New Network Setup - Help Needed Picking New Equipment

  itchybumba 01:12 06 Dec 2012


  itchybumba 01:14 06 Dec 2012

Not sure what happened above - i can assure you my post was MUCH longer than that.... take 2:

Hi there,

I need some help in upgrading my home network. I am pretty computer savvy and can generally get things to work but must admit it is normally from following instructions found on the internet and I may not actually know what I am doing – this is especially true when it comes to networking!! I will start by describing current set up and the problems with it and then go on to my thoughts on how I can make it better – I would appreciate some comments on whether the suggested approach will work and if not, can I make it work or is there a better idea. I have drawn a diagram of the current set up which I will work out how to attach and post up tomorrow. I am sorry about my lack of knowledge when it comes to the terminology I use in the rest of this post!

I live in a block of flats where I rent one flat (flat 1 – the one I live in) and have a room in another which I will call flat 2 (I live in the same block as my Mum – sad I know!). My internet connection goes into flat 2 (Virgin 100mb (cable)) and I use the supplied Virgin Superhub. My internet connection must stay in Flat 2 as the room I have in flat 2 I use as a music studio and I do an online radio show each week from the studio and as such it is important that it has a good internet connection. The Virgin super hub is connected to the 2 computers in the studio via 1gb Ethernet LAN (1 ethernet wire running to each) and I am happy with the connection they have. When I am in Flat 2 I normally will also have one or 2 wireless devices with me (phone / laptop / tablet etc) which connect to the superhub via wireless and I am generally happy with the speeds they get.

Separating Flat 1 and 2 there are 2 brick walls and a floor (not sure what the floor is made of). In Flat 1 I have a WN2000RPT (Netgear wireless repeater) located in the place I get the strongest signal from the Virgin Superhub in Flat 2. This rebroadcasts the wireless signal throughout Flat 1 and is the device that for the majority of the time I am connected to. I live in flat 1 so generally when ever I surf on my phone / tablet or laptop it is normally here. My partner and daughter also have numerous wireless devices that unless they go into flat 2 chances are they are connected to the repeater.

In my living room in flat 1 I have an old Linksys WRT54G on which I have installed DD-WRT firmware and I use it in client bridge mode. It is connected via wireless to the wireless repeater. Connected to it via Ethernet cables I have an xbox 360, sky HD box and a WD TV Live Hub.

Things I like about this set up are that everything can see everything – I can send files around and access all shared drives to my hearts content. The WD TV Hub has a couple of USB hard drives connected which I keep all my media on and as such acts a bit like a file server for all the other devices on the network. I also like the way that as both the Virgin hub and repeater have all the same wireless settings I can go between the flats and any wireless devices just connect to the strongest signal. I am also happy with the speeds I get between wireless devices and the wired devices connected to the Superhub (i.e. in flat 2).

What I don’t like are the speeds I get in flat 1, whether that is downloading files from the internet or transferring files between different devices that are connected to the repeater (for example transferring a film from the WD Live TV hub to a laptop connected to the repeater is painfully slow and all too often the connection drops half way through an I have to start again). Also, services such as iplayer on the sky box are too slow bearing in mind the speed of my internet connection (iplayer on a pc in flat 2 is MUCH faster to download the HD content). The speeds I get transferring files from any device in Flat 1 to a device in Flat 2 is also painfully slow.

I am prepared to spend some reasonable money to get this running faster. What is not possible unfortunately is to run an Ethernet cable between the 2 flats and I believe I cant use the ethernet powerline adapters to get a connection between the 2 flats as they both have their own electricity meter. Powerline Ethernet could be an option in Flat 1 though.

Continued below.....

  itchybumba 01:15 06 Dec 2012

So I guess really I have 4 main problems which are:

1) The signal on the Virgin Hub is pretty weak. There are quite a few complaints from various people over the internet about the signal strength of these routers. This is not helped by the fact it needs to push through 2 brick walls and a floor!

2) When any files are transferred between the flats, or multiple devices in flat 1 are on the internet, all this data has to go over the 1 wireless connection between the superhub and repeater, creating a serious bottleneck. I am also guessing that when I transfer a file from 1 device in Flat 1 to another in Flat 1 (for example from the WD TV Live Hub to a laptop that is connected to the repeater) the data is sent all the way to the Virgin Super Hub and then back, effectively crossing the bridge between the 2 flats twice. I may be wrong on this point but it would make sense bearing in mind the awful speeds I get between 2 devices in flat 1

3) The repeater halves bandwidth due to having to pick up the data then transmit it – I think this is a problem with all repeaters

4) The Linksys that is in bridge mode and connects my tv live hub, xbox and sky box to my repeater is an using wireless G which is pretty slow compared to the newer technologies.

If you are still reading I just want to say thanks for making it this far!! Below I detail what I think I can do to make it better and this is really where I need peoples help.

To sort out problem 1 I was thinking of firstly setting up the Virgin Superhub to act purely as a modem and connect it to a new ASUS RT-AC66Us (I will call this ASUS1) via an Ethernet cable which would reside in Flat 2. The ASUS1 would become the new router. I like the feature on the ASUS of being able to access files on the network remotely (access to it via the Apple / Android app would be awesome!) and also the ability to plug in USB devices and share them on the network (printers and hard drives come to mind).

To sort problem 2 I would get another ASUS RT-AC66U (I will call this ASUS2) to go in Flat 1 and put it into client bridge mode. This would mean that the 2 ASUS routers could talk to each other using the AC standard and I think this would go someway to reducing the problem of the bottleneck between the 2 flats. Not so sure if the 5ghz signal would make it through the walls though!! The distance is probably no more than 10 metres. I hear that the newer routers tend to have a much stronger signal and if the Superhub can push the wireless through the walls I am hoping this premium router would be able to.

This is where it gets a bit more tricky. I need to provide Flat 1 with wireless network access which the ASUS2 in bridge mode would not do. None of my wireless devices are wireless AC so I was thinking of getting a dual band wireless N router (will call this N1) and connecting that to the ASUS2 via an Ethernet wire. I am not sure if this would work, but I am guessing something like this would be possible. This router would effectively act as an access point for wireless devices in Flat 1. It would be great if this router would send data the most efficient way so that if I was transferring files between 2 devices that were in Flat 1 the data wouldn’t go up to the main router in Flat 2 and back again – crossing the bottleneck.

Finally I purchase another wireless N router that I put into bridge mode, connect it via wireless to the wireless N router that is in Flat 1 (N1). This would live behind the tv and would replace the Linksys – effectively giving the WD Live TV Hub, xbox and sky box a faster connection to N1!

So this is my rather expensive plan. My main concerns are is it possible to get the bridged ASUS router to send a connection (internet and network) to a router which would then share it wirelessly in Flat 1 or would I need a switch or similar device that I know nothing about!! Secondly, what experience do people have with getting newer routers to push 5GHZ signal through brick wall. I suppose I don’t mind spending the money on these gizmos to get a decent increase in speed across the network – I just don’t want to shell out all this money to get a barely noticeable increase.

Finally anyone got any other suggestions?? Really appreciate any help I can get on this!!

  itchybumba 12:58 06 Dec 2012

Is anyone able to help??? I know its a really long post so here is an attempt to summarise it!

Would the following as a set up work?

Virgin superhub in modem mode connected to an ASUS RT-AC66U. This would be the main hub and connected to 2 PCs via ethernet and put out a wireless signal that wireless clients could connect to. One of the wireless clients would be another ASUS RT-AC66U in media bridge mode. This would then connect via an ethernet wire to a dual band wireless N router / access point which would put out a wireless network to places that the first ASUS RT-AC66U cannot reach.

The idea of this is basicly an expensive repeater but in doing this i hope not to half the bandwidth as i would do with a repeater.

Finally i would have another wirless N router set up in a bridge mode to connect 3 ethernet devices to this second 'extended' wireless network.

Everything should be able to connect with everything else to share files etc... and it would be good if devices connected to the 'extended wireless network' talked directly with each other when transferrring files between them rather than traffic going back to the first ASUS RT-AC66U.

Hope all that makes sense..... any suggestions on a better set up of help is appreciated.

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