January 11, 2017

My House's Network

I thought I would document how my house’s network is set up. It’s nothing special or interesting except for the whole thing is relatively cheap.

Requirements

There are four people who live in the house and everyone has a phone and laptop. Everyone needs wireless access. Other devices that need network access include a desktop computer, a couple of TVs, a Playstation, a Wii, a Chromecast, three printers, and whatever I have going on in my room. The Internet speed here is 40 Mbps down / 5 Mbps up and is provided through a cable company.

My Approach

I really didn’t want to spend a large amount of money. Because of this, I decided against getting 802.11ac devices. I know that everybody likes shiney new equipment, but I knew that nobody would really appreciate the difference. So I stuck with 802.11n gear that I could find for cheap on Craigslist.

Hardware

  • Linksys EA4500 (3 radios, dual band)[bought for $10]
  • Linksys E2000 (2x radios, dual band, gigabit ethernet switch)[bought for $20]
  • Cisco (Linkeys) M20 Valet (2x radios, single band, gigabit switch)[bought for $10)
  • Linksys E1500 (2x radios, single band, 10/100 switch) [bought for $15]
  • TP-Link and Netgear 8 port switches (Gigabit)[bought for $25 each]

Total spent is $105. This gear gives me full wired and wireless coverage of my house for all these devices.

The Setup

I was fortunate that six of the major rooms in the house have been wired with Cat 5e, so building a gigabit ethernet network is entirely possible. The ethernet runs in the wall all converge at a wall plate in the downstairs office. One caveat is that this room is on the edge of the house. All the routers run DD-WRT in place of their stock firmware.

Since the wired cables converged on the edge of the house, I realized that that location would not be ideal for my best wireless access point. I decided that my Linksys EA4500 (3 radios, dual band, best CPU) would be my best wireless access point. Also, the EA4500 was the only router that couldn’t run DD-WRT (or any third-party firmware) making it less ideal as an actual router.

I decided to use my second best router, the Linksys E2000 as my primary router. I located the E2000 and my cable modem (Motorola Surfboard SB6121) in the downstairs office. I also connected one of the gigabit switches to the E2000 so I would have enough ports to connect all six rooms as well as the two printers that are in the office.

I then decided that the kitchen would be the best place to mount the central and primary wireless access point. The EA4500 will go in the kitchen and from this position, should be able to reach 75% of the house. The kitchen is one of the six wired rooms, so connecting it to the main router was simple.

One of the bedrooms in the house is both far away from the primary wireless access point (the EA4500) and far away from the primary router (the E2000). The room is one of the six wired rooms, so I connected the Linksys E1500 to the Ethernet port in the wall. The E1500 will act as a wireless access point, just like the EA4500.

Now, I have three wireless access points in place, (The E2000, the EA4500 and the E1500) I need to configure the frequencies and channels to minimize interference. First, I set the EA4500 to use 40 MHz channels on the 2.4 GHz spectrum and an automatically selected 5 GHz channel. So it uses channel 1 to channel 7. The E1500 can only work on the 2.4 GHz band, so I gave it the only non-overlapping channel left, channel 11. Finally, since the E2000 can work on either band, I have it transmit on an automatically selected 5 GHz channel. There’s no interference in the 2.4 GHz spectrum because all the devices use non-overlapping channels and there’s no interference in the 5 GHz channel because the amount of space is significantly larger.

There is a room with a TV connected to a Playstation, a Wii, and a SFF computer acting as a media player. I configured the Cisco M20 Valet to act as a simple gigabit switch to connect these devices. The Wii only has an 802.11g network interface, so I have also configured the M20 to provide a 802.11g network specifically for the Wii. since this network is on the 2.4 GHz spectrum, it will cause some interference, but the Wii doesn’t get used very often, so I leave this network disabled unless needed.

Lastly, all the devices in my bedroom are connected with a gigabit switch.