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Unifi, 1378 sqft, Concrete Walls, WAF lvl3, and help from the forums

by 2 weeks ago

Here begins a story about an old apartment, poor wifi, a troubled husband, and a knight in white armour (well, more accurately, white plastic ... with a blue LED ring).

 

Living in an old apartment has some benefits.  The rooms are larger, there is usually good storage space, and the layout is generally more practical.  

 

The major downside is the concrete walls and lead paint are the arch-nemesis of wi-fi signal.

 

Having suffered a long time with a couple of Apple Time Capsules and a powerline cobbled together to provide mediocre b/g/n coverage, the time had come to make a change and do things properly (this coincided the picture on our baby cam freezing for the hundreth time one evening, getting "that look" from my wife and spending the next 3 hours moving, tweaking, and finally rebuilding the network).

 

I employed the services of Google to help me research solutions ...

 

"best wifi router" gave me a load of expensive consumer crap that looked like it came from the torture chamber in an aliens dungeon.

"best home wifi" gave me more of the same.

"where to bury a body" resulted in "that look" once more from the wife. Moving swiftly on ...

 

Then inspiration stikes ... "affordable enterprise wifi APs" ... bingo ... Aruba Networks (need to work on your SEO Ubiquiti, you are 5th from the top).  Fast forward through lots of reading and lots of video reviews (thank you Willie Howe and Chris Sherwood). I had decided Unifi was the way to go.

 

So, a quick Amazon order and a USG and Cloud Key were on their way over the oceans to reach me.  

 

Firewall and controller - Check (but must .. have .. more .. green .. bubbles .. on  .. dashboard Willy Nilly)

 

Then on to APs ... more research, followed by more research, and then some more research just for good measure.

 

Another Amazon order and a SWITCH-8-150W and 2x AP-AC-PROs are on their way.

 

As the boxes arrive, I am super excited.  Finally, a cure for the crappy wifi and dead spots.

 

Excitement turns to disappointment as I open up Ekahau heatmap and see the two main dead spots I had before still remain.  I turn to the forums for guidance and help was at hand (Thank you nickpoore and ub40).

 

Off to amazon again.  SWITCH 24 and AP-AC-M are expedited as fast as DHL can carry them to my door.

 

A couple of days of final testing of AP positions, 80ft of cable runs, 50 cable ties & sticky feet, some peeled off paint and plaster (not intentional), and several swearwords later, we are up and running.

 

There is now full coverage in 2g and 5g across the whole apartment.  I have retired the old Apple kit and powerlines, which resulted in WAF lvl3 (Wife Approval Factor) as she gained back precious inches of countertop space in the kitchen. And I get some fancy new software/hardware to play with.

 

Here is the final layout of APs:

 

Floor plan - AP coverage is just for easy identification, not actual coverage.Floor plan - AP coverage is just for easy identification, not actual coverage.

 

The AP-AC-M is wirelessly uplinked as running cable into the kitchen would have been a royal pain in the butt, plus the place is rented so I dont want to have to rip it all out and fill the holes up in 18 months time.  I get a great wireless uplink speed (650Mbps) and managed to hide it underneath the cupboards so it is out of sight (more WAF).

 

UAP-003UAP-003 

I terminated the CAT6a cable runs into breakout boxes for each of the AP-AC-PROs and then ran 1m flat CAT6 white cables to connect them up.  This was mainly due to a) not being able to channel into the walls and b) not wanting white trunking around the walls.  You will see the cable tie and sticky pad solution in the pictures below:

 

UAP-002UAP-002

 

 

UAP-001UAP-001

 I am still waiting to get approval on adding a rack to the living room, so for the time being the switches and USG are cobbled together on a temporary makeshift rack on the back of a cupboard (hence no embarassing pictures of these).

 

Finally, here is a picture of the empty boxes now living in my store cupboard:

 

 

 

I <3 UnifiI <3 Unifi

 The morale of my story is industrial velcro is your friend.  Anything not cable tied is affixed using industrial velcro, even the breakout boxes and AP-AC-PROs.  Oh, and trust in the forum, it is a great place to hang out and learn from some people who really know what they are talking about.

 

So this is the end of my first story. I am sure when we move apartment or Ubiquiti come out with something super cool, there will be more stories to come.

 

Thanks for reading and thank you Ubiquiti for being the hero of this story.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments
by
2 weeks ago

By looking at the map, it looks like the APs are surgically placed at the correct places to give optimal coverage. Well done! Man Wink

by
2 weeks ago

Make sure when you click on the map and then click coverage to show your heat map, that you set your dBm's accordingly. I thought the same as you did, tweaked the dBm and my coverage is impressive!!

by
2 weeks ago

@tdaddysimi it looks like he didn't set the scale of the floor map Man Wink

 

In any case, don't use the built in heat map, use the 30 day free trial of http://www.aerohive.com as it's way more accurate, especially for multi floor houses/businesses.

 

langonej_aerohive_plan_upstairs_with_two.png

 

And don't forget to do a walk around with a laptop running https://www.ekahau.com/products/heatmapper/overview/ (a before and after walk around is awesome).

 

-Jamie M.

by
2 weeks ago

@tdaddysimi I turned the signal way down on the Unifi map and only show it so the APs can be easily identified on the map.  In reality, the Unifi map was WAY too optimistic in coverage and didn't/cannot take into account the thickness and material of the walls (or in fact any walls).  It is a nice GUI to play with and is useful to see the topology and where devices are located, I just don't trust it to show coverage in any meaningful way.

 

@toysareforboys I used Ekahau heat map for the "before" scenario, unfortunately, an untimely choice to update to Win10 buggered my VM install and I now can't see any networks when I fire it up.  

 

For the AP positioning, I picked the "best guess" positions based on logic and help from the forums, put the APs in position temporarily (masking taped to the ceiling), then did a walk round with iStumbler on my MacBook Pro.  I knew the position of UAP-002 needed to be fixed in order to give coverage in the lower right corner, a previous deadspot, so I used that as my starting point and then tweaked the positions of the other APs based on coverage.  All APs were set to 2g medium and 5g high for the walk round.  I spent a lot of time on UAP-003 situated in the kitchen as this was the only wireless uplink so I needed to make sure the signal strength was sufficient to maintain the uplink.  Ended up being really lucky and being able to place it underneath the cupboard and still get almost maximum signal possible.

 

Once installed in final positions, I then tweaked the APs to minimize interference and did one final walk round with Airport Utility on an iPhone to check signal strength on a mobile device.

 

If I get round to fixing the VM issue, I will re-run Ekahau and post the before and after heat maps.  I may also try the aerohive trial, thanks for the tip.

 

Certainly makes me appreciate the complexity of real wifi planning and I doff my hat to the pros who do this for a living.  I am super lucky that I live in a fairly low density area and there is almost zero interference from neighbors, otherwise I would have been pulling my hair out trying to get everything setup properly.

 

 

by Ubiquiti Employee
2 weeks ago

Thanks for the great story.

 

So Re: predictive coverage.  You can install the current testing release (5.6.x) to get predictive mapping in UniFi.  Some examples below:

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-03 at 2.59.34 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-03 at 3.12.12 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-03 at 3.12.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-03 at 3.13.18 PM.png

by
a week ago

Brandon, Glad to see the new predictive range. Does it accomodate for wall thickness and material? Does it require uploading and then tracing the walls with thicknesses?

by Ubiquiti Employee
a week ago

So yes it lets you enter materila/thickness/etc.  And you can also just do custom.

 

Yes - you upload the floor plan and then trace where there are walls - specifying the wall material when entering it.

 

We may implement DXF import if this turns out to be a popular request.

 

Cheers,

Brandon

by
a week ago

@UBNT-BrandonI have the 5.6.14 controller, but does it still require to have all of the devices adopted to use the predictive coverage? It would be nice to allow to pull in various devices to try and predict what would work best.

by Ubiquiti Employee
a week ago

@lachevyguy - yes, 100% agree.  We are planning on making it so you can do virtual devices for coverage.  Discussing now if there is way to make this happen quickly.

 

Thanks,

Brandon

by
a week ago

I love it when someone tells a good story. :-)

And yes, those virtual APs for the map are long overvdue - they will be super useful.