Home Networks

Invest in your home network.  This investment will pay dividends whether you work from home, game, stream content, or just want to monitor and control your home.

For reference, here is what I have:

Internet Service Provider (ISP):  Verizon FIOS (300Mbps)
Router:  Ubiquiti Unifi Dream Machine Pro (UDM Pro)
Network Switches:  Unifi 24 Port POE SwitchUnifi Flex MiniNetgear Unmanaged Switch
Wireless Access Points:  Unifi U6 MeshUnifi U6 Pro

Verizon FIOS comes into the basement where I have the UDM Pro and 24 Port POE Switch from Ubiquiti.  From the switch, cat 5e ethernet cable runs to my access points on the first and second floor along with various rooms in the house.  While I could get away with having one access point (if in the right location), the two ensure I have the best possible coverage for our 5,000 sqft home.

There are several aspects to consider when investing in your network and let’s discuss the four main considerations.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Your ISP is going to set the stage for your experience but in general, having a fiber optic connection to the home is usually the best, followed by cable, and then wireless*.  With that said, the ISP itself must have a good network to enable the best experience and in some cases, your best results might be to go with a wireless provider who has a good network over a fiber optic provider who has a poor network themselves. You can take a look at the Speedtest.Net Market Report.

Most people get fixated on the speed offered by your ISP and while speed can impact your experience, 90% of households do not need nor will notice any benefits from speeds over 100Mbs.  Think of speed as the minimum threshold for a good experience, from there, other aspects such as latency and jitter are going to affect your experience far more than the speed will.  The 10% are those who need to routinely send/receive very large multi-gigabyte files (e.g. videographers and doctor’s who send/receive high resolution images like MRI results).

If you want to test your ISP.  From a device that is physically connected to your router, do a speed test to a service like speedtest.net.  Ideally you should have a speed of 50Mbps or more and a latency (aka Ping) under 25ms.  While I now have 300Mbps, I used to have 75Mbps which worked well for our family of five for years and really only upgraded as when we cut the cord, the price was cheaper to go to 300Mbps than stay at 75Mpbs.  Note the ping listed from Verizon is sub 10ms – for gamers, this is far more important than overall speed!

*Wireless internet service is getting a major overhaul with 5G.  Verizon is leading the charge with 5G Home Internet which will be coming to most locations as 5G Ultra-Wideband and 5G C-Band are deployed.

Router and Access Points

Most ISPs include a router with integrated wireless capabilities and while the latest generation of equipment are materially better than years past, the big issue that affects most people is where their router is placed in the home.  If the router is not in a central and open location in your home, it is doubtful you will have good wireless connectivity.  This alone counts for most complaints at home and the number one investment to make your network better is to have one or more access points in central locations of your home.  Most ISPs offer optional access points that connect to your router but you can buy them separately as well.  

In order of recommendation to create a better wireless network in your house

  • add an access point from an ethernet cable connected to your router.
  • add an access point from a coax cable utilizing MoCA adapters between your router and access point.
  • add an access point using a powerline adapter between your router and access point.
  • use a mesh network.
  • using a wireless repeater <– Really, don’t even consider a wireless repeater.
Mesh networks have gained a lot of attention lately due to their ease of installation/use but are really the option of last resort.  A couple are better than others but in general, you will get a way better experience if you can get an access point to a central location.  As I noted above as well, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES use a wireless repeater – 9 times out of 10, it will make things worse!

Configuring your Wi-fi

When configuring your Wi-Fi, a few tips.
  • Make sure you configure with a security standard of at least WPA2.  If you have mostly new devices on your network, go ahead and opt for WPA3.
  • Go ahead and let both your 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz announce the same SSID (aka Wireless network name).  Doing this will let your devices automatically switch between what is best at the time.
  • For 2.4Ghz channel, only use 20Mhz channel width.
  • For 5Ghz channel, only use 40Mhz channel width.
  • Don’t automatically set your wireless signal power to “maximum”.  Go instead to a medium (or even low) power for your 2.4Ghz channel as you will not be limited by the power of your wireless router/access point but the power of the radio in your phone or other wireless device.  In addition, High or Maximum power just causes issues with your neighbors and vice versa.  

Connecting to your Network

Last item is to connect everything you can via wired connections.  Specifically, this means desktop computers, gaming systems, and televisions.  This will take load off the wireless portion of your network and will yield the best results.

Why do I use Unifi

Without going in to all the details, I find the Unifi line of equipment the best balance between capabilities and ease of use.  For the technical neophytes out there, Unifi might be a bit overwhelming and I would suggest going with what your ISP recommends or what your resident family tech support suggests and can help you with.