Ongoing home networking saga. Further help on ethernet, routers, WiFi...
July 2, 2018 9:36 AM   Subscribe

House is finally being wired with ethernet cables to multiple rooms. A patch panel and gigabit switch will be installed. Now I need help fully understand the order in which/how things should be connected to other things. Involves, switches, access points, routers, etc. This started with my question from last week here: I have a low-voltage installation scheduled for next Monday.

The install will include:

Conduit cable run from attic on side of the house down to the basement. Patch panel in the basement into my Netgear 16 port gigabit switch with a few PoE ports.

Two ethernet runs for 2nd floor 2 jack plate in the office.

Third ethernet jack in 2nd floor master bedroom.

Fourth jack in 1st floor living room, where media devices are. Gigabit switch here, as well.

A fifth ethernet run to somewhere on the first floor for a Ubiquiti AP?

The equipment that is a mix of ISP and my own include: the AT&T fiber ONT that is inside the 2nd floor office. The AT&T gateway/router (G/R) connected via CAT cable from the ONT, also in the office. The G/R can do it’s own Wifi. I also have my own Netgear Nighthawk X6 router. I purchased a Netgear 16 port gigabit switch with PoE. I also purchased a Ubiquiti Unifi AC AP Pro access point.

What is the “correct” order of operations for all of this stuff? How can I best utilize this equipment to have one SSID, that band steers 2.4 and 5ghz networks? How can I offload as much wifi bandwidth to wired devices and get the best Wifi signal possible everywhere?

What I imagine to be the way to do it…

ONT > (right next to) R/G on second floor > basement switch> ethernet jacks around the house (including living room with it’s own gigabit switch for streaming devices/game consoles/Sonos connect. 2nd floor office with small gigabit switch for wired PC and Hue hub, other smart home hubs. A PoE wire out to the Ubiquiti AP for my sole Wifi signal, located on a first floor ceiling.) No need for Nighthawk at all.

Would this be right? Should the Nighthawk be somewhere in this chain? Will the Ubiquiti AP satisfy all of my Wifi needs? Do I have any redundancy here, or lack of optimization somewhere in this setup? Will I need to do any special configuring of the gateway/router for everything to be on the same network and the AP to work correctly? Is the Ubiquiti overkill? I need wifi to spread around the perimeter/outside my house for Ring cameras, spotlights, etc.

Please try and explain anything simply; I understand a decent amount but a lot goes over my head, or I get confused by the differences/necessities of a router vs. a switch vs. an AP vs. a router that also does Wifi, etc.
posted by rbf1138 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Caveat: I think I have a good understanding of your needs and constraints, but I'm far from a professional, so some stuff could be wrong here. But here's my shot . . .

Let me start by explaining the different network things you need to have to have a wired (and wireless) network:

1. Your ONT (generically often called a "modem") takes from AT&T fiber connection from the outside world and makes it something that you can "plug" (either wired or wirelessly) your devices in to. In principle, you could plug in one computer directly into this modem and connect to the outside world; this is actually what I used to do when I had a single desktop computer. But this doesn't work anymore because we have tons of devices that all want to connect. This brings us to:

2. A router. You need something to manage connections for you. Basically, AT&T only gives you one connection to the outside world and you need something to direct traffic between your 50 or 100 or 200 devices to that one connection that AT&T gives you.

3. A switch. For your purposes, a switch just makes one jack into many.

4. A wireless access point takes the wired signal and turns it into a wireless signal.

Now, some devices have more than one of these basic components built into them. Your box from AT&T maybe has all 4 (I can't tell if the ONT is a standalone version of #1 or if it's built into a box with all 4). Your Nighthawk router has three of them (#2, #3, and #4). Your gigabit switch is just one (#3). Your Ubiquiti AP only has one (#4). The upshot is that you have to have all 4 somewhere to make a wired and wireless network work. And, perhaps as important, you almost certainly don't want more than one router in the system unless you really know what you're doing.

So, the first thing to decide in setting up your network is which device you want to do the routing for you and then turn off the router capabilities in all other devices. If you're generally happy with the signal and routing capabilities of the combo device you got from AT&T, you're probably fine. Your stated plan sounds fine, although you could just send a wire out from the AT&T router directly into your switch on the second floor instead of sending the signal down to the basement switch and then back up again.

While it's hard to know without knowing the specific equipment, my guess is that your Nighthawk router may be a better router and give better wireless signal. If you want to use it, you could do:

ONT > AT&T Gateway (with router turned off - often called "bridge mode") > Nighthawk (providing wireless and wired connections to second floor) > basement switch > everything else (Ubiquiti AP, media center switch, ethernet jacks, etc)

If there was a way to bring your fiber into the basement and have everything distributed from there, that would be "cleaner," but probably actually wouldn't make any practical day-to-day difference.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:43 AM on July 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

ONT > AT&T Gateway (with router turned off - often called "bridge mode") > Nighthawk (providing wireless and wired connections to second floor) > basement switch > everything else (Ubiquiti AP, media center switch, ethernet jacks, etc)

Betelgeuse's plan is what I'd do too -- I'd trust the Nighthawk to function as a router more than I would the ATT gateway.

I love the Unifi AC Pros - they work great.

Lastly - if you're wiring the house for ethernet, spend a bit of money and add an extra ethernet per jack. So: have two CAT6 runs per jack run. The labor is the same, and the material costs are minor, but it will give peace of mind, especially if anything's ever wrong with the cabling. Plus, if you ever want to route other things like HDMI or sound through the house, you can get a CAT6 balun/converter to do so. I highly highly recommend doing so.
posted by suedehead at 12:56 PM on July 2, 2018

Response by poster: First, hat tip to user zengargoyle btw, who helped me out quite a bit with my earlier question and PM followups.

It's going to the basement switch because the ethernet wires im having connected need to go up to the attic first, then to the basement as to avoid fishing through walls. makes it easier to add jacks in the other 2nd floor rooms, in addition to it being easier from my unfinished basement to reach any first floor room.

If i use both the nighthawk and Ubiquiti for wifi, how do i configure them so as to have them be one single ssid, and to hand-off/optimize devices between them?

The ONT was installed using a hole already on my second floor from Comcast. Guess i could've asked him to do it in the basement; my mistake :(

I understand the ONT to just be the point of entry but then the gateway/router is the "modem" for AT&T fiber. I'll likely do bridge/DMZ+ mode, then Nighthawk, then switch. I like that plan!

Main concerns are getting the gateway/router into the proper "bridge/DMZ+ mode," getting the Ubiquiti and Nighthawk working together seamlessly and putting the Ubiquiti in the right spot. I'm currently thinking I'll run my own CAT cable from the switch in the basement to the top of the basement stairs just mount it on the wall right at the top of the stairs, which is centrally located on the first floor. It's either that or I pay for them to wire up a ceiling close to the basement stairs but I'm nervous of having a permanent ceiling hole if I end up not needing/wanting the Ubiquiti.
posted by rbf1138 at 1:24 PM on July 2, 2018

Response by poster: One addition:

Should the Nighthawk send the line down to the basement switch, or should the router/gateway have one port out to the Nighthawk and one port to the switch, leaving all ports on the nighthawk open? Or does this mess with things?

A coworker who knows a bit said, "To make it easier and ensure ONLY internet traffic is going to ONT from the switch I’d do ONT->RG (2nd floor)->Basement Switch on Port 1/4
then Do RG Port 2/4 to the Nighthawk, that way all the backend network communication is off the line(s) going to the internet and doesn’t bog them down."

Does this make sense?
posted by rbf1138 at 1:58 PM on July 2, 2018

My understanding is that one of the key selling points of the Ubiquiti access points is their easy ability to be sucked into an existing network and "just work" (with the same SSID and handling handoffs simply). So, setup your Nighthawk for wireless, make sure everything there works, then plug in the Ubiquiti AP and set it up using the instructions it comes with. I've never used them, so I don't know for sure, though; hopefully someone who has used them will chime in.

The 2nd Floor install isn't a big deal at all; I predict you won't notice any difference.

I would play around with the Ubiquiti location a bit before you screw it into anything; just rest it somewhere, try it out for a few days, and make sure it's doing everything it should before you officially mount it. Putting it at the top of your basements stairs sounds perfect if the coverage is good.

Should the Nighthawk send the line down to the basement switch, or should the router/gateway have one port out to the Nighthawk and one port to the switch, leaving all ports on the nighthawk open? Or does this mess with things?

If you're going to do this, you then have to have your AT&T R/G take care of the routing (so you'd turn off the routing for the Nighthawk). Basically, you should* make sure that whatever hardware you're going to be using for a router exists before any split-offs occur. So, you could go:

ONT > AT&T R/G (with routing ON) > basement switch > everything else (including Nighthawk in "dumb" wireless/switch mode and routing turned off)

or you could go:

ONT > AT&T R/G (with routing OFF) > Nighthawk > basement switch > everything else

Note in this second setup, you can feel free to plug additional things into the Nighthawk router on the second floor if that's easy for you; once it's gone through the router, there's no difference really between the ports on the Nighthawk router and those on your basement switch.

I can't think of a good reason why your co-worker wants to ensure that all traffic flows through your basement switch. If they have a good reason, you could go with their plan and it should work just fine. If it turns out that this is important for a real reason (I'm skeptical), make sure that you turn off the wireless access on the AT&T R/G since that would be traffic that wouldn't pass through the switch.

*I'm not sure if it has to happen this way, but it would be sort of weird and non-standard and maybe break things if it didn't.
posted by Betelgeuse at 2:37 PM on July 2, 2018

I totally missed that rbf1138 has 2 actual routers... one Nighthawk, and one from AT&T so that with the ONT (whatever that is) there are 3 things not 2. (I thought your use of R/G was confused or confusing or you're just using those words not the same way that I would use those words.... my bad. (lol))

My question now would be sorta two (or more) fold:
Is the AT&T router needed to make the ONT work?
Which is the better router? The Nighthawk or the AT&T one?

(Now that you're wired.... you can always change things later.)

ONT -> router -> patch -> switch -> (up everywhere; Ubiquity(s)). It's sorta 'do you have to use that AT&T router?' and 'do you want to use them both anyway?'.

Betelgeuse came really close (and does it better) about the 4-ish basic things you're dealing with and which box does which.

Me sticking my nose in after telling rbf1138 that they should ask mefi again because I know nothing about itty-bitty routers and switches and ubiquity.... I think we (over) covered various sorts of scenarios (except I totally missed the AT&T router thing).

To me it's like: Is the ONT a standalone dual-port media converting switch with possible minimal L3 functions that's provisioned by upstream probably via MAC address or maybe just even physical port (cable modem like).... or do you need the AT&T router because the ONT is really some sort of extended interface that needs that router to work.
I have no real clue what Ubiquity APs are capable of. The physical plant is as cromulent as constraints allow... there's a pull-cord in that conduit (heh). I'm really leaning towards ditch the AT&T router.... :P
posted by zengargoyle at 9:35 PM on July 2, 2018

Response by poster: @zengargoyle

Yeah, the AT&T will be put into DMZ+/bridge mode for sure. I'm pretty sure the ONT has to go to that at the very least, it can't be cut out of the equation. Then I'll connect to the Nighthawk to be used solely as a router, with wifi disabled. The Ubiquiti Pro should be plenty for my 1800 sq. ft. house, and if not, I'll buy a Ubiquiti Lite for upstairs to cover the wifi up there.
posted by rbf1138 at 7:09 AM on July 3, 2018

Your last comment looks good. Square footage matters less than the number of walls your WiFi signal has to go through, and whether they’re wood or steel stud construction, etc. An AC Pro can handle 1800 sqft with a few clients no problem and indeed just works.
posted by suedehead at 8:08 AM on July 3, 2018

Cool. Hopefully last points based on new understanding and my past AT&T dealings (DSL land).

I hope your AT&T router is better than the one I had. Bridging didn't work well at all. Bridging also broke IPv6 connectivity. AT&T IPv6 (in my case) was done in a way that's OK for them but made it impossible for me to work around putting that possibly crappy router into bridging mode AND keeping AT&T IPv6 working or even going 3-rd party for my IPv6. Piss-poor router. Hope yours is a better router.

And you didn't mention IPv6 or things like phone service over the same devices.... yadda yadda.

I have a long AT&T DSL story that ends in me being on cable and you can possibly imagine how some of those conversations went because I was really used to calling somebody up and giving them a circuit number and going "fix it". (heh)
posted by zengargoyle at 11:19 AM on July 3, 2018

Response by poster: I have no (and have no need for) other services over my AT&T lines. How do I check IPv6 is working? And if I don’t even know what that means, does t mean it really doesn’t matter for me? What current internet activity am I missing out on without IPv6?

FWIW, the model gateway/router I have is the 5268AC.
posted by rbf1138 at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2018

ONT -> AT&T router -> desktop.... make it work then visit: Test your IPv6.. If you haven't done anything to turn it off on your desktop and it's not ancient... it would probably work... if AT&T is providing IPv6 in your area.

Missing out or not... hard question. But mostly unless you're terribly interested... you won't notice. But you get the idea that your ISP is only giving you a single IPv4 address and the router is doing NAT? Working IPv6 is you get a whole network (of 2**64 or so depending but huge-number) of addresses where you could make every device in your home directly accessible from the internet without futzing with NAT and port forwarding on your router. It's more you can use it if you've got it and my fear that if you have it and you put that AT&T into bridge you might lose it.

Otherwise, the one real benefit sometimes... if you can do IPv6, and the servers you connect to can do IPv6... sometimes it's faster just because the rest of the world cant. And sometimes IPv6 works when IPv4 is down. But a lot of that is knowing about both 4/6.

OMG I should totally try to bring back IPv6 over cable.... smacks forehead That I haven't yet probably says enough about if you'll miss it. :)
posted by zengargoyle at 3:58 PM on July 3, 2018

You should have lead with that 5268AC description. That explains many things to the point that now I'm really confused at what your ONT is.

You have:

• Bonded ADSL2+/VDSL2
• Gigabit Ethernet WAN
• HomePNA 3.1 coax port # coax as distribution layer
• 4 x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports
• 5 GHz 802.11ac 4x4 MIMO Wi-Fi
• 2.4 GHz 802.11n 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi
• 2 x FXS (VoIP) Lines
• USB Host Port

You have probably bonded XDSL on unknown media (probably a phone line or two in different form-factor) and a fancy DSL modem. I don't know the physical form-factor that AT&T is delivering your XDSL.... and I have no clue now just what you mean by ONT (and I'm insanely curios to figure out that part) because it's just a jack in the wall or a media converter and now I'm a bit more certain you could pull that ONT down into the basement (unless that last X feet is a problem).

I thought this gig was fiber
posted by zengargoyle at 9:49 PM on July 3, 2018

Forget your previous plan. Your best option at the moment is to use your AT&T DSL router as intended and use the nighthawk if needed in dumb mode as a switch. New information, you're crossing the streams and you can't really put a device in bridge mode and have it be and AP that is impossible (if the device is a bridge it can not be an AP, It can.... but that the same thing you don't want to worry about now).

ONT (whatever) -> AT&T router (all in office...). One LAN port of router down the wall to the switch. Ubiquity from the PoE switch as planned. Forget about the nightwing for now. Bridge mode and DMZ are a world of hurt. Make the simple work first and you can mess with it later.

Or... put the AT&T in full bridge mode (forget about DMZ, you don't have one) and then use the nighthawk for router/AP. You don't want to cross those streams now.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:16 PM on July 3, 2018

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