Unstable AiMesh Various Questions

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LeBlackNight

New Around Here
Hello. My wife and kids are getting quite frustrated with our "internet connection", and conversely me because I am the person who is supposed to know how to fix it. I am sure many of you can relate. So what's the problem? Instability. Frequent dropouts of the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. Intermittent slow speeds and/or high latency. This leads me to a series of questions on which direction I should proceed. Before I get to the questions though, let me start off with my configuration details.

My house is two stories and roughly 4500 square feet. I have AT&T fiber (1000/1000) and the modem is in my master bedroom closet towards the back left side of the first floor. Signal was weak at front of house, so I went with a mesh setup. I have a GT-AC5300 as my primary node in the master bedroom closet. I have two RT-AC86U nodes as well, one located first floor front of the house on the right side, the second one upstairs, front of the house on the left side. All the nodes are connected with wired backhaul through an unmanaged gigabit switch. The RT-AC86U upstairs uses GoCoax 2.5 MOCA adapter for the wired backhaul to gigabit router. All devices running the latest ASUS official firmware. One other thing that I believe might be important is the number of devices in my home. I have around 65 devices connected at any one time right now, with about 40 of those devices connecting wirelessly across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The wireless devices on the 2.4GHz band are primarily home automation devices such as WeMo, Arlo, Ring, etc., and laptops, Rokus, SmartTVs, etc. on the 5GHz band. If I have left out anything important, please let me know and I will do my best to share that information.

  1. My first question revolves around the hardware. Are AiMesh systems inherently more stable with homogenous setups? If I replace the two RT-AC86U routers with one (or two) GT-AC5300 router for instance, would that help since both the main router and the mesh node will be the same hardware? I also know that the GT-AC5300 is a tri band router with 4x4 antenna arrays for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, while the RT-AC86U is a dual band only with 3x3 antenna array for the 2.4GHz and 4x4 array for the 5GHz. Would standardizing on only GT-AC5300 routers provide any tangible benefits in this regards such as more simultaneous connections or higher throughput? Can I use the third 5GHz band if I went with this configuration?
  2. Second question is in regards to the optimal configuration of the GT-AC5300 router? If what I read it correct, the Merlin (which I used to use before AiMesh) now supports AiMesh? I went away from it because it didn't support AiMesh originally. Would that improve stability over just implementing ideal configuration settings using ASUS official firmware? What are the optimal configuration settings for a AiMesh setup like mine? What is the optimal firmware version of either ASUS official or Merlin (if it does support AiMesh)?
  3. Third question relates to limits of the technology. Can these consumer routers even handle the number of devices I am connecting reliably? I am wondering if I have just crossed some threshold where the router can't keep up with demand and that is contributing to the instability. If this is the case, what router(s) would you recommend that I look into instead to replace my current setup?

I look forward to your responses and appreciate your time and assistance.
 

LeBlackNight

New Around Here
I looked into Merlin firmware, but I do not believe that it even supports the GT-AC5300 router, so in that case I will have to stick with ASUS official firmware.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Hello. My wife and kids are getting quite frustrated with our "internet connection", and conversely me because I am the person who is supposed to know how to fix it. I am sure many of you can relate. So what's the problem? Instability. Frequent dropouts of the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands. Intermittent slow speeds and/or high latency. This leads me to a series of questions on which direction I should proceed. Before I get to the questions though, let me start off with my configuration details.

My house is two stories and roughly 4500 square feet. I have AT&T fiber (1000/1000) and the modem is in my master bedroom closet towards the back left side of the first floor. Signal was weak at front of house, so I went with a mesh setup. I have a GT-AC5300 as my primary node in the master bedroom closet. I have two RT-AC86U nodes as well, one located first floor front of the house on the right side, the second one upstairs, front of the house on the left side. All the nodes are connected with wired backhaul through an unmanaged gigabit switch. The RT-AC86U upstairs uses GoCoax 2.5 MOCA adapter for the wired backhaul to gigabit router. All devices running the latest ASUS official firmware. One other thing that I believe might be important is the number of devices in my home. I have around 65 devices connected at any one time right now, with about 40 of those devices connecting wirelessly across the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The wireless devices on the 2.4GHz band are primarily home automation devices such as WeMo, Arlo, Ring, etc., and laptops, Rokus, SmartTVs, etc. on the 5GHz band. If I have left out anything important, please let me know and I will do my best to share that information.

  1. My first question revolves around the hardware. Are AiMesh systems inherently more stable with homogenous setups? If I replace the two RT-AC86U routers with one (or two) GT-AC5300 router for instance, would that help since both the main router and the mesh node will be the same hardware? I also know that the GT-AC5300 is a tri band router with 4x4 antenna arrays for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, while the RT-AC86U is a dual band only with 3x3 antenna array for the 2.4GHz and 4x4 array for the 5GHz. Would standardizing on only GT-AC5300 routers provide any tangible benefits in this regards such as more simultaneous connections or higher throughput? Can I use the third 5GHz band if I went with this configuration?
  2. Second question is in regards to the optimal configuration of the GT-AC5300 router? If what I read it correct, the Merlin (which I used to use before AiMesh) now supports AiMesh? I went away from it because it didn't support AiMesh originally. Would that improve stability over just implementing ideal configuration settings using ASUS official firmware? What are the optimal configuration settings for a AiMesh setup like mine? What is the optimal firmware version of either ASUS official or Merlin (if it does support AiMesh)?
  3. Third question relates to limits of the technology. Can these consumer routers even handle the number of devices I am connecting reliably? I am wondering if I have just crossed some threshold where the router can't keep up with demand and that is contributing to the instability. If this is the case, what router(s) would you recommend that I look into instead to replace my current setup?

I look forward to your responses and appreciate your time and assistance.
1. Maybe using similar/same router models is helpful, but likely only as this relates to the firmware development, and not using particular models that are troublesome.

The GT-* are more niche products and seem to suffer more issues, so I would not invest in more of them. The AC86Us can do the job, but have had some production issues that could be haunting you... what are their manufacture year and country of origin noted on the back label?

The antenna differences are not critical... 2.4 3x3 and 5.0 4x4 are sufficient.

Dual-band is sufficient with wired backhauls... even with wireless backhauls if not a huge number of wireless clients loading the remote node WiFi.

I doubt that your issue is not enough equipment or WiFi.

2. I would prove your network with stock Asuswrt firmware before trying Asuswrt-Merlin. I doubt your issue is stock firmware per se... the closed AiMesh code is the the same in both Asuswrt and Asuswrt-Merlin.

My install notes cover the basics to consider, but no tri-band detail. Be sure to reset the firmware before configuring from scratch to avoid any undue issues.

3. A wired 2xRT-AC86U AiMesh should be able to handle your clients. You might want to try that... one at each end of level one. This would omit some WiFi and the MOCA link. If you can build this and prove it stable, then you can think about what is left undone... you may or may not need the GT as a wireless node on the upper level. An Android WiFi Analyzer app can help to see WiFi signals around the space... that yours are stable and the neighbors are not interfering on the same channels.

If you rebuild the network, take it one step at a time and let it settle to give you time to confirm operation and to trust adding to it. A 2xRT-AC86U AiMesh is a fairly capable first step for your space. And be sure to evaluate the ISP connection speed/stability using a wired PC from first the root node/router and then the remote node; then via wireless... so you know what you are suppose to see at each point.

Also consider the health of your one wired Ethernet backhaul. Owning a 100' Ethernet patch cord you trust is handy for testing with a different cable... or test the existing cable with a cable tester.

My discussion leans toward removing the GT and MOCA elements to both simplify and reduce variables. You may learn some things and can always reinstate the GT as root node or as wireless/wired remote node. The main point is to identify some practical changes and explore them gradually to see if you can make what you already own work better.

OE
 
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tallmansix

New Around Here
My understanding of AiMesh is that all the access points will use the same wifi channels - if somebody corrects me on that please ignore the rest of this comment.

Therefore my suggestion would be to set things up as I do in my house where each access point is set up as an access point mode rather than mesh mode and I use different wifi channels for each.

My reference for this is https://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-reviews/33208-asus-aimesh-reviewed

Quote from above link " Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios on all AiMesh nodes will be set to the same values as your AiMesh Router... even if you've got wired backhaul between the nodes and router. This maximizes airtime congestion in your network, since every single device can "hear" (and talk over) one another, and there's nothing you can do about it. "
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
My understanding of AiMesh is that all the access points will use the same wifi channels - if somebody corrects me on that please ignore the rest of this comment.

Therefore my suggestion would be to set things up as I do in my house where each access point is set up as an access point mode rather than mesh mode and I use different wifi channels for each.

My reference for this is https://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wireless/wireless-reviews/33208-asus-aimesh-reviewed

Quote from above link " Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios on all AiMesh nodes will be set to the same values as your AiMesh Router... even if you've got wired backhaul between the nodes and router. This maximizes airtime congestion in your network, since every single device can "hear" (and talk over) one another, and there's nothing you can do about it. "
You are correct regarding same channels are applied across an Asus AiMesh.

My neighbor has a Netgear Obi mesh system... seems to do the same thing on the 2.4 band that reaches me.

These mesh makers apparently made a similar design decision to mesh on the same channels.

OE
 

LeBlackNight

New Around Here
Thanks for the replies. Ozark, I will look through the guides that you provided and try to reset everything again to factory defaults and set it up using the options you provided. The conversation about mesh nodes all sharing the same channel in AiMesh mode, does that mean that AiMesh is not a good thing? Or are you saying it would have been better if it automatically selected different channels for each node?
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
The conversation about mesh nodes all sharing the same channel in AiMesh mode, does that mean that AiMesh is not a good thing? Or are you saying it would have been better if it automatically selected different channels for each node?
I think mesh systems use the same channel across all nodes to enable the wireless backhaul between those nodes. I don't know enough to say whether or not that is a good thing or a bad thing except that it is working ok here. And I am glad my neighbors' mesh systems are not broadcasting on more channels than they are.

OE
 

tekrich

Regular Contributor
You cannot beat a manual roaming set up using APs. I tried the AiMesh twice and had exactly the same issues.

So I have one main and AP, with different channels, and adjust the 'roaming assist' to aid the units 'dropping' clients when out of range so as to connect to the nearest one.

Works great.
 

LeBlackNight

New Around Here
Well I am still using AiMesh with all three routers, but I followed Ozark's suggestions and factory reset everything, setup the mesh again and then configured everything per the guide that was mentioned. Going to give it a couple days and see if it is any more stable than it has been. If it helps, I'll run with this. If not, I may try to take the GT-AC5300 out of the equation. If that does not help, I will try what others are suggesting with separate APs on different channels. I had a configuration like this before AiMesh became a thing and I remember the problem being 'handoff'. I would be on my cell phone (which uses WiFi calling at home) and walk from one side of the house to the other and get a guaranteed dropped call for instance. I assume this is still the downside to no AiMesh?
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
I would be on my cell phone (which uses WiFi calling at home) and walk from one side of the house to the other and get a guaranteed dropped call for instance. I assume this is still the downside to no AiMesh?
Possibly so! :)

OE
 

LeBlackNight

New Around Here
Reporting back with my results. I am cautiously optimistic. It took me a while to get everything reset and set back up from scratch with the recommended settings, but it was worth the effort. I I have gone over 24 hours without a dropped connections. The real test will be tomorrow when my kids are back online for school. They were getting random interruptions for their Zoom calls. It is a positive sign though that it has been stable today, so I am hopeful that it will continue to remain stable.
 

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