What do I need? Have ethernet-cabled house and confused.
November 14, 2019 1:11 PM   Subscribe

My new house is wired up with Ethernet jacks. But I can barely get a Wi-Fi signal on the top floor — the Wi-Fi Modem is on the ground floor. I need a device to plug into the Ethernet jack to get Wi-Fi up there. I can plug in my laptop directly and get online, so I know it works. Googling has only confused me as I do not think I need a Wi-Fi range ‘extender’. What do I need exactly? What it the device called? Thanks for helping me to untether myself.
posted by Lescha to Technology (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
A wi-fi 'extender' plugs into your wired network and broadcasts a wi-fi signal to parts of the not necessarily covered by your wi-fi router. A 'repeater' picks up a wi-fi signal and rebroadcasts it.

If you have weak wi-fi and a cable that runs from the wi-fi router to the affected area, you want a 'wi-fi extender'. The device you linked to should do what you need.
posted by hanov3r at 1:28 PM on November 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


You want a second access point, using the ethernet as its backhaul, and a mesh network so all the APs are broadcasting the network (or else two different networks on different wifi channels so you can pick between them.)

The "extender" language is used loosely, some of these are additional APs, some of these are mere repeaters.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:43 PM on November 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


I use a product called Eero to solve the problem you're talking about ... in my plaster-wall, weird-layout house it works great. Not sure if that's an extender or a repeater, but it does the trick.
posted by mccxxiii at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2019


In addition to the wifi extender, or another wifi access point you need to get the Ethernet working.

The wired Ethernet jacks should all run into a closet/utility room somewhere, you will need an Ethernet Switch with enough ports to plug into all the jacks to get the ports alive and talking to each other, if there isn't one installed already. If you just want the one jack upstairs working you could run a cable from your router to that port in the utility room by itself, and skip a switch, but switches are cheap.
posted by TheAdamist at 1:53 PM on November 14, 2019


Here's an early 2018 article talking about the choice between adding an extra AP or transitioning to a boxed mesh solution, and here's a late 2018 PC mag review of mesh options. Those devices likely have newer versions by now, but the basic points of comparison should hold.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:53 PM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


you will need an Ethernet Switch with enough ports to plug into all the jacks to get the ports alive and talking to each other, if there isn't one installed already.

True, but OP has it that the upstairs wallport is currently active, so the switch part is handled.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:00 PM on November 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


Sounds like you need to figure out how the ethernet jacks are wired within your house. Usually the cables from each port in the rooms would meet in a single spot, like a utility closet. You need to take the wired connection coming out of your modem to that central place, buy an ethernet switch, and then you'll be able to send the ethernet signal to your various rooms.
posted by homesickness at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2019


snuffleupagus has it correct. +1
posted by humboldt32 at 2:03 PM on November 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


If you have working ethernet you do not need any complicated mesh network. It sounds like you have working ethernet. You just need a second wireless access point, "an AP". You already have an AP built in to what you're calling your Wi-Fi Modem (usually called a wireless router). You need a second AP plugged in to the ethernet upstairs. Give the second AP the same SSID name as your main wifi network and you're done. Your phones and computers should automatically use whichever AP has the better signal. (Old devices may be stubborn and stick to whichever AP they connected to first; quickly turning their wifi off and on will work around that.)

I like the Ubiquiti Unifi access points but they are expensive and a bit overkill for a simple home network. If you want something cheap the Netgear AC1200 looks plausible to me. Whatever you buy make sure it supports 802.11ac, that's the current modern protocol. The "1200" in "AC1200" means it supports 300Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 867Mbps at 5 GHz (300+867 = 1200 if you failed math and work in marketing). AC1200 is plenty fast enough although bigger numbers are better.

If you really want to save money, most old wireless routers can be repurposed to work as access points by turning off their routing functions. Any old 802.11n device will work OK too, but not as well as 802.11ac.
posted by Nelson at 2:05 PM on November 14, 2019 [10 favorites]


A wi-fi 'extender' plugs into your wired network and broadcasts a wi-fi signal to parts of the not necessarily covered by your wi-fi router.

Different manufacturers use "extender" different ways. The big players tend to use it to mean a completely wireless device that acts as a router, as opposed to a repeater which acts as a bridge.

In this case the OP could try plugging the device above into just a power socket on an upper floor of the house (where the wifi signal is still good) and using it as an extender or repeater ("booster"). Or they can go with the plan of plugging it in to the ethernet jack in the attic in which case they’ll want to use it as an access point to create a new network. The new network can have the same name and password as the downstairs in which case the laptop should just connect.

The device above is capable of doing any of these (as well as doing your taxes).
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:14 PM on November 14, 2019


You can check with your internet provider. I have Xfinity and they have pods you can buy to extend wifi (or whatever the correct word is). I bought a 3-pack. They work seamlessly and totally solved our spotty internet issues on the second floor.
posted by JenMarie at 2:54 PM on November 14, 2019


If you have ethernet cabling, at the internet access there should be a port to plug in the ethernet cabling. Then, get an ethernet cable, and plug youe computer into the ethernet wall socket. Most contemporary PCs will have an ethernet port. These ports are distinct in shape from any other port. Being ethernet connected to the internet is much better than wifi. AND totally unconnected in technology.
posted by tmdonahue at 4:31 PM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Mesh adds hops. Hops add latency. Latency is death.

In more reasonable terms, mesh solutions are for situations where you need to extend coverage but cannot get a wired Ethernet backhaul to the place where you need an AP. You are not in that situation.

Get one or more additional APs. Set them to use the same ESSID as your existing WiFi, but to use a different channel.
posted by sourcequench at 4:47 PM on November 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


Do you have a single TCP/IP network, with your existing Wireless AP acting simply as an ethernet router, or is your wireless AP running it’s own local IP network with DHCP server?

If the latter, you’re going to need to do a little network reconfiguration in order to get things to work seamlessly, or put up with shifting between access points "by hand".

The reason people buy Ubiquiti kit is that all this network stuff “just works” & they don’t have to worry about it.
posted by pharm at 1:04 AM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


That's really not true about Ubiquiti gear. It's one of the worst systems for "just works" out of the box. However it is possible for someone with a moderate amount of networking knowledge to configure it to work well, and their systems are remarkably flexible and allow for a lot of complicated things. And then the result is very reliable.
posted by Nelson at 6:44 AM on November 15, 2019


I’m probably using a more techy version of “just works” than is appropriate to the context :)
posted by pharm at 6:52 AM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I bought this Access Point to solve a similar problem in my house. The modem and wireless router are in the (finished) basement at one end of the house, and this made the signal on the main level at the other end weak. just had to set up the AP to use the same SSID (instructions were very clear), plug it in to the existing cat5, and plug the other end into the wireless router in the basement. I am using the wall plug for power, but it is able to do Power over Ethernet as well if needed.

the model I bought is pretty basic as we don't do much video streaming or gaming on the end of the house it is used in, so you should look for whatever specs you need.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:01 AM on November 15, 2019


Yeah, Ubiquiti can be pretty opaque.

And I've had issues with some of their APs and/or my EdgeRouter behind them not loving specifically Apple wifi clients that I've never fully investigated. But my stuff is all a few generations old at least.

If you wanted something that had the feature set that Ubiquiti provides but with hand-holding, you're probably talking Meraki (which is an arm of Cisco).

Prosumer mesh network solutions will be less featured but a lot more affordable (than Meraki).

I agree with two APs and not doing an actual mesh in this circumstance. Probably whatever will play nice with the router and switch in place is going to be best for the OP, so knowing what's installed would be helpful.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2019


If you have working ethernet you do not need any complicated mesh network. It sounds like you have working ethernet. You just need a second wireless access point, "an AP". You already have an AP built in to what you're calling your Wi-Fi Modem (usually called a wireless router). You need a second AP plugged in to the ethernet upstairs. Give the second AP the same SSID name as your main wifi network and you're done. Your phones and computers should automatically use whichever AP has the better signal.

This is the correct answer.

Mesh network is overkill. Extender/booster/etc are marketing terms, not networking ones. Whatever your ISP sells is probably way more expensive than it needs to be.

I just get old routers from the thrift store for this purpose. Set the wifi same as your other one, disable DHCP/etc. and.. that's it.
posted by bradbane at 7:02 PM on November 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yeah there's so much advice here from people who didn't even bother to read the question or just bad advice in general.

What bradbane just quoted.
posted by turkeyphant at 12:05 AM on November 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you probably need another AP in bridging mode plugged into one of those working ethernet ports that you have configured the same way.

I can come up with dozens of other special cases and gotchas because... (ex university network engineer) I've done much more complicated deploys and don't know enough about what you already have.

Wifi extenders could be useful because the wifi would be the exact same wifi as configured on the router+wifi. An additional AP in a bridge mode would be nodes on the wired side of the router+wifi that is currently in place. This may or may not make a difference in your case. You may have a modem and a router and a switch and an AP (connected to the switch) and your current wifi might be the same as your wired network already.

It really comes down to which device is handing out addresses and routing traffic and which device is providing the physical layer (wire/wifi) and where that interface lies.

With a wifi-wifi 'extender' which would only need power and not be plugged into an home ethernet jack, the wifi would be the exact same wifi as the wifi you already have (with a hop over wifi). With an additional AP acting as a wired to wifi bridge, the new extended wifi would be a part of the wired side of the original network. If your current wifi is already just a bridge from the wired to wireless, then an additional AP would be exactly the same. Theoretically you have to take into account the all-in-one modem+router+wifi setup of consumer networking.

This is where if it is an all-in-one setup, provider solutions to expanding wifi might integrate more seamlessly. A monoculture of wireless integration can bypass the difference between an AP bridge on the wired port and the internal AP provided transparently.

Overthinking... :) If you can plug in to an ethernet jack and things work... get an AP and set it to bridging and it will be the same and plugging into the ethernet jack. Make sure you disable/don't use the dhcp/nat/router part of the new AP. You just want it to turn the plug in the wall into wifi, all stupid like. Don't let it be another router.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:31 AM on November 16, 2019


Nthing that if you have a *working* ethernet port (i.e. you can plug your computer directly into it and get internet while the computer's WiFi is turned off), what you want is a Wireless Access Point (AP). It will plug into the Ethernet jack, and you can configure it with the same wireless network name (SSID) and password as your existing WiFi network.
posted by Aleyn at 11:53 AM on November 16, 2019


« Older ISO a FODMAP Navigation App   |   Mandalorian-Themed Cocktails? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments