ok.
  • RT-AC66U-B1 - node/AP on floor 3. Existing wired CAT6 backhaul. Again, 5Ghz penetration through floors is poor so will probably need 2.4GHz for floor 2.
  • Media player on floor 1: main router is three solid walls away so I'll try reusing a 10yo TL-WDR3600 running DDWRT as a media bridge linking to media player ethernet port to circumvent even older 802.11g wireless connection.
  • I'll avoid AiMesh and continue with manual channel allocation as I have been doing previously.

Budget: £50 for a used RT-AC66U-B1. Net change to power consumption: approx zero. When I upgrade ISP line, the AX system is back on the radar.

*If there is a way of cocking things up or having to do them twice, I'll find it.
Plan B (the cheapskates way)

Not a bad plan except the fact this model is facing End-Of-Life soon. It doesn't matter much though for AP use. If your walls block 5GHz Wi-Fi investing in AX-class routers is pointless. AX-class routers have about the same range on 2.4GHz like any other N/AC-class router. I have a house in Europe with similar issue and I'm using 4x APs on low power. This is the only way to ensure 5GHz coverage. And I'm talking about approx. 120m2 bungalow. As additional limitation in Europe the guaranteed non-DFS 5GHz range 36-48 is up 200mW. You can have good Wi-Fi, but if you plan on staying with your ISP speeds better go cheap. The results will be about the same to what you already have.

Make sure you are taking advice from guys living in Europe or having experience there. In North America the routers allow up to 1000mW power and the houses are made of mostly RF transparent match sticks and drywall. Also channels 149-161 are available in North America, but not in Europe. You have higher power option around channel 100, but it's in DFS and not guaranteed. I don't remember if RT-AC66U B1 supports DFS channels. I had one in use, but it was some time ago.

When I upgrade ISP line

Your ISP line is good enough for average family use.
Budget: £50 for a used RT-AC66U-B1
Also check the price of the models: RT-AX53U, RT-AX55, RT-AX57, TUF-AX3000. Maybe you can get them for a price similar to RT-AC66U.
Why buying more routers when TP-Link Deco M4 with 3x units is £95 on Amazon UK? Up and running in minutes, £32 per unit for Qualcomm hardware. This set will do wired 500Mbps on 5GHz to common 2-stream AC client and about 90Mbps to 2-stream N-client on 20MHz wide channel. Easy Button setup with single SSID and App control + AP mode. No sticking out antennas, high wife acceptance factor design. It's right there and if it doesn't work as expected can be returned to Amazon. Up to 500Mbps on Wi-Fi not enough?
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I have installed one in friend's house. I believe they have 100Mbps ISP, similar to the OP situation. The same M4 2-pack, wireless. The main unit sends on Wi-Fi consistently over 400Mbps, the satellite over 200Mbps. They have some WD NAS for movies and I could test the transfer speeds. Phone App control, very user friendly for non-tech people. Single SSID, can't be split. It has uptime in months. Purchased for CAD100 on sale. AX-Class? - no. Does it work well? - yes. What else is needed?


The Devil... Pro. :D
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TP-Link Deco M4 with 3x units is £95 on Amazon UK
Thanks. This recommendation may turn my head. I've thrown it into the mulling pot while doing some more testing.

I moved the powerline ethernet to an outlet near the media system. The added length of copper ring main dropped the data rate from 55Mbps to 42Mbps, but the connection remains solid and the player is happy. AP3 (TL-WDR3600) is now decommisioned.

Coverage of the whole building using RT-AC66U-B1 as main router (AP1) and a wireless AP on floor 3 (AP2) still looks feasible. The biggest challenge remaining is providing good enough guest network to the basement. There is rockwool suspended by chicken wire in the ceiling void as a fire barrier. This attenuates RF more at 5GHz than at 2.4GHz. The basement mains wiring is on the other side of a sub-meter and distribution board, so forget powerline ethernet.

Existing guest network from RT-AC66U-B1 is assigned to 2.4GHz Control Ch1 Wireless Mode: Auto, Bandwidth: 20MHz. The guest network has DTV, work laptop, a couple of mobile phones. This struggles to deliver acceptable performance when videoconferencing. When I tried forcing Wireless N , Bandwidth: 40MHz, performance dropped to the level of unusable dogmess. And that was on floor 1 around 3m from the router. Compare and contrast with 2.4GHz Wireless N from 10yo AP2 delivering >120MBps tested using 9 + 13 and 5 + 9. Further testing is needed to work out why RT-AC66U-B1 is bad in N mode if I am to gain any useful improvement to the basement Wi-Fi.

RF survey of 2.4GHz using inSSIDer indicates most of the neighbours are using either Ch1, Ch6, or Ch11 in 20MHz bandwidth, b/g/n mode, all in region of -80dB to -90dB signal strength. These antagonist networks are using the "US" and legacy 22MHz spaced set of "preferred" 2.4GHz channels. I can see one maverick plonker using Ch3 and another using Ch10. Am I being a plonker to think that here in the UK they should all be using Ch1, Ch5, Ch9, Ch13 and no other channels? Not that I can do anything to change it though. One of the SSIDs is Eduroam, from a nearby UK university campus, on Ch11.
Ideas for you:

I'm using MOCA adapters here. 2.5gbit, so I can max out my 1gbit LAN with them. Much better and more stable than powerline. If you have old coax outlets all over, it's worth looking into.

I personally mix ASUS Merlin routers with TP-Link EAP access points. They're not as heavy duty as ubiquity, etc., but are trivially easy to configure and have no compatibility issues. I have done a few hotels, office buildings and other places with them, and their performance is top notch. Probably has to do with the 6 internal antennas. Devices connect flawlessly, with all of them having backhaul to switches that feed into my main Merlin routers, which have their own WiFi turned off. Device names propagate well (making things like HP printers capable of being set up), which is more than I can say for our ISP modems out this way. (BC, Canada)

The equipment that you go with is highly dependent upon what you can get locally at a reasonable price - but I agree with Tech9. Don't limit what you'll consider!
No old coax here, but I like the idea. It made me think of how I could run some ethernet cable outside the building entering and exiting through wooden window frames. There is already a bundle of black telecom and ISP internet coax running across the stonework, so adding another cable to an AP in the basement might be feasible (though a right PITA).

I would need the AP to propagate only the guest network to floor 0, so there is no access to the main LAN in floors 1, 2, and 3. Does that mean I would need an AiMesh node on floor 0? Or would the TP-Link Deco M4 with 3x units suggested by @Tech9 enable me to do this?
so there is no access to the main LAN in floors 1, 2, and 3
I mean floor 0 users to have no means of accessing the LAN that serves floors 1, 2 and 3.
I don't know anything about the Decos, but EAP access points have a setting to restrict devices connected to them from talking to other devices on the network. It's perfect for guest networks, where such a thing won't matter because there's no printers on the network anyway. It is not a VLAN, but is compatible with VLANs if you have VLAN capable switches and a router. You can set VLAN IDs for each and every SSID, if you wish, and change settings like.
Basement speedtest results from my 135/20Mbps WAN through RT-AC66U-B1 main router wireless on floor 1 measured in below ground basement (floor 0) though floor void containing fireproofing suspended by chickenwire between joists. AP2 setting: 2.4GHz 40Mhz bandwidth ch13 (lower) i.e. 9+13 Mixed mode.

2.4GHz Ch1, 20MHz bandwidth, Auto mode: 80Mbps
2.4GHz Ch1, 40MHz bandwidth, Auto mode: 130Mbps
5GHz Ch44, 80MHz bandwidth (uses Ch36, Ch40, Ch44, Ch48 according to inSSIDer), Auto mode: 132Mbps

RT-AC66U-B1 seems to be doing a fine job of serving floors 0 and 1 with Wi-Fi today. The room with the wired media player now enjoys >130Mbps from 2.4GHz. Forcing Wireless N may have been the cause of yesterday's 2.4GHz dogmess. In view of all this, I intend to keep main router and replace ancient TL-WDR3600 on floor 3 with another RT-AC66U-B1 (cheap, used) as AP running Merlin of course :) and be done until the next ISP upgrade.

Thanks for the firmware, help, advice, and suggestions from this forum.
RT-AC66U-B1 ordered (£40 used) for use as AP. Guest network question: To extend the guest wireless network(s) to the AP/node I guess I will need to enable AiMesh. With AiMesh, will I be able to manually control the wireless channel allocations for main router? I'd like to use the following wireless settings because after experimenting I think they will work well to cover the whole building:

Router (floor 1)
2.4GHz bandwidth: 40MHz, Ch1, extension: Above, wireless mode: Auto.
5GHz bandwidth: 20/40/80MHz, Ch44, extension: Auto, wireless mode: Auto.

AP/node (floor 3)
2.4GHz bandwidth: 40MHz, Ch13, extension: Below, wireless mode: Auto.
5GHz bandwidth: 20/40/80MHz, Ch 149, extension: Auto, wireless mode: Auto.

Will AiMesh bugger this up?
Will AiMesh bugger this up?

There is no node Wi-Fi settings in AiMesh. The nodes follow the main router settings. For better range and wall penetration you have to use 20MHz wide channel on 2.4GHz band. I'm surprised your router allows Ch.149 in the UK. Although changes were made in 2017 and the band was allowed older hardware doesn't know about it. Not sure the router you purchased used has it. Perhaps @ColinTaylor knows details around current Wi-Fi options in the UK.
Ch.149 is available on my DD-WRT TL-WDR3600 AP. In the 2.4GHz advanced settings, the domain is set to United Kingdom. However, there is no domain setting for 5GHz on that firmware - maybe DD-WRT (a mid-2022 build) missed out that feature, or it is inherited from the 2.4Ghz domain setting.

I see that on my RT-AC66U-B1 the 5GHz channel selector goes as high as Ch.140, though I could not find a region setting in Asuswrt Merlin. Where is that hiding?

Possibly my Ch.149 setting is illegal :eek:, I'd be interested to know. But it looks like I will be forced to select a different (legal?) band when setting up RT-AC66U-B1 wireless. Maybe I'll set the 5GHz AP to band 52, which is in DFS group of channels (afaik using lower Tx power than non-DFS).
I could not find a region setting in Asuswrt Merlin. Where is that hiding?

There is no region settings in Asuswrt-Merlin on your router.

Your hardware is not capable of what you want to achieve. For APs on different channels plus isolated shared Guest Network you need something better unless you are skilled enough to script whatever you need on the home routers in AP mode. For better Tx power on 5GHz you may try Ch.100, but still in DFS range and not guaranteed. This may not increase the range since your devices still need to communicate back to the router through your walls and floors. I told you what the solution is in places like this - one AP per every 1-2 rooms on low power. This can't be done with home routers and AiMesh due to very limited control provided.
no region settings in Asuswrt-Merlin
So our US friends are free to select 2.4GHz Ch.12 & Ch.13, just as I am in the UK? Or will I find that Ch.13 power has been overly restricted to accommadate US requirements?

Guest network on floor 3 from AP2 is absent from the current system, so my mid-life crisis upgrade can skip that nice-to-have feature. I might have a play with AiMesh out of curiosity before finalising the setup as I can always restore the main router config if I decide not to go with it. At the bare minimum, AP2 wireless goes from 2x2 Wi-Fi 4 to 3x3 Wi-Fi 5, and I remove an unsupported and probably insecure element from the system. And I've learned a bit more from these forums.

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