How to wire up your house

UTP_cable

These days, having a broadband internet connection in the home is a given. The immediate concern upon getting such a connection is to ensure that it is accessible from the entire house. I learned it the hard way on how best to achieve this. Here’s an account of my experience.

I have only recently signed up a 200Mbps fibre broadband connection. Before this, i was on a 25Mbps connection, so i was expecting to be wowed by the speed bump. You would have probably guessed that it turned out otherwise. There are a few reasons for this: i use primarily Wi-Fi for access to the internet connection, and i only just found out that even with a decent wireless router with an advertised 300Mbps speed, you will typically get just 30+Mbps out of it. This made me doubt whether the broadband plan i signed up for lives up to the supposed 200Mbps rating. To verify, i plugged into the Ethernet port on the router to check instead of using Wi-Fi and lo and behold, i was getting 200Mbps. This leads me to a very important conclusion: the best way to wire up your house for internet is to do literally just that, wire up your house with UTP cables. The best time to do so is probably before you move into your new home, when you can get it done up such that the cables are hidden in the false ceiling insofar as it is possible, to have minimum use of unsightly trunking.

Another reason my internet connection performance was subpar, especially in my bedroom, was that the wireless router was moved to a less centralized location (due to the fibre terminating point being installed near the main entrance of the house). In fact, i was not able to get a connection at all on my laptop. To overcome this, the two least obtrusive solutions are: use of powerline Ethernet or Wi-Fi repeater. The use of powerline Ethernet is straightforward: just plug one of the pair of adapters into a power point near the router and the other one in the room where the connection is needed, connect the Ethernet cables accordingly and that’s it. In my case, using a pair of adapters that are rated 200Mbps, i was able to get 10+Mbps/20Mbps download/upload speed (upload was faster somehow). In any case, the performance was disappointing. I had to try the Wi-Fi repeater solution.

Nowadays routers mostly come with the WDS feature which allows you to setup the router to become a repeater of another router, thereby extending the range. Unfortunately, most of the time routers of different brand don’t work together. Thankfully, you don’t need to shell out on Wi-Fi repeater products if you already have another router sitting around (and i suspect that’s likely the case for most people, since they’re often given a new router when signing up a new broadband plan). What you need to do is to replace the existing router firmware with the DD-WRT firmware. Doing this is easier than it sounds. Thereafter, configure the router to become a repeater bridge (again this is easier than it sounds). i managed to get this working at one go with my TL-WR841N router. As mentioned in all articles on wireless repeater, the bandwidth will be halved, and i found this to be true, attaining a maximum of 15+Mbps. This still beats powerline Ethernet, and it kills two birds with one stone in that it connects to the main router while also serving Wi-Fi connections, as opposed to powerline Ethernet whereby you have to also connect a wireless router to the powerline Ethernet if you want to enable Wi-Fi connections (resulting in higher electricity consumption also).

Interestingly, with my laptop plugged into the Ethernet port of the router that is performing the wireless repeater function, the issue of bandwidth being halved no longer holds as the Wi-Fi bandwidth is used purely for linking to the main router and the connection from laptop to the wireless repeater router is fulfilled via Ethernet without eating into the Wi-Fi bandwidth. In this case i was effectively getting the same bandwidth i would have gotten if i had connected to the main router directly, which is perfect. In essence, the wireless repeater router became a wireless adapter with a big antenna.

To sum up, use Ethernet cables if you want to make full use of your broadband internet bandwidth. Use a good wireless router to get whole-house Wi-Fi coverage. If these are not possible, consider setting up a router as a wireless repeater.

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