09/14/2018
Fixing the dodgy Home Wi-Fi, and going slighty overboard in the process
Used Products
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Location
Sydney NSW, Australia
Description

For a long time I have suffered with poor Wi-Fi performance. Years in fact. As is the case in Australia, usually you just use whatever dodgy piece of rubbish you are given by your ISP when connecting to their service. Usually it is some piece of Netgear hardware that has been customised by the ISP to have their setup, usually with the inclusion of VoIP if your internet is delivered via Cable, as mine always been (courtesy of always living in an area with awful copper phone wiring that precludes ever using ADSL).

 

My home networking requirements have generally been fairly tame, with only a couple of devices connected. However, with the explosion in IoT devices, plus a growing family, I found that the Netgear router and Airport Extreme I have been using over the last 7 years just don't make the grade anymore. The router would refuse to issue IP addresses to wireless clients, and those devices already connected would continually have random periods where no pages would load despite having a full strength signal.

 

When we recently bought an Apple TV to stream video, it was pretty much game over. That little router just wasn't up to it anymore.

 

So, I decided to do something about it and started looking at options. The most common option seemed to be to just go and buy a bigger router with lots of antennas, relying on that router screaming out from wherever in the house it happened to be placed and hoping it was good enough. The other option seemed to be setting up a mesh network. Finally, a friend (who can now share some of the blame for my expenditure!) showed me his home WiFi setup, which was all Ubiquiti, and his message was simple "Don't bother with all the consumer stuff, just get UniFi and be done with it"

 

To set some context. I live in a 2 Storey house with 4 bedrooms and a pool in the backyard. The previous owner had thoughtfully had the house wired with Cat5 cable, but for reasons unknown had not bothered with a patch panel or any obvious place for the cables to terminate, except in a jumbled heap in the roof above the garage. Connected to nothing. Equally baffling was the cable from the street coming into one of the upstairs bedrooms where one of his kids slept. So, for the last 7 years my modem has been stuffed behind a bookcase in one of my kids rooms. I'm sure that wasn't helping with the performance (or prodding from inquisitive toddler fingers)

 

So, I got my electrician to come out and have a look at the house and give me some advice on what was possible, and where logically we might be able to run cable. After a rough survey of the house, he suggested the corner of the garage. This is close to the entry point of the cable from the street, and also has good access into the roof cavity to run lots of cable. With that as a rough idea, I set about planning what to do.

 

I laid out my requirements:

1) WiFi coverage of the entire house, including the Backyard and Pool area

2) New cable runs to replace the Cat5 already there, but terminating in an easy to reach location with proper termination.

3) Future proof as much as possible

 

It was about now that I read through Troy Hunts Blog "Ubiquiti all the things: how I finally fixed my dodgy wifi", and this gave me an excellent starting point. My house is not as big as Troy's, so I figured that two APs was enough for indoors (one for upstairs, one for downstairs), and I added an outdoor AP to cover the backyard and pool (for streaming music etc).
I walked around my house and counted up all the devices I have that connect to the network, either Wireless, Wired or potentially even both. After I got up to 24 I thought this was a bigger problem than I originally anticipated, and I would need to rethink my original plans. For example, I was originally going to just run 1 or 2 cables to every room in the house, and if I needed more ports I would just add another switch. However, when I spoke to my electrician he informed me that the labor cost of running 1 cable to the room is the same as running 8 cables to the room, with only the cost the cable itself being the difference. 

 

A quick resketch of my network design and it was scaled up from a couple of 8 Port Switches, straight to a single 48 Port PoE Core Switch. For simplicity I decided to run cable to every room in the house directly back to this single location. For future proofing, I selected Cat6a cable. The Lounge and Office got 8 ports each, the Family room got 11 (8 for all the kit, 1 for a wall mounted TV, and even 1 in the bar, plus 1 for the in-ceiling AC Lite AP). To all the other rooms in the house, I ran 2 cables. All up, there are 40 Cat6a cable runs through the house.

 

The electricians arrived and "Operation Overkill" commenced...

 

 

UniFi - 4.jpgLaying out the Cat6a cable

UniFi - 2.jpgFeeding the cable for the Family Room

 

 

 

 

UniFi - 3.jpgMore cable up into the roof

 

 

 

UniFi - 1.jpgDrilling holes to get the cable down the wall

UniFi - 12.jpgNo more dodgy streaming!

 

While the electricians spent a couple of days crawling through my house, lifting roof tiles and running the 1.2km of Cat6a cable in every direction, I ordered the Ubiquiti Kit, now knowing exactly how many ports I needed and where it would be installed.

 

The kit arrived after a couple of days..

 

 

 

 

 

UniFi - 14.jpgBox of Goodies!

I set up a bench test to make sure everything was working before it was wired in

 

 

UniFi - 16.jpg

 

I configured the Cloud Key, Adopted and tested all the AP's and made sure everything was working as it should. Even with just one AP plugged into the switch and turned on, the WiFi was brilliant!

 

Meanwhile, the electricians were busy wiring the cables to the face plates and keystone jacks, so I set about getting the rack enclosure ready for them to return and test everything.

 

UniFi - 23.jpgThat's a lot of cable!

 

 

UniFi - 26.jpg

 

 

 

UniFi - 31.jpgKeystone jacks make light work of putting a Patch Panel together

 

UniFi - 35.jpg2 x 24 port patch panels, loaded with 40 jacks

 

 As I was not too sure what was going to happen with the cabling to the switch from the panels, I just started with this setup to measure and test everything before I ordered the patch cables.

 

UniFi - 37.jpg

 

 

 

 Switch, Gateway, CloudKey and Modem all up and running. No AP's connected yet, so the cable with the Red Plug on it just patches to the office where I have the ISP supplied WiFi router, and the white lead is the VoIP line from my modem to the phone in the Kitchen.

 

UniFi - 39.jpg

 

Access points were then connected and everything was powered up to do a full test before finalising the rack layout and patch cabling.

 

UniFi - 46.jpgUpstairs

 

UniFi - 47.jpgDownstairs

 

UniFi - 48.jpgBackyard

 

With all the AP's hooked up, I went out to the far reaches of the backyard and was happy to see full signal and 300Mbps throughout on my iPhone to the network.

 

With everything working as it should, I revisited the rack layout, added a fan controller so that the twin fans do not run all the time, and ordered some short (15cm/6 inch) patch leads to get everything nice and net

 

UniFi - 44.jpgThe finished setup...for now

 The fan controller was a little bit out of spec with the height, so it didn't fit in th allocated 1RU space. Luckily this is not much a problem as I have plenty of space at the moment. Plans for later is to add a NAS and plug it directly into the SFP+ port on the switch. I also have enough spare ports on the switch to add some video cameras, or additional APs if required.

 

The whole thing sits nicely in my garage out of the way, and the cable from the street now comes all the way to the rack.

 

Now the fun begins...

 

2018-09-14_18-06-17.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Fixing the dodgy Home Wi-Fi, and going slighty overboard in the process

by on ‎09-14-2018 03:24 AM

For a long time I have suffered with poor Wi-Fi performance. Years in fact. As is the case in Australia, usually you just use whatever dodgy piece of rubbish you are given by your ISP when connecting to their service. Usually it is some piece of Netgear hardware that has been customised by the ISP to have their setup, usually with the inclusion of VoIP if your internet is delivered via Cable, as mine always been (courtesy of always living in an area with awful copper phone wiring that precludes ever using ADSL).

 

My home networking requirements have generally been fairly tame, with only a couple of devices connected. However, with the explosion in IoT devices, plus a growing family, I found that the Netgear router and Airport Extreme I have been using over the last 7 years just don't make the grade anymore. The router would refuse to issue IP addresses to wireless clients, and those devices already connected would continually have random periods where no pages would load despite having a full strength signal.

 

When we recently bought an Apple TV to stream video, it was pretty much game over. That little router just wasn't up to it anymore.

 

So, I decided to do something about it and started looking at options. The most common option seemed to be to just go and buy a bigger router with lots of antennas, relying on that router screaming out from wherever in the house it happened to be placed and hoping it was good enough. The other option seemed to be setting up a mesh network. Finally, a friend (who can now share some of the blame for my expenditure!) showed me his home WiFi setup, which was all Ubiquiti, and his message was simple "Don't bother with all the consumer stuff, just get UniFi and be done with it"

 

To set some context. I live in a 2 Storey house with 4 bedrooms and a pool in the backyard. The previous owner had thoughtfully had the house wired with Cat5 cable, but for reasons unknown had not bothered with a patch panel or any obvious place for the cables to terminate, except in a jumbled heap in the roof above the garage. Connected to nothing. Equally baffling was the cable from the street coming into one of the upstairs bedrooms where one of his kids slept. So, for the last 7 years my modem has been stuffed behind a bookcase in one of my kids rooms. I'm sure that wasn't helping with the performance (or prodding from inquisitive toddler fingers)

 

So, I got my electrician to come out and have a look at the house and give me some advice on what was possible, and where logically we might be able to run cable. After a rough survey of the house, he suggested the corner of the garage. This is close to the entry point of the cable from the street, and also has good access into the roof cavity to run lots of cable. With that as a rough idea, I set about planning what to do.

 

I laid out my requirements:

1) WiFi coverage of the entire house, including the Backyard and Pool area

2) New cable runs to replace the Cat5 already there, but terminating in an easy to reach location with proper termination.

3) Future proof as much as possible

 

It was about now that I read through Troy Hunts Blog "Ubiquiti all the things: how I finally fixed my dodgy wifi", and this gave me an excellent starting point. My house is not as big as Troy's, so I figured that two APs was enough for indoors (one for upstairs, one for downstairs), and I added an outdoor AP to cover the backyard and pool (for streaming music etc).
I walked around my house and counted up all the devices I have that connect to the network, either Wireless, Wired or potentially even both. After I got up to 24 I thought this was a bigger problem than I originally anticipated, and I would need to rethink my original plans. For example, I was originally going to just run 1 or 2 cables to every room in the house, and if I needed more ports I would just add another switch. However, when I spoke to my electrician he informed me that the labor cost of running 1 cable to the room is the same as running 8 cables to the room, with only the cost the cable itself being the difference. 

 

A quick resketch of my network design and it was scaled up from a couple of 8 Port Switches, straight to a single 48 Port PoE Core Switch. For simplicity I decided to run cable to every room in the house directly back to this single location. For future proofing, I selected Cat6a cable. The Lounge and Office got 8 ports each, the Family room got 11 (8 for all the kit, 1 for a wall mounted TV, and even 1 in the bar, plus 1 for the in-ceiling AC Lite AP). To all the other rooms in the house, I ran 2 cables. All up, there are 40 Cat6a cable runs through the house.

 

The electricians arrived and "Operation Overkill" commenced...

 

 

UniFi - 4.jpgLaying out the Cat6a cable

UniFi - 2.jpgFeeding the cable for the Family Room

 

 

 

 

UniFi - 3.jpgMore cable up into the roof

 

 

 

UniFi - 1.jpgDrilling holes to get the cable down the wall

UniFi - 12.jpgNo more dodgy streaming!

 

While the electricians spent a couple of days crawling through my house, lifting roof tiles and running the 1.2km of Cat6a cable in every direction, I ordered the Ubiquiti Kit, now knowing exactly how many ports I needed and where it would be installed.

 

The kit arrived after a couple of days..

 

 

 

 

 

UniFi - 14.jpgBox of Goodies!

I set up a bench test to make sure everything was working before it was wired in

 

 

UniFi - 16.jpg

 

I configured the Cloud Key, Adopted and tested all the AP's and made sure everything was working as it should. Even with just one AP plugged into the switch and turned on, the WiFi was brilliant!

 

Meanwhile, the electricians were busy wiring the cables to the face plates and keystone jacks, so I set about getting the rack enclosure ready for them to return and test everything.

 

UniFi - 23.jpgThat's a lot of cable!

 

 

UniFi - 26.jpg

 

 

 

UniFi - 31.jpgKeystone jacks make light work of putting a Patch Panel together

 

UniFi - 35.jpg2 x 24 port patch panels, loaded with 40 jacks

 

 As I was not too sure what was going to happen with the cabling to the switch from the panels, I just started with this setup to measure and test everything before I ordered the patch cables.

 

UniFi - 37.jpg

 

 

 

 Switch, Gateway, CloudKey and Modem all up and running. No AP's connected yet, so the cable with the Red Plug on it just patches to the office where I have the ISP supplied WiFi router, and the white lead is the VoIP line from my modem to the phone in the Kitchen.

 

UniFi - 39.jpg

 

Access points were then connected and everything was powered up to do a full test before finalising the rack layout and patch cabling.

 

UniFi - 46.jpgUpstairs

 

UniFi - 47.jpgDownstairs

 

UniFi - 48.jpgBackyard

 

With all the AP's hooked up, I went out to the far reaches of the backyard and was happy to see full signal and 300Mbps throughout on my iPhone to the network.

 

With everything working as it should, I revisited the rack layout, added a fan controller so that the twin fans do not run all the time, and ordered some short (15cm/6 inch) patch leads to get everything nice and net

 

UniFi - 44.jpgThe finished setup...for now

 The fan controller was a little bit out of spec with the height, so it didn't fit in th allocated 1RU space. Luckily this is not much a problem as I have plenty of space at the moment. Plans for later is to add a NAS and plug it directly into the SFP+ port on the switch. I also have enough spare ports on the switch to add some video cameras, or additional APs if required.

 

The whole thing sits nicely in my garage out of the way, and the cable from the street now comes all the way to the rack.

 

Now the fun begins...

 

2018-09-14_18-06-17.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments
by
on ‎09-14-2018 05:44 AM

Thats a really nice setup :-)

 

 

by
on ‎09-14-2018 06:33 AM

Nice Setup! Great story as well! You are correct, now the fun does begin and you will be buying more hardware sooner than you might think. 

by
on ‎09-14-2018 08:36 AM

nice setup! Everything neat. 

by
on ‎09-14-2018 06:00 PM

Great write-up. Sounds like if ever NASA need a new network hub they can just use your place

Man Happy 

 

I hope you're enjoying the immense satisfaction a trouble free network brings.

 

Of course, you're still affected by your isp. Are you on NBN? At a blistering 100Mbps? Are you happy with it? 

by
on ‎09-14-2018 06:02 PM

I love networking enthusiast like me! When I was wiring up our newest house in Wisconsin, I had the same mess of CAT6 leading out from my garage through the drive and around the house. I was running cable for Unifi cameras under my eaves of the house and as many runs within the house to TV locations and office locations. Several people asked what kind of fun I was up to with my boxes of cable, one jerk asked if I needed a permit. I asked him if he worked for the city or county and then educated him on low voltage residential. I live in a heavy union area that requires you to use only licensed electricians for even the most mundane jobs. At this house, I used the exact same wall mount cabinet as you. It’s overkill and my wife is still asking why I needed it! I reminder her that she is lucky I haven't brought home a 57U cab from one of my data centers to place my home servers and other toys into.

Did you really need two AC Pro access points? Is one more for your outdoor zone by the pool? I just deployed one on my second floor central hallway ceiling. It covers our entire two story house, plus the entire basement, our quarter acre city lot and a good ways down the street as you walk.

by
on ‎09-14-2018 06:54 PM

@OzPHB We don't have nbn yet as we're in an area covered by Optus HFC. The deployment has been pushed out by another 12 months, but ironically just as I finished off getting the UniFi gear up and running, a contractor pulls up the front of my house and puts on nbn vest and starts feeding a rope into the pit. They were still there a few hours later so I got chatting with them, and they were pulling rope through all the pits for the fibre rollout.

I have been on a 30Mbps download speed for the last 7 years, and I guess there is not many people using the cable in my street as it has never really given me any issues. Despite that, I called Optus 2 weeks ago to enquire about changing Cable plan to get a better price. Not only did they drop my monthly price, they upped my Cable speed to 100Mbps for free (instead of an extra $30 a month).

 

The nbn guys showed me the pit that feeds my house. We're getting FTTC, and the pit is only 10m from my house. I should not have any issues getting the maximum possible data rates, and if they ever decide to deliver a 1Gbps link, at least I know my Home network is ready :-)

by
on ‎09-14-2018 07:28 PM

@nellermann I debated whether I needed more than one AP in the house, but the problem was doing the wiring. It just made sense to run all the cable in one go, so I went for 2 AP's inside "just in case". I have not fine tuned them yet, so I do see some cases where you'll downstairs and the device will roam to the Upstairs AP, but for the most part it is all working as it should. What I like about the UniFi Ap's is that you can reduce the transmit power to suit the conditions.

 

The Backyard Mesh was added because of the brick wall stopping decent signal to the outside. It was impossible to stream music to the pool or outdoor area. When I check the Neighbouring Access Points, I pick up an awful lot of AP's in range of the Backyard AP, and lots of Dashcams as cars drive by! We plan to eventually put up a new outdoor entrainment area, so while I had the electricians crawling around inside the roof they wired up the oudoor AP for me, including an Ethernet Surge Protector. One bonus is that I can still get WiFi from the bus stop near my house.

 

I actually have a few spare cable runs that are just coiled up in the roof. They are already wired into the patch panel, but we haven't run them to a wall plate as yet. Likewise, I did extra cabling for TV antennas and Cable/Satellite TV just to ensure that I am future proofed.

 

I did get a little bit of eye-rolling from my wife about the 12RU cabinet. All she really cares about though is whether she can stream movies without getting buffering. I left enough space to add an NVR and cameras down the track, but the next purchase will be a NAS in a cabinet so that I have a central place for all devices in the house to backup. That will replace the old Firewire 800 direct attached storage I have at the moment.

by
on ‎09-20-2018 12:50 PM

Very slick, you did it right!  One question though-- why just one port for the tv?

by
on ‎09-20-2018 05:13 PM

@Aaarrrgggh The port for the TV is an extra one that comes out of the wall at a temporary faceplate located up high where the (future) wall mount for the TV will be. There are another 8 ports lower down where all of the equipment goes, such as Blu-Ray, PVR, UHD, Apple-TV etc. When we finish everything off, there will be some wiring done for the HDMI Ports and power, so when the TV is eventually up on the wall all the cables will be invisble.

 

Part 1 ws to get our other room wired up so it could have a TV, so that will get done first, moving our current TV to the other room. Then we'll get a slightly bigger one for the wall in the current room and measure everything up so the wiring ends up in exactly the right location for the mount.

by
on ‎09-21-2018 05:47 AM

Looks fantastic!  Love stories like this.

Just curuious where did you end up putting the cable modem?  I see a purple wire from the USG WAN port going somewhere -- to the cable modem but just curious how come the cable modem doesn't seem to be neatly in the rack with everything else or on the floor with his buddy the cloud key?

 

I put in a 8 camera unifi video for a friend with a pair of Nanobeams connecting garage we are monitoring to the house for internet.

Everything is great except a crappy Xfinity gateway with an orbi in router mode doubl-natted for internet.  All of my gear is on the wired connection to the xfinity gateway and that thing is the weak point of the whole setup.  Hoping to soon get a cable modem that is just a modem, add a USG for routing, and put the Orbi in AP mode to start.  Then when he's ready to invest more take advantage of his CAT-5 pre-wired and ditch the orbi and add a few unifi APs -- then the transformation will be complete much like yours!  Won't go overboard but in the process we will also likely move his cable modem and router and such from an office bedroom upstairs to the basement electrical panel area which is where all of the cat-5 is home run and cable comes in the house right there so no problem!

 

Maybe I'll do up a story -- it's a great blend of Unifi video, unifi switching, Unifi wireless, and a bit of Airmax too.