Wireless bridge throughput for home networking - better than repeater?
February 8, 2016 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I've read some of the previously posted questions on this (not to mention Googling) and still have not read a 100% clear answer. I know that using an extender/repeater slashes bandwidth. But if I use a wireless bridge, instead, will throughput be higher?

Recently bought new ac router, which I have upstairs in my small house (around 1100 sq ft) where my cable modem is. I know that if I wanted optimal speed at the moment, I should just run Ethernet from there to wherever I want more networkable devices. Signal strength on 2.5 and 5ghz bands is great everywhere I go in the house. I have tested it with phones and notebooks.

I have also been using a PS3 to stream video from online services, and most of the time, even when I had my old router, it looked a-ok. I don't really play games online, so maximum throughput hasn't been a big deal. Recently I decided to see if I could improve throughput to the PS3 without running Ethernet cable, just for the heck of it. I know it's only N, and throughput varies for all kinds of reasons, AND that there's only so fast wifi on a PS3 is going to get, but bear with me.

I tried using ethernet-over-power, and even the highest rated of those gadgets still had crappy throughput in my house. (I know there's all kinds of reasons for that, too). I tried using ethernet-over-coax, and it was only a tiny bit better than the the wifi. Before I knew anything about extenders, I tried one of those, and it cut the bandwidth way down (duh).

So, online somewhere, somebody suggested to someone in a similar situation - use a wireless bridge, then run ethernet out of the PS3 into it, and it will fool the PS3 into using the potentially higher bandwidth from the router's ac wifi. This sounds like a great idea - if it's not bogus.


Thanks MeFi networking gurus. : )
posted by bitterkitten to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Just wanted to initially note that this is a solution in search of a problem (PS3 Wifi seems sufficient for everything you're doing), but I think you already know that.

A wireless bridge will not cut throughput like a repeater will; basically, the point of a bridge is to take a wired connection and connect it to a wireless network. So, for example, if you have some piece of computer hardware without a wireless card, you can use a bridge - plug the wired connection into the bridge and it translates it into a wireless signal.

The PS3 reportedly has gigabit (wired) ethernet, so in theory it could take advantage of the faster speeds from an 802.11ac (1.2 Gbit) connection rather than an 802.11n (300 Mbit) connection. So, if you plug your network cable into an 802.11ac router set up as a bridge, you can get access to the faster speeds.

HOWEVER, it's worth noting that this will likely not notice any faster speeds. Your connection to the outside world is likely way slower than 300 Mbit, so that is the bottleneck rather than the PS3. With a high-quality router/bridge, it's possible that your connection may be more reliable than the built-in PS3 wireless, but it's unlikely to be any faster.

I probably wouldn't do this to get a "better" connection to your PS3 unless you already have an unused 802.11ac router laying around and you think it's fun to mess around with networking.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:52 AM on February 8, 2016

Response by poster: Actually, looks like I misspoke: the PS3 is only G, while the PS4 is N (considering getting one of those). Either way, the answer is still the same. : ) Thanks!
posted by bitterkitten at 8:02 AM on February 8, 2016

If the "Ethernet over coax" you tried got you less than 100Mbps end-to-end (which is enough for the vast majority of home use tasks for which one would be considering wireless), something was wrong with your setup. Unless you are using AC or N on 5GHz with a 40MHz or greater channel width, MoCA bridges should be faster than wireless. They should be lower latency and more reliable regardless.

I used MoCA (1.0!) bridges in my old house and had very good luck with them. I even connected my neighbor/friend using a fourth bridge. MoCA is a mesh network, so you can do that sort of thing if the tap isn't too far away. (And is why you set your own non-default encryption key and/or put in a filter at the point of entry if you care about your network)

To more directly answer your question, a wireless bridge will be as fast as your wireless network can support, and completely bypasses the built-in wireless of any device you plug into the bridge with a wire. I'd still spend more time on wired options before going that route, though. Wireless can go bad at any time thanks to neighbors getting new equipment, which may not even be WiFi stuff, since other things share the frequencies, and don't always play well with others.
posted by wierdo at 7:29 PM on February 8, 2016

Oh, and do keep in mind that with wireless, 300Mbps isn't really 300Mbps. First, the number on the box is half-duplex, so only one direction at a time. Second, it is before overhead that realistically knocks another 20-50% off the rated speed. Third, the top speed is only achievable over short distances and only rarely if there is an intervening obstacle, especially when dealing with 5GHz. On 2.4GHz, you get more distance, but at the expense of having to share the spectrum with your neighbors and your microwave oven since there are only 3 non-overlapping channels (fewer if you use more than a 20MHz channel width, which an N device requires to get better than 150Mbps before overhead)
posted by wierdo at 7:35 PM on February 8, 2016

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