22 October 2019

WiFi Upgrade

As I was having trouble getting wireless signal from the family room in my home to the bedroom at the far end, I figured it was time for an upgrade. My existing wireless router was a refurbished Asus RT-AC66R that I purchased in 2013.

I had been researching different mesh systems like Netgear Orbi, Eero, Google, Asus AX6100, and the upcoming Asus AX6600. However, I noticed that 2 wall jacks that I thought were phone jacks were in fact ethernet jacks! One is in the kitchen and the other in the master bedroom. I tracked the lines down and found that they terminated in a wiring box in our basement. This changed my approach from thinking that I would need to use wireless mesh and could instead use hard lines. I also planned on adding 2 jacks to the tv cabinet in the family room for the tv and playstation.

Because I would want to mount an access point in the kitchen and bedroom, I would need something relatively inconspicuous. This led me to the easily mountable Ubiquiti Unifi series of access points. After doing extensive online research, I decided to go with Unifi.

Here are a list of parts that I needed:

156.992Unifi nanoHD Access PointsMicrocenter
79.991UPS with 5 battery backup outletsBest Buy
26.991TRENDnet 8 port patch panelAmazon
14.991LAN tester for RJ45Microcenter
12.9915 pack of 5 foot ethernet cablesAmazon
7.991Right Angle ethernet cableAmazon
6.991100 mount points for zip tiesAmazon
4.461Wall plate with angled keystoneAmazon
2.992Cat6 keystonesMicrocenter
2.991Keystone surface mountMicrocenter
2.99110 pack of Blank KeystonesMicrocenter
FreeEthernet cableDonated by my brother
480.34    Total before tax

My brother, brother-in-law, and I installed 2 cables up into my family room where there was an already existing hole running along the existing cable lines. However, it turned out that despite being a cat 5e jack in the kitchen only 2 of the 8 wires were actually connected. I just had to install the other 6 wires. The bedroom jack was wired correctly, but I swapped out the faceplate for one with angled connectors since it was behind our bed. This would reduce the chance of the ethernet cables getting pinched and ruined. All the cables were then connected to the patch panel in the basement.

I then installed the kitchen wireless access point and configure it with the installed Unifi Controller on my server (see: installing-unifi-controller-on-ubuntu). I then went about switching all my devices to the new wireless network name. Afterwards, I was then able to move the Asus router downstairs and turn of the wireless. It will still handle the routing for now.

The wireless performance of the one Unifi nanoHD was so great that I decided to return the second. This lowered the total cost of the project so far to 323.35. The improvement of the wireless was likely 2 fold: 1. an improved wireless signal and 2. a more central location.

The 2.4GHz performance is still so-so, but that is more due to the amount of interference from the more than 20 networks in range.

Future improvements I am considering are:
  • network rack and shelf to place all the equipment on instead of the simple shelf that I am using
  • PoE network switch
  • Unifi Security Gateway (router)