Thursday, June 5, 2008

Home network topology recap

Back when I started exploring options for home networking, I pretty much concluded that WiFi was the best option, or rather the only cost effective solution for me at that point in time. (*) I was up and running very quickly as all it took was to setup the router (I had an existing 802.11g device) in a suitable location (I have it in the living room) and configure the clients for access (a PC in level 2 master bedroom, and a laptop that is floating).

However, the results was less than satisfactory; I had large dead zones and weak spots all over the house. My PC (in level 2 bedroom) could only connect at 2-5Mbps stable and my laptop failed to connect at level 3. Even when I had clear line of sight between the client and the router (my laptop was just sitting on the opposite end of the room from the router), large file transfers to/fro my NAS (which has a direct connection to the router via cat 5e cable) via Windows Explorer would fail at times due to interference from neighouring APs.

In late January, I managed to get hold of a pair of homeplugs for just S$50 as part of the mioTV signup bundle (*) and that fixed my connectivity issue with the level 2 bedroom PC. I am now getting a stable connection at speeds of 80-90Mbps.

I did not stop there as I still needed to have connectivity on level 3. So I upgraded the router to one with MIMO technology, built-in amplifier and high-gain antenna. (*) That did solve the problem somewhat but stable speed at level 3 open areas was still hovering around 5.5Mbps and I still have dead zones in critical areas like my study.

Since the homeplugs are doing a good job, I decided to go hunting for a few more. I also figured that there will be people trying to cash in on the MioTV offer so I can probably get a few cheap. True enough, I found quite a few brand new sets in HWZ marketplace and I managed to grab one set for S$100 earlier this evening. Just for comparison, normal retail sets are going for S$180 at Challenger. At S$50 per connection, it is still alittle on the expensive side but TCO is still lower than the other options.

This pair of homeplugs are being deployed as follows: one is used to hook up the XMBC located in the lvl 3 den and the other will be connected to a 4 port switch in the lvl 3 study serving another PC and the printer.

In summary, my home network now comprises of a core backbone based on 4 homeplugs (real world throughput around 80Mbps), a satellite switch (the 4 port 100baseT switch) in the study and another switch (the 802.11g MIMO WiFi router com 4 port 100baseT switch) in the living room. And lastly, I still have the patchy WiFi coverage for mobility and low bandwidth scenarios.
What's next? Hmm.. maybe explore using directional antenna to extend my WiFi range to the pool so that I can get online while lounging out by the pool :)

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