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Should I replace powerlines with mesh wifi?

Discussion in 'off topic' started by Alex S, Nov 30, 2019.

  1. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    I’m thinking for robustness and audio quality. Power lines are reputed to dump all kinds of crap into the mains although I’ve not particularly noticed. I get about 90mbps from powerlines on average. Not great but plenty good enough.

    If I should switch to mesh, which brand? There’s a host of 5 and 1 star reviews out there.

    Finally, could I plug an Ethernet switch into a mesh satellite as I presently do on a powerline without major loss?

  2. narabdela

    narabdela who?

    The answer lies in the question.
    glancaster likes this.
  3. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    I fear your answer lies in the question but if it’s the answer then great.
  4. graystoke4

    graystoke4 pfm Member

    i fear the question lies in the answer ,:confused: this has been on before and the question was in the quote ,
  5. Darth Vader

    Darth Vader From the Dark Side

    They are WiFi bridges. Each time you go through one the throughput halves. So go through two you are down to a quarter and 3 down to an eighth ......... You extend reach but at lower throughput.


  6. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    I thought the mesh things didn’t do that, only extenders. I’m guessing I’ve misunderstood.
  7. Darth Vader

    Darth Vader From the Dark Side

  8. Gaycha

    Gaycha pfm Member

    Or tri band fir back haul. Main thing is to ensure everything is gigabit throughput, not generally an issue these days.

    Mesh vs star n hub is long pros and cons debate.

    I installed. The BT mesh extenders in my mums house. They are very good and simple to set up.

    Sometimes it is worth stepping back and asking yourself “if I was starting from scratch, would my network look like it does today ?”

    Generally home networks ime evolve and sprawl with stuff being added piece meal.

    If the answer to above is No, start again.

    From my view the mesh devices are a great concept for awkward geography houses. But good old hardwired Ethernet backbone top to bottom, using home plugs if necessary, is a great starting point.
  9. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    Thanks. Unfortunately I just can’t do hardwired ethernet where I need it most without using powerlines. Virgin also routed the cable to the least practical room in the house and refuse to move it.

    I’m guessing the first thing I should do is put the Hub3 into modem mode and get a decent router. The next problem is I’m considering Innuos and that needs ethernet.
    2_dive likes this.
  10. Gaycha

    Gaycha pfm Member

    Deffo hub mode then better router. Not to difficult or costly to better the virgin items.

    Do you have good wiring? If so use home plugs, most powerful throughputs you can get.
    That’s what I do with the devolo dual port Ethernet plugs. My view is that’s still going to be faster and more consistent in performance terms, compared to mesh.
  11. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

  12. Gaycha

    Gaycha pfm Member

    .., not familiar with that brand/box.

    If it were me I’d go with Netgear or asus, both great reps.
  13. Darth Vader

    Darth Vader From the Dark Side

    I don't know anything about the OPs house. In my case I have a detached 3 story house built 18 years ago so doesn't have thick stone walls but there is an internal brick wall to support the roof/stairs. I have a single though good Draytek router on the top floor in my office that gives coverage throughout the house and into the garden. Though dual band we tend to rely on the 5GHz band as it is virtually empty whilst the 2.4 GHz has 30+ stations on it! There are a lot of small apartments around us here on the coast.

    The key with radio communications is to get your xmitter up high.

    I rip my CDs to FLAC directly from my computer on the top floor to a Mac Mini server on the ground floor next to the DAC and amps.

    I have a Vigor2862 the one with four aerials. In fact the last 3 routers have been Draytek. I replace them at around 4 years just be on the safe side but to date none have actually failed.


  14. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    No thick brick walls. In fact hardly any walls at all. Will look at Draytek.
  15. gintonic

    gintonic 50 shades of grey pussy cats

    draytek and Billion are quite good.

    I've never had a router fail, but I have had many wall wart power supplies go out of spec. In fact we had an intermittent problem with our VM modem, which out to be an out of spec wall wart
  16. Mark EJ

    Mark EJ Fails to comply


    Just some thoughts:

    Replacing any 'PowerLine' (generic term for 'Ethernet over mains' solutions) with wifi of any flavour has no overriding binary Y/N answer. Unfortunately, both solutions are potentially excellent, but both are vulnerable to local factors not within the control of the designers of the respective hardware.

    In the case of PowerLine adaptors installed in a new house (preferably in Germany) with all-new wiring & fittings, which has had no alterations from the original wiring drawings, performance will be close to the 'up to' figure printed on the box. However, every alteration to the premises wiring from then onwards is very likely to have at least a small, but cumulative impact on performance. This is because new houses are wired all of a piece to a given spec, and items added or replaced (new sockets, etc.) will change things, as they are likely to have different (not necessarily specifically better or worse) electrical characteristics. Most UK premises will have had numerous changes to wiring since new, and this means that PowerLine units will not often perform as well as the figures on the box suggest, although much of the time they work acceptably well, as you've found.

    Wifi is just as vulnerable, except you don't know what to blame – but DV makes an excellent point about 'extenders'. They may extend the physical area within which some form of wifi is receivable, but they do this by creating a new wireless network which uses a 'client' connection to the existing wireless network for upstream access. This requires a 'relaying' function, and the result is a halving of throughput for every network hop. Again, this may work satisfactorily up to a point – particularly with regard to the likely low cost and ease of installation.

    So-called 'mesh' wifi can work superbly well, provided the reasons your existing wifi doesn't aren't structural. But if the premises are inherently wireless-hostile, then you'll need to know the problems and spent money circumventing them. Years ago, a US museum sited two AirPort base stations exactly opposite each other on either side of a steel & concrete wall which was about 4 feet thick, their sole purpose being to get a network signal through the wall, which they apparently did, at considerable cost saving over drilling the wall to get a cable through it. But this only worked because they knew the wall would be a problem, and took specific steps. If they hadn't realised this, the project would have been a disaster and wifi generally would have got a bad rap.

    Some distinction should also be drawn between office-oriented systems (eg, Ubiquiti) where the configuration of the wireless hardware (no matter how it's done) is carried out from the perspective of the entire network, irrespective of the quantity and location of the base stations, and modular 'extensible' system such as Netgear's Orbi. With Ubiquiti and its immitators, there is an underlying assumption of a fault-free, PoE-capable Ethernet backbone, with wireless base stations hanging off it wherever required. If there's a weak spot, you just add another base, and entering the correct credentials in the software will 'suck in' the new hardware and configure it automatically to whatever you've set for the others -- it's cloned, if you will.

    With Orbi, it's similar-seeming, but there's no assumption of underlying ethernet stringing it all together, which is why it costs plenty. It works really well, but in wireless-tricky premises, there will probably need to be a lot of trial & error, and the willingness to buy extra units if something proves really difficult. Netgear have no idea how your premises are laid out.

    Draytek routers are tremendously good. Their user interface isn't that great, and can be confusing with all the obscure and arcane options offered all at the same level – but it's workable, and most Draytek dealers (as well as their UK distibutors, SEG) will help. Most of their routers will recognise a Draytek wifi base station connected to them (ethernet or Powerline) and configure it from the same interface, and of course this also applies if you add further base stations (clone existing). It's not 'mesh' in the same sense as the Orbi (no dedicated backhaul), but it's well executed and possibly cheaper.

    One other thing: All Powerline devices are effectively wi-fi devices without an antenna. The (Atheros, from memory) chipset which powers them is basically a wifi unit, but the I/O connection which would normally have gone to the antenna set instead goes to an interface with the mains wiring, which deals with the multiplexing and other stuff involved to use the mains alternating frequency as a carrier. For this reason, the increasing (over time) potential speed of PowerLine units has broadly paralleled the introduction of faster wifi standards – but the important thing is this: Powerline is just as process-intensive as wifi – the encoding & decoding that has to happen at each end of a link is more-or-less identical, and just because it 'doesn't use radio' doesn't mean that the connection is more 'direct'. It's effectively wifi, but fired down the mains wire, rather than into the air.

    This means that if you have shit wiring, it will be slow – just as if you have a concrete house with steel mesh in the walls, wifi may well disappoint! It also means that different brands of PowerLine are very similar under the skin as far as data I/O is concerned. But Devolo are standouts (very good warranty service) primarily as the bits which handle mains voltage are apparently impressively more robust than others. For me at least, this is quite important for something that's permanently powered. They also have quite regular firmware updates even for models which are 5+ years old, which are easy to apply.

    Overall, the best principle is to aim for straightforward Ethernet cabling as 'far' as you can from the router, then plug in one or more wireless bases for single-link, same-room wifi (possible with almost anything, easier with Draytek). That won't always seem possible — but don't forget that Ethernet cable & plugs/sockets are cheap, and you can run well over 100m (standard is 150m max) without getting problems. Crucially, you can run cable OUTSIDE (over roofs, between floors, round walls) which is often way easier then messing around inside. Lots of users don't consider this, but it's often effective, and still cheap, even using 'external grade' cable.

    The Virgin router could stay where it is. It's a great cable interface, but the rest of it is compromised. Ideally, put it in 'modem mode', (routing & wifi disabled, phew) and use its Port 1 for an Ethernet cable to connect it to a proper router elsewhere. Drayteks (most) have a Gigabit Ethernet WAN (upstream) port which is ideal for this.
    Weekender, BTC3 and mandryka like this.
  17. Darth Vader

    Darth Vader From the Dark Side

    Well done Mark I just couldn't be bothered (from past pfm experience) to cover all that ground. However........ "run cable OUTSIDE". Yes but then you must use surge arresters (usually spark gap) at the inlet points to stop your devices from frying. A distant electrical storm sometimes silent may cause a lot of damage otherwise. When I lived in the Rhine valley the houses/apartments had 'lightening' rods with quarter of an inch aluminium cabling down to ground. This was also bonded to the metal gutters. Just shows the amount of current that had to be drained away to earth.

    A good thunderstorm sounded great in the Rhine valley as the bangs/rumbles oscillated from one side to the other.


  18. gintonic

    gintonic 50 shades of grey pussy cats

    could you expand on that?
  19. Darth Vader

    Darth Vader From the Dark Side



  20. Alex S

    Alex S pfm Member

    Mark, thank you so much for all that effort. I’m picking up two key points: try Draytek and if that fails, move to Germany.

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