WiFi Q for Web Wizards
Aug 21, 2020 at 1:25 am #3672037
Okay, this is far afield from UL stuff (arguably, the 0S and 1s weigh NOTHING), but I am looking forward to more hikes with my college-student son and his GF. And some of you are more web- savvy than I am.
What I know: In a week, I’ll have a HS and two college students studying from home plus an engineer and physician working from home.
What I want: unconstrained WiFi for all five people because while a $199/month ISP bill sucks, it’s much less than Stanford, U-Minn, and U-Rochester tuition.
What I’m hoping for: that the newly installed ISP (I’m paying for 150 Mbps and have measured 80 Mbps) will be enough and I can discontinue the former ISP that I’ve never measured over 25 Mbps.
What I’m unsure about: My understanding is, short of RPG shoot-em-ups, 10Mbps is enough for Zoom sessions, streaming videos, online classes, etc. So is 50 Mbps enough to keep everyone happy at once?
One question: What’s the best way to assess this?: I’m thinking to get all five people to run the most intensive application (plus maybe a few smart phones running youtube) during evening hours when everyone else is online. Is that a reasonable approach? Is there a better one? What’s the most demanding use/app?
I’m glad I buried Cat-5e between the house, garage and cabin 20 years ago. I’m currently learning a lot about how to terminate those cables.Aug 21, 2020 at 7:19 am #3672050Kevin BabioneBPL Member
I can’t help with testing, but one thing I know you’ll want to do is to cycle the power on your modem at least weekly. I have a digital timer on the outlet that my cable modem is plugged into and it turns off from 3:00 am – 3:05 am each night. My alarm system pings me that it’s switching to cellular backup which is one way I know it’s being reset.
You may also need to institute some “no frivolous web usage” rules (i.e. Fortnite and YouTube) during business hours to ensure that those of you who need the access during the day have what you need. In our case I don’t think it was our service (we had 650 MPS service and I just upped it to gigabit, although I typically don’t get better than 850 MPS), but a limit of our Wifi router. My wife would be on a work video call and start having issues and would yell at our 14 year-old twins to get off Fortnite so that she could work. As soon as they logged off her call got better. I got a “latest & greatest” router and things seem to have improved substantially.
Good luck!Aug 21, 2020 at 10:16 am #3672075
“but one thing I know you’ll want to do is to cycle the power on your modem at least weekly.”
I’ve never done this and have never had any issues. Curious why you think it’s necessary Kevin (not challenging what you’re saying at all, just curious).Aug 21, 2020 at 10:30 am #3672078Kevin BabioneBPL Member
Since you’ve moved out west you’ve hopefully escaped the grasp of Comcast (my only option for internet). Any time I had issues with speed or connectivity the first thing their tech always had me do was to unplug my cable modem for at least 30 seconds and then plug it back in. One told me that it deleted lost and unlinked packets that could be slowing it down. Here’s a link to a relevant article: Why Reboot Your Modem?
It would be easy for you to test its efficacy: Do a Speed Test and note the speed, then unplug your modem for 30 seconds and then do another Speed Test after it is back online. In my experience I see higher speeds after the reboot and finally got so frustrated with my wife “gently encouraging” me to reboot the router (which obviously affects everyone in the house) that I just bought the timer so it reboots nightly. Most of our issues have ended.Aug 21, 2020 at 10:31 am #3672079
David, I’ve always found Ars Techina a great place for pretty solid information about anything internet related (and even unrelated, actually). You probably know about the site since it’s very tech oriented and would appeal to your engineer brain. It would be a great place to poke around for the info you’re looking for.
Not sure how deep you buried your cat 5e cable, but if you could upgrade it to cat 6 you’ll get less crosstalk and more bandwidth (250 mhz instead of cat 5’s 100. Cat 6a is even better). As you no doubt know, just ensure whatever you use that you terminate both ends the same way.
When I moved into my house I went up in the attic and ran cat 6a to all my rooms in the house (it’s a small house). I always recommend using hard wired connection instead of wifi, much more secure and you don’t have to worry about signal degradation. For temporary use you could always tack it high along the walls to go from one room to the other. An 8-port hub connected to the router should give you all the connections you need, and they’re pretty cheap. I’ve always used Netgear hubs and have never had any problems.
I’m no expert by any means, so take what I say with a grain of Alaska pure sea salt. I’m sure you’ll get some replies by folks who really know what they’re talking about!Aug 21, 2020 at 10:56 am #3672081PedestrianBPL Member
Given that most devices these days lack an ethernet port: phones, tablets, even most laptops (without a dongle of some kind), TVs, printers etc it’s important to have a decent in-home Wifi setup that doesn’t rely on the modem/router from your ISP (rented or purchased).
I’d disable the Wifi on the ISP modem/router (easy to do and reduces interference) and instead use a “modern” mesh Wifi product like the Amazon Eero, Google Nest Wifi or some competing product. Make sure you get enough “points” to provide coverage across all the rooms. You’ll find it improves the user experience dramatically.
The suggestion about Cat6a is great for connecting the Wifi system and any devices with an ethernet port but won’t help the devices most people use to access the network.Aug 21, 2020 at 11:00 am #3672082
Agree about the mesh routers. For the two things in my house that don’t have ethernet ports (my phone and my tablet) I use the orbi mesh routers. have had great success with those.Aug 21, 2020 at 12:46 pm #3672105ArthurBPL Member
The first thing i would do is plug anything you can directly into the network with cable. The overhead in many wireless systems compared to hard wires is high. Having wires running thru the house is not aesthetic, but cheaper and more efficient that buying a bunch of access points and mesh routers when hopefully they will leave in a few months. Then have them turn off their wireless on the machines that are plugged in. Make sure all machines have updates only scheduled for none working hours. That’s the easy part. If you want to get a little fancy and learn some new things, you can get a router with QoS capabilities and limit each device to a specific bandwidth, thus giving the school computers priority over the games on phones. Its not that hard, but dealing with the mutiny in the family when you do it is the difficult part.Aug 21, 2020 at 1:22 pm #3672118W I S N E R !BPL Member
I think half the world is in this boat right now!
I’m teaching from home and have a college student and high school student going to school from home.
Hardwired CAT6 has been my friend. I’m finding that wherever I can run a hardline, it always beats Wifi issues. While I’m hardly tech savvy, it seems to me that my issues come more from weird Wifi connection drops than actual bandwidth issues.
I’ll be following this as I’m wondering if I’ll need to upgrade my plan…Aug 21, 2020 at 1:26 pm #3672120
You might find this site helpful, though I don’t know who is behind it.Aug 21, 2020 at 3:36 pm #3672161
A few years ago I spent a summer sharing home Internet with several people in their early 20s. We found out the hard way about a monthly ISP data cap, driven mostly by movies, gaming, and listening to music on YouTube.
They’d queue up a bunch of music videos, hide the window, and listen to the music – while gaming or watching movies. Spotify and similar music-only streaming services hadn’t taken off yet. Had no impact on our WiFi throughput with up to 7 devices active at any time.
Long way of saying – watch out for multitasking. Don’t assume one person = one streaming movie bandwidth. Could be much higher.
In real life, you shouldn’t see much difference between Cat 5E and Cat 6 wiring. At work we routinely ran 1 Gb Ethernet over Cat 5E without problems.
Hard wiring laptops and desktops will improve WiFi throughput, but have little impact on your Internet connection speed. Also, not an option for phones, tablets, etc. And my five-year-old laptop needs a dongle for Ethernet, since it wasn’t built in.
I’ve been on Comcast Internet for about 10 years. Rarely need to power cycle. I’ve outsourced that to our power company :-(
Obligatory BPL content: Still many times faster than handheld satellite Internet!
— RexAug 21, 2020 at 4:13 pm #3672168
I’m liking the idea to hardwire whatever I can. I did bury a mess of Cat-5 (direct burial, not conduit) between the structures so I can do some of that.
Totally understand about yelling at the teenagers so Mom can have a decent Zoom call with her patients. We’ve been scheduling no-frivolous-use times but my hope is to avoid that with this higher bandwidth provider. If it works well for everyone, then I can discontinue the correct $150/month service.
Good point on the multi-tasking. Something everyone else does more than I do. I only go as far as Zoom + emails or music + forums.
I got the cheapest wifi router Home Depot had ($49) cause one application is a just 16×20 cabin but it’s got a bigger footprint with a solid signal than any router we’ve had before (we’ve used extenders and a parabolic dish to span the gap before.Aug 21, 2020 at 4:15 pm #3672170
“Also, not an option for phones, tablets, etc.”
It is with a dongle, though perhaps depending on your phone or tablet.
And thanks for letting me know I wasted money buying cat 6 instead of cat5. :-) Once again I fell to marketing hype.Aug 21, 2020 at 4:47 pm #3672186PedestrianBPL Member
FYI we have an AT&T data connection that’s rated at 25 Mbps down/6 Mbps up. My tools connected directly to the ethernet port on the ATT provided router show we get about 28/6 most of the time.
We often have three of us working out of the home with heavy use; we almost exclusively stream what we watch on the TV or other devices (no subscriptions to any cable/satellite TV; only over the air using a rooftop antenna, which we don’t watch much….). One of us has a gaming console that gets some use.
We NEVER have any issue with congestion; we DID have some Wifi issues at one point so I I disabled the ISP router Wifi and got a mesh router which is much more reliable.
I know a lot of Comcast customers around here and they’re almost all paying for 150 Mbps service. And they still have frequent issues. Comcast support is pushing them to upgrade to higher speeds (for much more money of course).
Where I live I have NO choice of even getting Comcast service – I’m stuck with AT&T.
I pay a bit over 50 bucks a month including taxes for my internet connection.
We don’t have a land line phone either – we use a “free” IP phone that’s also connected to the AT&T modem/router.
Posting this as an example of what works; this has worked for at least 5 years now. I felt compelled to get a mesh Wifi setup in March after we all started working from home a lot of the time.Aug 21, 2020 at 5:17 pm #3672191
It never surprises me how widely fees vary from place to place. I live about an hour north of Seattle in a smallish town (compared to Seattle anyway, and smaller than Everett which is just south of me). I have comcast (I don’t really have much of a choice, like so many people), but pay $70 (no extra fees since it’s internet only, no TV service from them) for 300 MB down/10MB up. For $50 I would have gotten 100MB down/6MB up. Both of those is with a one-year signup.
I use the Ookla speedtest app, and so far usually get a bit over 300 down and a bit over 10 up on a regular basis. Everything is hardwired except my phone and tablet.Aug 21, 2020 at 5:19 pm #3672192
Don’t know how much of an issue it is where you are David, but you could also restrict who gets on the network via MAC addresses of the things you want to allow to connect. Probably Rex or Pedestrian can tell you whether or not that’s actually useful.Aug 21, 2020 at 8:00 pm #3672227
arguably, the 0S and 1s weigh NOTHING
Almost nothing …
— RexAug 21, 2020 at 8:10 pm #3672229
Simultaneous movie watching plus other apps testing might not show obvious results right away. Most video streams buffer a LOT locally, to avoid hangs or glitches. When I’ve watched Internet throughput on my laptop, it’s something like BOOM for a few seconds, followed by a minute or two of background traffic.
Also, many streaming services vary image/sound quality by the application’s perception of available bandwidth. So you could easily watch many streams of 480p compressed video/audio, depending on what each app negotiates. Some people notice, many don’t
And if your ISP is like most, your net bandwidth varies depending on what your neighbors are sucking down at the same time. Even with Comcast business service, I notice evening slowdowns from time to time.
Another long way of saying – testing isn’t straightforward, but it’s worth trying for a few hours on several evenings.
Or punt and wait for complaints.
— RexAug 21, 2020 at 8:29 pm #3672233Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
Some semi-decent routers will give you some control over the bandwidth priority given to various devices, applications, and games. So, for example, you can give work-related devices highest priority and every other device lowest priority.Aug 22, 2020 at 3:42 pm #3672392
Wow, $50/month for internet service that works? I’m often struck, being an officer of a few electric utilities, how much more people complain about their $150/month electric bill that, you know, lights their home, enables their heating system, kitchen, their tools, AND powers their electronic devices than they complain about $150/month internet service or phone plan. We need to figure out a way to send porn through the power lines and then we’d have happier customers.
Good to know about routers that can prioritize users/devices.
And yes, time of day makes a difference. The installer of the new service said performance drops 6 to 9 pm. And I’ve noticed, both through my current GCI ISP and my AT&T cell service, Google’s search engine bogs down so much as to time out in the late evening, leaving me to complete the NYT crossword puzzle “the old fashioned way”.Aug 22, 2020 at 3:49 pm #3672396
“We need to figure out a way to send porn through the power lines and then we’d have happier customers.”
Just be careful of plugging certain things into those sockets….Aug 22, 2020 at 5:52 pm #3672434JCHBPL Member
“We need to figure out a way to send porn through the power lines and then we’d have happier customers.”
I second the Orbi router recommendation. It’s dedicated backhaul channel for communication between nodes make it a standout in the current market. Also, the recommendation for hardwiring devices is only valid for connections to the main router…hard wire connections to a satellite are still constrained by the speed of the wireless connection…unless of course you hardwire the satellites to the main router :)Aug 22, 2020 at 7:21 pm #3672449
“Also, the recommendation for hardwiring devices is only valid for connections to the main router…hard wire connections to a satellite are still constrained by the speed of the wireless connection…unless of course you hardwire the satellites to the main router :)”
Yup, which I’ve done! Of course you can also just hardwire a hub to the router, even in another room.Aug 23, 2020 at 10:00 am #3672517
Only very tangentially related, but I found this Ars Technica article quite interesting.Aug 23, 2020 at 2:03 pm #3672557Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I worked from home back when broadband was really “narrow band.”
Cables work best and may be the cheapest and easiest solution for the short term (tape down any loose cables running across the floor).
But with 80 mbps you should be okay with wireless if you get a high quality modem and router. Extra money here goes a long way.
What becomes problematic is several people needing to upload at the same time. 5 people simultaneously on different Zoom calls can be problematic. Turn off the video portion if needed, but those who are earning a livelihood via Zoom may need the video portion.
Also, several people might be running 3 devices at the same time (laptop, tablet, phone). I used to have endless conferencing, which was mostly a waste of my time, so I would be doing productive things on other devices while acting engaged with the “group think” animals.
Also look at other wireless devices, such as several security camersa that record via the Cloud 24/7.
In the end, it comes down to hooking up all the devices at the same time and seeing what happens.
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