Introduction: The Ultimate Wifi Network

I have a funny shaped house - it's narrow, but long and the house itself is solid concrete / stucco and has a lot of features that are poison for wifi signals.

Here were my requirements:

  • I am working out of the house and wanted to ensure that I have excellent wifi coverage throughout the house and the backyard.
  • I also needed the ability to connect many devices - computers, laptops, tablet, cell phone, wifi thermostats, and all that good stuff without compromising network quality.
  • In case I needed more than one wifi antenna, I did not want to have to manually connect to a second wifi network, but preferred to have "seamless" roaming.

I am going to talk about the products I used in this instructable, but I don't have a commercial relationship with the vendors and derive no benefits from mentioning them here. It's just stuff I picked and tried and that works really well for me.

Step 1: Network Backbone

I have Internet service through my local cable company, but did not want to rely on whatever shoddy modem / wifi / router functionality they provide.

So, I bought my own:

Cable Modem:

  • NETGEAR DOCSIS 3.0. The only thing it needs to do is decode whatever comes out of the coax cable and provide a single Ethernet port

Router:

  • Mikrotik RB750GL. I chose this router because it had really good reviews and was apparently made to handle a lot of data throughput and concurrently connected devices. Many people have problems with their home network because the routers can't handle all the packet switching, so investing in this area is important.

Switches:

  • This may not be needed for any of you, but I did add a Mikrotik (RB260GS) switch to the business just to give me more network ports. Remember that a switch is basically just giving you network ports, but without the ability to transport packets across network boundaries and can't issue an IP address via DHCP. You may not need an extra switch, but you'll definitely need the router for these things.

Step 2: First Attempt of a Wireless Antenna

My first idea to get good signal around the property was to mount a high-powered outside (i.e. weather resistant) wifi antenna on the roof. This did not provide the coverage I needed inside of the house, but the device still came in handy as we shall see.

I picked the Ubiquity Unify AP Outdoor access point. It had excellent reviews and is considered on-par with many of the much more expensive professional pieces that are available from other vendors.

The other problem with the approach I took was that I would have to route network cables up to the roof and that would have turned into a major project as I didn't want to have cables dangling on the outside of the house.

So, I needed to take another approach, which we'll discuss in the next steps.

Step 3: Indoor Wireless

I started focusing on the indoor wireless portion and selected the Ubiquiti UniFi Long Range Access Point, which is kind of cool looking and has good signal strength.

Note that these Ubiquiti wirless access points don't do anything but provide a wifi signal. That's why you still need a separate router to do the IP address generation and essential network functions.

So, with this device, I had about 3/4 of the house covered at good signal strength, but I didn't have coverage in the bedroom or in the backyard. Since I had already purchased the outdoor wifi antenna, I wanted to resuse it and put it maybe on the flagpole in the back yard.

Step 4: Bridging the Gap

Mounting the outdoor wifi access point in the yard would not be a problem. However, I also did not want to run network cabling out to the yard.

I tried to have the two wifi access points act as a network repeater, but the wifi throughput and network latency decreases noticeable with this option and I tried to avoid that.

Ubiquity has this mode called "zero handoff" where two or more access points basically communicate with each other about each connected device and hand off the wifi signal to the access point that can provide the best signal strength. This is exactly what I wanted to go for, but - you guessed it - this functionality is predicated on having each wifi access point physically wired to the network. No option of wirelessly communicating all of this information. Zero Handoff requires hard wired connections between the access points and the network.

So, I needed an additional piece of equipment to connect the two access points with a physical network connection over a distance of about 100 ft. A quick Internet search and trip to the local computer shop yielded a pair of Netgear Powerline 500 devices. These wonderful little buggers use your power lines to communicate from A to B and have remarkably strong throughput. By using these devices, I could trick the two wifi access points into thinking that they are physically connected and got them to support the zero handoff technology after all.

A word of caution here: The data throughput that you can expect from these powerline devices depends very much on the quality of your electrical wires (I have an old house, so I had to try a few outlets and things connected to different breaker panels.)

Again, the only motivation for the powerline devices was the ability to enable the zero handoff feature on the ubiquity devices rather than using the inferior wireless repeater functionality.

Step 5: Weather Proofing the Outdoor Portion

Well, by now I knew I needed to have the outdoor access point, but also a power strip and the Netgear power line plus a bunch of cables permanently outside. Some weather proofing was badly needed.

I was able to solve the problem with a quick trip to the hardware store and bought a length of 6 inch PVC pipe. I glued a PVC Cap to the bottom end of it, stuck all my moisture sensitive equipment into it, and glued a PVC threading to the top portion (not sure if that's the right term, but it allows you to actually screw on a water tight cap).

Now all I had to do was to drill a hole for the network cable into the PVC pipe as well as a larger one for the power plug, put everything together and seal up the holes with marine grade silicon (I chose 3M 4200).

I used large cable straps to affix this "thing" to the flag pole and plug the power cable into the outlet at the dock. Done.

Step 6: Final Thoughts

I am signed up for the 60 Mbps plan from my network provider and a speedtest shows about 55 Mbps when plugged directly into the router without wifi.

Through the wireless network I am getting a good 40-45 Mbps throughout when connected to the wireless access point on the inside and about 15-20 Mbps when connected to the one on the outside. The degradation is mainly due to the transmission quality through my power lines. That's more than enough, though, and I can roam around the property even while having voice over IP calls without ever losing the call or noticing any interruption.

This was all well worth the effort.

As for cost, I think I spent about $400ish:

  • Outdoor access point: $180
  • Indoor access point: $90
  • Router: $60
  • Netgear Powerline: $50
  • PVC pipe and misc. supplies: $30

Best wifi network I've ever had :)

Comments

author
markypc3 made it!(author)2015-07-23

I deploy networks like this all the time and deploy lots of ubiquity unifi devices.

Usually the Outdoor+ unit is thinner and a bit better, as well i normally have a network cable trenched out to wherever i would place the outdoor unit.

They can be daisy chained! and lots of fun, but also if you had used an EdgeMAX (PoE) router, it could provide all the power included within the network cables, which would have saved you some of the effort. I would have placed two units at both ends of the house and still kept the outdoor unit for good measure. The Unifi controller software is useful for managing the wifi units and the 802.11x Layer 2 networks (the SSIDs.) Ethernet over powerline is fun though.

author
FlorianBecker made it!(author)2015-07-23

All good points.

The PoE router would not have worked or provided much benefit here, as I did not have (or could not have run) any Ethernet from the router, which sits physically next to the cable modem in the living room, all the way out to the backyard. The Ethernet over powerline is ok-ish. I think the best I can do without the problem of stringing extra cables. Right now, i am looking at:

90 Mbps download with a wired Ethernet connection to the router

40ish Mbps when connected over wireless indoor (not using Ethernet over power)

15ish Mbps when connected over wireless outdoor (which uses the Ethernet over power lines).

I think that most people will be able to do better than that with the Ethernet over Power. I have some really old wiring in the house and multiple circuit breaker panels for different portions of the house.

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

your outdoor wifi should be at least 40Mbps, but 15 is better than 14, and unless you need more, why mess with it.

author
markypc3 made it!(author)2015-07-23

That's a huge loss in speed from wired to wireless to EoPL->WiFi.
What types of cabling did you use? Were these all cat 5e at least?
Is the switch in a really hot place? This usually indicates a significant loss of signal and could very well be due to a badly terminated cable. I would check the connections. There should be a very negligible difference in QoS (Quality of service) when on WiFi.

author
FlorianBecker made it!(author)2015-07-23

Thanks, these are good hints. The switches / routers are all inside in the living room or office. The cabling my be at fault - i just connected with whatever Ethernet cables I could find. I'll take your advice and put new Cat5 or Cat6s in. Thanks!

author
rundmcarlson made it!(author)2015-07-23

That guy is not necessarily right. If you are not on 5ghz at all (which I imagine you are only 2.4 since 5 would have worse signal degradation through your concrete) then 40Mbps is in the normal range for wireless-N. Although the poweline seems low, those devices are known to slow down your network dependent on your home wiring. It also greatly depends on what adapters you purchased.

All that being said, there really is no substitute for a hardwired ethernet connection. If you have a desktop computer at all I'd highly recommend looking for a way to run the ethernet to it. Wifi will never be able to compete with a wired connection, and you don't really realize the difference until you have used it, especially at 60+Mbps.

author
gravityride made it!(author)2015-07-23

I agree a POE switch would be 1/6 the price of 6 POE injectors. That said I wouldn't daisy chain the APs because you have a higher risk of failure and packet degradation.

author
markypc3 made it!(author)2015-07-23

I would have to disagree with you on the daisy chaining. Unless you were chaining them with more than 4 units in a string, keeping in mind each outdoor unit covers a 600ft radius, this would work fine, but is also a colossal area.
The edgemax specifically provides two modes of PoE, 24V and 48V.
The Wireless AP LR requires 24v and the Outdoor+ unit requires 48V.
It turns out that the EdgeMAX will provide enough amperage to support a nice chain.

author
gravityride made it!(author)2015-07-24

Sure, if you are covering an area of more than 300' you have to daisy chain Ethernet or use fiber because of the CDMA 64k limitations (I'd use fiber in this case). I was assuming this was a normal residence in which case the 300 foot cable length limit isn't an issue. That said you still definitely get packet latency and signal degradation from each unit moving data between layer 2 and 3, it is a fact that each unit will 'repackage' the data in transit and make some mistakes a long the way like a game of telephone (delay and errors). The increased failure rate is obvious simple math; If you consolidate your wiring you have less possible paths and less redundancy. Also if you chain 3 units in a bus the end unit is 8x more likely to fail than if it was branched off of a core switch because if any switch or wire between the core and the end unit fail every device toward the end will fail. Perhaps, you are referring to logical typology but this article only discusses physical typology.

author
Jack+Rodgers made it!(author)2015-07-23

Quite well done.

I am using a motel's wifi that is close to 200 feet away. I had to open the door to give my computer line of site since the door was blocking the signal... :)

author
rf made it!(author)2015-07-24

You might be able to build a small passive repeater antenna to take the signal around the door and make it available to devices inside.

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

Drill a hole in the wall and shove your antenna in there. Not to be confused with GH.

author
Jack+Rodgers made it!(author)2015-07-25

I searched Instructables for "repeater antenna" and found a lot of posts.

If I could find something that would plug into my Cisco E900 Internet plug...

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

Don't you hate not having windows.

author
Technobly made it!(author)2015-07-25

Your antennas there should be a bit further away from that metal pole.

author
terryaaa made it!(author)2015-07-28

Actually, possibly not ! These Ubiquiti radios are such a bad design with these 5db omni's on top, that the metal pole might improve the situation aparasitically (like a yagi). Unfortunately, today so few people understand RF propagation, that manufacturers get away with crap like this. I often hear the comment "it works"

Yep ! in a digital world it is either "off" or it's "on" Well let me introduce you to a new brain frying concept. Yes, it's working, but it's "working badly"

Today’s radio's are so well terminated, you could throw coat hangers on that radio and probably work better (and less badly). The mutual coupling going on here is a physical constraint, there is no magic. So the smart radio says, we will have to take turns transmitting, so we don't interfere with each other. And yes, MIMO does have a few more trick up it's sleeve, but for the most part, your throughput potential is cut in half. Ya, like aka, the radio with one antenna. I've been inundated with this particular problem; Unifi's working badly. The solution is to get rid of those omni wips on top, and get anything with pigtails to get antenna separation. Ubiquiti sells what they refer to as an omni antenna, but it's not. It is actually two 180 degree sector antennas back to back. It will cost you more than the radio did, but it will change everything! Both range and throughput will more than double. And actually show you what that radio is capable of.

In Conclusion: In laymen s terms; Omni's suck, and two omni's put this close together, really suck!

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

disagree about metal pole.

agree about antennas.

author
FlorianBecker made it!(author)2015-07-31

Absolutely agree with you - I am normally all for optimizing performance. In this case, i had more limitations to work with, so "good enough" is good enough for me here :)

author
Technobly made it!(author)2015-07-28

I just flipped a dime, "heads"... you are correct! ;-)

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

yep, I agree

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

Nice setup. However, I would advise against mounting the outdoor + AP directly to the metal pole. You will get refraction all over the place, as well as duplicate packets. Not a bad thing if indoors, but outside is another story. I had same AP set up on a metal pole just like this one, and getting horrible speed (3Mbps), and eventually SSID transmission started going in/out. I picked up a ubiquity adjustable mount, and adjusted it so it had slight downward angle about 20ft up. Also wrapped pipe insulation around mount before attaching AP with zip ties.

As for the netGear powerline. I tried the 500, which worked pretty good, but would drop packets, and latency was not great. I switched over to the 1200 series, and works great plus they give you an extra outlet on front. Have not lost connection but once during bad storm.

Are you using the Controller software to manage your access points?

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

However, I would recommend above all else, to ditch the powerline setup, and just run your line using CAT5e or CAT6 direct bury cable. Terminate ends after run is made, and test cable with toner before connecting to the AP.

author
jc10189 made it!(author)2016-07-26

You could've gone with a bridge/ap setup that would've eliminated wires but this can potentially lower throughput. I love Ubiquity products. They're up to par with higher end products like Motorola canopy.

author
BeenShockedOnceOrTwice made it!(author)2017-01-17

That's why he said in his post, something along the lines of....all devices must be hardwired for throughput, otherwise would go wireless.

author
SonnyR1 made it!(author)2016-07-26

Does anyone have a "How to set this up for dummies?" The instructions for this unit and the other popular device "The Bulliet" are not for amateurs. The info online is vague. Sorry but I know my ignorance and limits. Setting this up is difficult. I know a owner that charges big $$ to set up these for boats. Thanks for the help.

author
JoeV24 made it!(author)2016-07-26

I don't personally feel this is very 'tech-y' at all. Most of it, once the products were named is pretty much PNP.

The only oddball part was the ip/pg system that sends via hardwire power lines in the house. (Hmmmm. I wonder, since Montana is on the same grid, if this could be used to allow interstate IPG comunication... AS WAS PROMISED for the whole world a few years ago? Huh?)

I digress. Sorry.

FWIW: I have a steel roof over my 24x65 mobile home here, a on-top-of-the-refrigerator, very antique Netgear before-rubber-ducky-antenna system and get almost no signal loss even in my tin workshop, 60 feet away from it.

I even get 1/4 mile down the road to my neighbor and coverage in my horse pastures and my tractor barn, although truth be told, the tractor barn metal doors have to be open for it to work well in there, but the horses don't complain.....yet.

It must be the clear blue Montana sky here or some phenomenon under the steel roof that gets me this crazy range, but it sure works for me. I begin to believe that there are no valid rules on signal propagation - just voodoo science that sounds high-tech.

author
sid+woz made it!(author)2016-07-31

Wow you have an interesting little WiFi device.......what is the name &or model number of it?
-Aditya walimbe

author
SonnyR1 made it!(author)2016-07-26

I appreciate your reply and I will respectfully disagree. I have set up a bullit and the microteck along with several engenius setups. All on boats. The Engenius is PNP, The other products are not IMHO. If you are not IT or Network engineer it is a hassle. I asked for a guide to setup for the common man, not an opinion. Thanks for nothing.

author
DB.Cooper made it!(author)2016-07-26

for the common man try a setup by "eero" (google will bring it right up, sold on amazon)

it has a mesh system and a very simple set up.

by simple - i mean .. i did it. it works well. nuff said

nice video tells you what to buy as well.

hope that helps

author
MarkN97 made it!(author)2016-07-30

...thanks DB glad the jump worked out. Got any cash left? I need a new wify

author
DB.Cooper made it!(author)2016-07-31

it is pricey, but since it solved my challenging wifi problems in a simple way -I thought it might help someone who is unfamiliar with all the technical terms as sonnyR1 seemed to indicate

author
JoeV24 made it!(author)2016-07-26

I agree totally since I can Google almost anything including a do it yourself trepanation.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&u...

author
JoeV24 made it!(author)2016-07-26

You're welcome for nothing.

author
MarkN97 made it!(author)2016-07-26

The most important thing to consider especially when setting up an outdoor wifi unit such as pictured is security. This type of unit will broadcast for block and blocks and appear on many neighborhood wifi routers making it vulnerable to more than average users around you. Definatly have someone who understands security help you.

author
jc10189 made it!(author)2016-07-26

MAC filtering and turning off SSID broadcasting with WPA2 is about as secure as you can get.

author
MartinB195 made it!(author)2016-07-27

Which is not helpful at all in terms of security. Sniffing wifi traffic doesn't require public ssids, and MACs are just as easily spoofed. Granted, WPA2 isn't WEP and holds against trivial attacks, but if somebody has time on his side, he can break in (given enough devices and traffic to do a de-auth type of attack)

author
Knight+Lamune made it!(author)2016-07-30

Or I could just hit you with a piece of pipe and take your wallet.

author
MartinB195 made it!(author)2016-07-31

> Or I could just hit you with a piece of pipe and take your wallet.

Also from a remote location? Taking the wallet without using the pipe, that's what can happen here...

author
Lashway made it!(author)2016-07-27

MAC filtering and SSID broadcasting are not security measures, there is a segment of users that really want them to be, but any class will teach exactly why these methods fail: MAC addresses can be easily spoofed, and SSID's are close to meaningless when trying to attack a network. It's only going to stop people who already aren't a threat, as even script kiddies won't need to see an alias.

WPA2 Personal is breakable with an energy investment, WPA2 Enterprise is as secure as it gets, but require setting up a RADIUS Server or something similiar, which is both what I'd recommend to someone exposing themeselves this much and also over the average users head.

author
jc10189 made it!(author)2016-07-27

MAC filtering and turning off SSID will deture uninvited attention. WPA2 Enterprise is virtually uncrackable with a strong password so even if someone can do a deauth they won't get very far assuming enterprise is set up correctly. Even if you do spoof the MAC you'll know there's a problem since the system only allows that one programmed MAC on the network. So they might not be secure sometimes but it keeps people from being nosey.

author
Lashway made it!(author)2016-07-28

>it keeps people from being nosey

Only if they already aren't a threat, someone with no skills but an interest in getting into your network just needs to run a script and they'll see everything around them, whether you've hidden it or not.

>You'll know there's a problem

After the fact, if you have a system in place to alert you, which laymen don't.

>WPA2 Enterprise is virtually uncrackable

WPA2 Enterprise EAP-TLS with MsCHAP (tunneled EAP using an AAA system like Radius) is virtually uncrackable, but WPA2 enterprise/Personal with encrypted passcode is not. If it were, there'd be no incentive to go the authentication server route at all.

But again, the point was this is outside the scope of what the average person, even on instructibles, is going to be able to set up and maintain; this 'ible is about setting up a home network, afterall.

author
knut made it!(author)2016-07-26

One comment on powerline communication, if you have a three phase setup In your house you have to be on the same phase to get the signal through. Because of that I had to draw some Ethernet cables in our house. The outdoor access point is going to get power over Ethernet with underground cat 6 cable.

author
BenG15 made it!(author)2015-07-25

An unhealthy fear of wireless technology is probably worse than the potential unhealthy radiation coming from someone's wireless network

author
ryanjohnlenz made it!(author)2016-07-26

Nice :) (agreed)

author
man_thas_cool made it!(author)2016-07-26

Cool idea. I always just used what the ISP gave me. I assume you get better speeds with this right?

author
bumpuss made it!(author)2015-10-08

I didn't read through all the other comments so I'm not sure if someone else already suggested this but I would throw a package of desiccant into the PVC pipe with the hardware outside just to make sure that any condensation doesn't start to corrode any of the connections.

author
Man+Up made it!(author)2016-07-26

I faced a similar problem with UHF antennas that I built. Anything you coat them with to prevent corrosion (a) doesn't really prevent it, and (b) often changes the frequency characteristics. (Which is the problem with allowing corrosion.) My solution was to stick it into a large diameter PVC pipe that was capped at both end. Then I used a can of air (keyboard duster spray) to purge the container. The "air" is actually diflouroethane, otherwise known as R-152a refridgerant. It is chemically neutral, has zero ozone depletion potential, a very low global warming potential, and if it escapes, the atmospheric life is less than 16 months. Better still, if you can get dry nitrogen, that works better and it's basically cheaper and completely safe for the environment. The outside connector was then thoroughly sealed with high temperature silicone at the pass-through point. I've had the antenna up for two years now, and there have been no changes in frequency characteristics.

author
JasonO1 made it!(author)2015-07-28

I've done something similar at my camp. The router is a Frontier DSL Modem w/ Wi-Fi inside a mobile home. There's a Netgear extender in the cabin about 150ft away. Coverage on the far side of the mobile is handled with a powerline and an old Netgear router acting as an access point.

Service is only 1-2MBs because it's on the extreme edge of DSL range. No other high speed exists in the area. The Frontier Wi-Fi is unimpressive; weakens right outside (metal) mobile home. The Netgear extender still picks it up from a different building about 50 yards away. That Netgear extender must be one big antenna. I can still maintain wi-fi 150 yards away from cabin. My camper is 20 yards outside the far end of the mobile. To get past all that metal I setup an old router as an access point and hooked up a Netgear powerline adapter to it straight back to inside the mobile. Unfortunately the powerline didn't work inside the camper, so I have it plugged into an outside outlet and stored in the camper pass-through. Inside the mobile, the powerline didn't work while plugged into a surge suppressor. All this equipment was hand-me-down network. The only new components I purchased was the powerline adapters at a flea market for $20.

Coverage is very good. There's an area about 2 acres we now have Wi-Fi. I have large parties and even with several people hitting it, it doesn't slow down. Does anyone know if you can have two pairs of powerline adapters on the same network? I'd like to buy another powerline to go from mobile to cabin.

author
Alderin made it!(author)2015-07-30

The technology behind the powerline adapters allows for multiple adapters on the same power circuit, but the designers of the units may have built-in limits to lower costs, so check with the manufacturer(s) of your model(s). If the power circuits are separate (I believe they would need to be on opposite sides of the breaker box) then there isn't a conflict and a second pair would work.

I personally love the idea of running high-speed network data over power lines, and researched it intensely a few months back. Still not sure why power companies aren't providing backbone Internet connections, but that's a different discussion. :-)

author
secondcoming made it!(author)2015-08-01

They were trialling it about 10 years ago but I don't think they could get decent enough speeds. http://eandt.theiet.org/magazine/2013/10/broadband...

4g or Wimax is the answer for rolling out to remote areas

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Bio: I am a software guy by day. I am sharing a few things I've been trying to attempt to build, design, or make. Florian
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