Updated: Apr 3
Home networking became "Preoccu pazione principale" for "she who must be obeyed" and I, as February of 2020 dawned on us, just as the whole bizarre COVID thang became a live Black Mirror reality show we were all living through in slow motion horrors.
The home network was one of the few things I could control with a high quality of functional satisfaction that at least gave us the mirage of being in control of something in our respective lives.
It did in fact serve up a large slice of salvation to a large degree for me at any rate and it was the highway to relative sanity.
I was already in seven shades of hell when COVID came a calling.....
Turns out that this home networking action is also great Sado-Masochism stuff that legends are made of by the way!
In the face of all of the uncertainty and my en-point suspicions around a temporary 2 week stay at home thing becoming a de-facto epic a year or more long, I determined that I needed to go out and get some serious home networking gear “Pronto Maximus” before massive demand made the networking goodies as scarce as rocking horse poop while the masses woke up to what was coming and reacted en-masse like hordes of Huns invading Rome.
Bun fights for basics in Safeway or Best Buy aisles is just not my cup of tea.....it must be said……I guess I got all of that pent up anger out my my system playing rugby till my mid thirties.
Bun fights actually happened in all my local supermarkets for toilet paper and paper towels days after my networking goodies arrived back in the mid March time-frame of 2020.
I can vividly recall walking down the aisles of some 40 odd East Bay supermarket stores back in March of 2020 to witness for myself what I had heard from incredulous neighbors regaling me with stories of the selfish panic buying of these items that was going on and the fights that broke out between the selfish specimen scooping up everything and others complaining about this sort of greedy behavior.
I long ago installed gear at home to make TP a relic of the past and marveled it was still a thang...? Ever heard of a Bidet chasps? A Toto Toilet maybe?
Neway, based on said uncertainty that was in abundance I knew that this squeeze on goods situation I saw coming was for sure inevitable and already restrictions on what Amazon was shipping then was all being prepped and classified as "critical" for US government use only on many of the mainstream shopping web sites.
I know a good few web developers who work at Alphabet who passed this alarming fact on.
Everything for a short while was categorized as "Government Protected" and we could not get any of these items for a hella long time.
Can you believe Amazon has now become the direct "strategic supplier" of goods to the whole US Government???
Toto Neorest NX for civilized folk..
Fun fact - there was once actually a document written by the US Government that absolutely "Forbade" the practice of acquiring things from Amazon that they blithely ignored because they all failed to plan for emergencies.
I bought my new NAS and Network goodies just before this Amazon lockdown became the way it was.
Yes, sadly, I too buy from Amazon......But I am going out of my way to buy from the other retailers as well these days now that Fry's is dead.
This blog focuses mainly on the subject of home networking and how to get yours into business quality shape.
I advocate getting your computer related goodies from Best Buy or Newegg just to give Amazon some competition en route....Even Walmart stocks some of this stuff at great pricing levels as well so there are many options available to you online.
The types of houses and apartments I have architected networking solutions for vary from very small apartments to large multi-level houses by the way.
Our own home in Northern California is a 2 level KB homes affair covering some 3200 Square feet and another 1200 feet in the back yard.
Now be aware that this Home networking lark is fraught with all sorts of misty foggy and very grey terms and technology features that the ISP's themselves do not actually support.
There is a lot of deliberately misleading claims printed on the boxes of these Home Networking thangs by the marketing folks at the companies that make them, so be very careful you understand what they are saying and what you are actually getting into here.
SRR - Some research required....
What is important to remember is there are three general areas of networking technologies at play here in a home use network setup for Xfinity or COX.
The first one is what we call the WAN which is your internet connection from your ISP via DOCSIS 3.1 cable technology which in theory can get to speeds of 10 GB/s but which is a standard 1 GB/s for most home use scenarios in LA or the Bay Area.
Sadly, data going the other way (uplink) on DOCSIS 3.1 is a very poor 42 Mbps max.
This is why DOCSIS 4.0 has me trembling and quivering like a leaf in a force 10 hurricane in eager anticipations.
That deal is bringing 10 GB/s download and 6 GB/s upload speed to the masses and best yet, it has been ready to roll for 2 years while they test and play with it.
Well that is to say thisis what DOCSIS 4.0 can deliver.
I hear Comcast have been testing devices that deliver 6 GB down and 4 GB up.
My next upgrade will be a new DOCSIS 4.0 cable modem and a WiFi 6E mesh network pack from eero.
I hope these will start to appear in 2022/3 as Xfinity and COX roll out the technology here and there but for some reason there is a lot of foot dragging going on by these guys.
I hear it will be $300 a month for the pleasure when it does eventually arrive....
I was planning to go with the CM2050v and a nice new orbi 6E mesh networking rig but I will stick with what I got for now and wait for DOCSIS 4.0 or get ne an eero PRO 6E two pack with a CM2050v.
I already have 8 x 6e client devices as of today just waiting………
There are currently no DOCSIS 4.0 devices on the market. we can expect to see prototypes this year and products next year. But as I discovered recently they are dragging their feet for some bizarre reason.
When DOCSIS 4.0 capabilities begin to appear in networking hardware, it will be important to remember that its purpose is to future-proof these devices, not to immediately enhance them.
Even without a 10 Gbps internet offering, however, this protocol improvement means customers will be sharing more bandwidth with the same number of people, which can dramatically improve WiFi performance during periods of heavy usage or traffic.
Meanwhile back to the three areas of networking at play I was attempting to discuss.
The second area at play with respect to home networking is on the WiFi (WLAN) Technologies side for the clients (compute devices) that use WiFi.
The third area of focus is the network link between the DOCSIS 3.1 Modem and the WiFi device (LAN).
This can be as simple as a single Ethernet Cable that connects them or a Networking switch they both connect to. The important thing here is what type of Ethernet connection it is ( 1 GbE or 2.5 GbE M-Gig).
This is interesting because all this technology has come a long way from the first simple single radio WiFi 1 stuff that came out at 2.4 GHz way back when.
Cisco made the 5 GHz WiFi stuff dedicated to voice based traffic a thing, then the chip manufacturers started to combine 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi stuff and then WiFi 4 was a thang with the antenna technology getting better with MIMO technology et al.
After that came WiFi 5 and now WiFi 6 and its variants to the current WiFi 6E stuff that is now the cutting edge of wireless action.
Wi-Fi 6 is the Wi-Fi Alliance’s new consumer-friendly name for the IEEE 802.11ax standard.
The 802.11ac standard has also been renamed Wi-Fi 5; 802.11n is now Wi-Fi 4.
The purpose of this new naming scheme is to make it easier for the general public to identify device generations without remembering the complex 802.11 alphabet soup.
Let me highlight that WiFi 6 is NOT the same as WiFi 6e so make sure that the WiFi device you are considering specifically has WiFi 6e printed on the box if you have not bought the latest stuff yet.
Mostly empty save for emergency broadcasts, that 6 GHz band is more than twice as wide as the 5 GHz band beneath it, with enough bandwidth for up to seven (7) non-overlapping 160 MHz channels.
In layman's terms, if the 2.4 GHz band is akin to a one-lane country highway and the 5 GHz band is a three-lane interstate, picture the 6 GHz band as a shiny, new seven-lane superhighway, and only 6E devices get access to the onramp.
As such I am of the opinion that there is not much point buying Vanilla WiFi 6 AP's these days if you can get one that can flash firmware to make it full WiFi 6e capable later.
It needs to be WiFi 6e capable.....If not hold off your purchase for a while longer as this is starting to get real interesting.
The fly in the ointment with WiFi 6e is there are not many clients that sport the ability right now.
For some reason making WiFi PCIe NIC cards has become a very niche zone for DIY home builders to play with due to the limited WiFi NIC manufacturers these days but 6e seems to have stirred these sleeping OEM manufacturing giants from their slumber.......
A Samsung S21 Ultra smartphone has WiFi 6e capability so that device could benefit greatly.
Yay for me, as I have one!
Most my Wireless clients in my collection of various computer devices however were 802.11ac which is vanilla WiFi 5 fare.
I bought some OKN 6e PCIe adapters from Amazon while writing this the other day - while doing some Amazon ferreting around for clients that supported 6e and Bluetooth 5.2 with Intel chipsets and drivers.
Do not buy the cheep chinese junk. The good ones are $45 and northwards....
I went for the better ones as reported by various reviews on some technical media comics that are online these days - I have links to my fave ones in this blog you can click on.
This all went so well that I have all of my seven AMD Ryzen workstations off of my Ethernet switches as the Zoom tests went very well Indeed.
I even got "She who must be obeyed" off of Ethernet as well.
The WiFi 6e side was good and the zoom sessions are great, what is not so great is the bluetooth pain these devices bring.
Also shod with an Intel device and drivers for BT, as the WiFi piece is, the Bluetooth stuff is pretty ugly.
There are also bizare OS power saving antics to deal with that make BT devices lose their connection which you can never restore after they come back to life from sleep or hibernate.
I had to install UBUNTU 21.04 to see the rapid PCIe resets the BT side of the equation was generating with the cheep cards. So not a fan of the cheep stuff and I sent them back and bought the expensive ones instead!!
If you care, 20 minutes with a soldering iron may fix the issues..
WiFi 6e Data transmission rates using mesh networking technology can be as high as 10.8 Gbps depending on the chipset used in the particular WiFi device model you are looking at.
The Wi-Fi 6e specification made its debut on consumer devices in the spring of 2021.
In addition to lowering a router's latency to create faster network response, Wi-Fi 6e added more than a gigahertz of fresh electromagnetic spectrum space in the U.S - ranging from 5.925 GHz to 7.125 GHz.
This additional block of spectrum, generally referred as the 6-GHz band, allows routers to create an extra 14 data channels that are 80 MHz wide or as many as seven heavy-duty 160-MHz-wide data channels.
In the real world, this means that an online gamer or an augmented-reality-goggle wearer can now grab a 160-MHz channel without starving the rest of the household of data.
Virgin territory as far as Wi-Fi is concerned, the 6-GHz realm helps those who live (and often work) in areas crowded with different Wi-Fi networks, such as apartment buildings.
In other words, if it's hard to get a reliable connection to your router with a 5-GHz network, due to congestion on that band, then Wi-Fi 6e's 6-GHz band will likely work better and deliver more data.
This 6-GHz advantage is also one of Wi-Fi 6e's greatest shortcomings.
Higher frequencies mean shorter range, and the 6-GHz frequency is so high that its range is limited to same-room or next-room connections.
Once you're out of 6-GHz range, the router automatically switches your connection over to a 5-GHz link.
These manufacturers deliberately fudge and confuse these three areas of networking technologies applicable to the home networking technology focus areas used in your home network setup.
The link between the DOCSIS 3.1 modem device and the WiFi device is either 1 GbE or what they call an M-Gig Port that is 2.5 GbE.
When you see a DOCSIS 3.1 modem product that claims your internet can run at speeds up to 2.5 GB/s this does not mean your 1 GB Xfinity internet service will magically start running at 2.5 GB/s, it means it has one Multi-Gig 2.5 GbE port to connect to a fancy dedicated WiFi 6e AP which also boasts a 2.5 GbE port and maybe support up to 2.5 GB/s DOCSIS side speed.
2.5 GbE is a strange non-standard duck by the way. This is generally a point to point connection between two devices each armed with said M-Gig port.
There are in fact switches you can buy that have 5 to 10 ports of 2.5 GbE capability made by QNAP and TRENDnet, amongst others.
These are fine vendors of craptastic level gadgets and they are not good in terms of quality FYI.
Both the DOCSIS 3.1 Modem and the WiFi 6e AP device need to be equipped with a 2.5 GbE M-Gig port for this to even be relevant.
Oh, by the way chasps, the cable you will need to use to connect two devices on that M-Gig port needs to be a CAT 7 or CAT 8 cable. A Cat 6e Ethernet cable will not cut the mustard on that one!! It will work, but it will not work as well as it can on a better cable!
Also bear in mind that technically the maximum theoretical top speed of 6 GHz WiFi is the same as 5 GHz WiFi @ 9.6 GB/s but the channels available to 6 GHz are a wider spectrum with larger channel sizes which translates to a faster connection speed.
Its like a single deck bus vs a double decker bus that travel at the same speed...
The FCC is proposing allowing WiFi 6e devices to transmit in this spectrum without a license but some countries will actually block this spectrum use.
The FCC is still talking about this so devices you buy will probably be using the standard WiFi 6 spectrum until this becomes clearer and ratified.
The United States has now adopted WiFi 6e and this link below has all those countries who are considering or who have adopted 6e https://www.wi-fi.org/countries-enabling-wi-fi-6e .
ASUS is already making a few devices today that have this capability and the NETGEAR Nighthawk 12-Stream WiFi 6e Router (RAXE500) sporting AXE11000 Tri-Band Wireless Speed (Up to 10.8 Gbps) with a new 6 GHz Band with Coverage up to 2,500 sq. ft. and around 60 devices or clients using the 6e technology can be bought if you can find them anywhere.
Just be aware of what networking device goes where and how they are linked to each other speeds and feeds wise.
Also, in general, note that WiFi 6e is in early days adoption phases right now and there will be many changes and software updates in them thangs.
Also I am currently testing 6e goodies in the KB homes setup and the range is dire.
This brings other realities to the table.
Geography Applicable to blog: Entire San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles area including San Diego and Orange County.
ISP's: Xfinity and COX.
Way back in the February of 2020, before the COVID apocalypse of dilly leagues bureaucracy really got to the Ultimate premier league insanity levels, it had became apparent to me that this "event" (sic) was in fact going to be a long term thang to deal with and that working from home aspect needed some care and attention for the lengthy work from home experience I determined with my amazing powers of observation was heading our way like a massive Tsunami.
Listening to all the rhetoric and such with the U-turns per minute made by these bureaucrats gave me that sinking feeling that has seldom been wrong and I lost no time springing into many actions.
As powerless as this situation made us all feel, I could, I reckoned, at least control the work environment at home and make it as kick-ass as I could.
My bad times spidey senses meanwhile were jingling the way Ming the Merciless goes to bat with that Flash Gordon character in some sort of precognitive alarm bell fashion.
The main driver here was that “She who must be obeyed” and I could not conference call at the same time on the home network we had at the time as the VPN software her org uses and our then poxy Xfinity AP/Modem just weren’t besties.
In fact the Xfinity Modem/AP gear seemed to be the sole reason for the sad networking situation and I identified it as the only bottleneck with my sniffer gear pretty rapidly.
Our home networking setup was pretty stable after Comcast engineering initially limited our bandwidth while coping with the new and massive COVID-19 work from home surge that they were suddenly dealing with.
That was OK as we were in an emergency streets war time community pulling together type situation here and there was plenty bandwidth to share to accommodate everyone's needs.
Things steadily got better as Comcast Xfinity got their act together in a pretty impressive manner over the course of the year that followed.
On Monday April 26th 2021 I even got an email from Xfinity informing me that my bandwidth was going up to 1.2 GB/s!!
I am currently wondering deeply about this claim....it did get better though!!
The CM2050V for example claims it can do 2.5 GB/s network speed but this is not on the DOCSIS 3.1 Cable side!
This is on the custom 2.5 GbE port to connect to your WiFi 5/6 AP device that also sports a 2.5 GbE Multi-Gig Port.
Finding one is a not so easy task either!
If you have 100 devices on your home network it for sure is a way to meet performance expectations if you marry it with WiFi 6e. For the rest of us it will not make much of a difference.
I started thinking about DOCSIS 3.1 and 2.5 GB/s and then started doing ad hoc math on the cable side of the equation and was suddenly curious how they could ever go to 2.5 GB/s on that DOCSIS 3.1 coaxial cable.
On the M-Gig side, sure, that is in fact 2.5 GbE.
They cannot deliver 2.5 GB/s for each home user now currently using their 1 GB/s DOCSIS 3.1 based internet services, is the for now short answer.
It is complicated with DOCSIS 3.1 though.......
I hear some customers could in fact get 2 GB/s service on the DOCSIS 3.1 cable but I am not sure how far beyond 1.2 GB/s they can go on that thang...
This 2.5 GB/s speed as stated on the CM2050V box is actually very misleading indeed, it should state 1 x 2.5 GbE M-Gig LAN link.
This is what they call a Multi-Gig port that allegedly supports link aggregation - only some Xfinity folks I know shared with me that the link aggregation referred to here is actually only on the DOCSIS 3.1 side…..? Like how dudes??
Classic deliberate mixing of WAN and LAN terms here.
If you connect a BYOM device with this M-Gig port to another device with a 10GbE port or a 1 GbE port it will in fact drop down to just 1 GbE.
So stating it once again, remember that the "other" device you are connecting to will also need to have the same 2.5 GbE M-Gig port.
Also, the ISP's do not actually support port link aggregation yet.........Funny business on that actually being in the Nighthawk menu options and disabled?
I do want to thank the whole Comcast Xfinity team for their amazing effort during COVID that allowed work from home to be a workable thing by the way.
You Xfinity guys were the unsung heroes of the whole COVID calamity and I for one really appreciate it very much!!
The Xfinity cable modem gizmo Xfinity had initially supplied us with also served as a WiFi router but I had to replace it with my own Netgear Nighthawk CM1200 Modem and another dedicated WiFi 5 mesh device when it became obvious a combined DOCSIS 3.1 and WiFi gizmo was not a grand idea at all.
The Netgear Nighthawk CM1200 allegedly supports up to 2 GB/s data transfer speeds on the DOCSIS 3.1 cable per the spec sheet on the thang and wild "Multi-Gig" fuzzy claims on the box it came in.
The CM1200 has no M-Gig port................
Lots of questions bubble up as a result of this marketing scrambled egg........
Theoretically you could go to 10 GB/s with DOCSIS 3.1 but I doubt they can let everyone have 10 GB/s and more to the point can the CM1200 even go there?
I would seriously doubt it, but then Xfinity is capping the speed for us at 1200 Mbps....
I am still thoroughly confused about dual 1 GB/s claims and link aggregation on that DOCSIS 3.1 Coaxial cable on the CM1200 box though...
As the CM1200 does not have a 2.5 GbE port I assumed the 2 GB/s statement on the spec sheet refers to the actual DOCSIS 3.1 feed or maybe it is in fact on the 2 x 1 GbE ports aggregated together?? The mind boggles...
Seems to me you can never much exceed this 1-1.2 GB/s speed on the DOCSIS 3.1 side of the equation.......?
It would maybe be 2 x dual homed 1 GB links aggregated on DOCSIS 3.1...... If it is dual feed from the Xfinity side my question then is this: where is the second separate coaxial cable feed then??????
That would requires two separate circuits from Xfinity.
This unexpected and apparently unlikely claim of gratis (1.2 GB/s) faster speed from Xfinity has indeed turned out to be the real(ish) deal by the way.
Well, that is to say I am now seeing 923 Mbps throughput on the thing compared to 755 Mbps prior.
I am testing Mellanox MSN4600-CS2F and Spectrum-2 400GB switches so apologize for mixing Mbps and GB terms, I know what I mean…..😎🙈💁🏼
This is pretty good but I still need to expand what this 1.2 GB/s thang is all about at some point in proceedings as well.
Xfinity tell me some 1 GB customers got boosted to 1.2 GB in a few select areas. I am obviously in one of them.
This all means that the CM1200 is the perfect cable modem device for most folks needs so do not waste your money on the CM2050 device unless you have WiFi 6 devices with a 2.5 GbE port.
I actually sold mine and went back to the CM1200 btw....
However if you have voice services you must get the CM2050V gizmo @$249. It is worth it!
The vanilla CM2000 actually does have a 2.5 GbE M-Gig port though...
Only worth doing if you have a WiFi router with such a port on it....
My orbi does not but the new orbi WiFi 6 mesh stuff does...
Initially, as AT&T had allegedly equipped the new homes in Almond Ridge with AT&T Fiber optic to the curb, their Internet service seemed like a no brainer on paper, if it actually was true.
Chance would be a fine thing however….
True to form, in January of 2020 after 2 years of struggles we had been left with no choice other than to abandon our 1 GB AT&T internet service because a. it was not 1 GB and b. It was in fact about as useful as the mammary glands on a near expired Bull.
We called AT&T support a couple of hundred times to no avail before we decided ok, enough already!! We gotta do something about this less than satisfactory non-internet (sic) service.
That "something" was switching back to Comcast Xfinity.
Vote with your feet is my motto, even though we had plenty of reservations about the Xfinity TV service and those Xfinity TV controllers are utter shite, it must be said...
The picture quality is actually AOK but my word, those Xfinity TV controllers have to be the slowest and worst devices man can be subjected to on the gadget front.
They actually went backwards with the new gear controllers!
Serious craptastic level stuff legends are made of no less, in my humble estimation!!
These negative Comcast internet service sentiments all stemmed from our last residence in Danville CA in the Eugene O'Neill national historic site gated community on Kuss road which AT&T Internet services could sadly not reach.
The problem there with Comcast was that the distance to their Central Office junction connection was so bad that the TV looked like grainy static broadcast from the moon but the internet on their DOCSIS 3.0 cable was actually weirdly pretty AOK.
Back then it was DOCSIS 2/3 fare at first and 33/12 Mbps internet service only.
They got it up to a whole 144 Mbps at one point before DOCSIS 3.0 made it a 180 Mbps affair.
We opted for Comcast business internet service at that address because that way Comcast attended to our connectivity issues at the business priority level if we were ever down and we switched TV service to DirecTV satellite TV services on a Satellite dish nailed to the outside of the house for the TV side of the equation with zero problems, so that Comcast DOCSIS 3.0 cable was all for internet (no TV).
In contrast our community here at the converge point of Brentwood/Oakley/Antioch was a new KB homes development in a new suburb called Almond Ridge and our house was built in 2016 to our spec which we moved into just before the Christmas of 2016.
We were hoping for fiber optic cable to the curb here because the area was new and that is in fact what AT&T claimed they had pulled in here but for some reason AT&T just could not provide a stable service that we needed for conference calls or even normal internet and TV service which was subsequently switched by us to DirecTV satellite again because their over the wire AT&T services just did not cut the mustard so to speak for either internet or TV.
At first AT&T claimed they could deliver full 1 GB internet speeds but they simply could not.
They knew it all too well, I later verified.
Hence the insult to the injury so to speak.
I have read an internal report from them that one of their VPs let me read on her laptop.
She has since joined Elon to play Satcom games with Starlink.
AT&T then bought DirecTV who we had switched to for TV service and we were snookered again and I had to deal with them once more.
We were not going there - even if we had to fall back on 300 baud modems or even God forbid, Cherokee smoke signals…..
"She who must be obeyed" works for a large health care org focusing on dental matters and she had worked from home a good few days of the week the 2 years prior to COVID-19 breaking out and is now also working full time from home like me.
I have always been a designated work from home type by the way and have been the last 25 odd years living and working in the USA but as I was at home solo most of the time or in hotels when I was not, the home network gear never got that much attention.
It served our purpose at the time.
"She who must be obeyed" has a meeting and work schedule that is totally nutz IMHO.
She does a lot of Zooming back to back from 8 AM through 5:30 PM.
I had hoped the Xfinity tech gurus would see with their own beady eyes that our internet was not optimal and connect my office upstairs with a gratis Ethernet wireless extender device like AT&T had done but of course once it was installed they then proceeded to worm out of what they said they would do to make it good.
We had told them about our challenges upfront when we started talking to them about our setup and they had in fact come to our home to see how many devices we have that use the internet - at my rabid insistence.
They had of course initially said that this was not going to be a problem but when we started to have dropped calls and the Zoom, Skype and Webex call conferencing software all started reporting the network was unstable, we just had to do something.
This was no different to AT&T...👎🚫😳
So we got on the old Graham Bell to Xfinity to bitch about it a wee bit and they to their credit did send a superb technical type out to look and see what's what the very same day.
He was actually a very nice guy too.
Unsurprisingly, after he counted the devices on our network, he informed me with zero hesitation that the totally poxy Xfinity internet gateway modem gizmo Xfinity had issued us with, which also doubles as a wireless AP, was totally overwhelmed and just not up to the job for more than 5 devices - Max he stressed.
Actually, he said it could do just a single one.
I challenged this statement....
I think its good for around roughly between minus one and say Zero clients or serving as an exotic paper weight in the Tax office.
What pointless and Poxy looks like
There are several technical reasons why this is so.
First off, mixing WiFi operations with DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem technology all in one device causes quite a few technical problems.
WiFi gear transmits signals like a radio does through the air at certain frequencies on various set channels at a set transmission signal power level.
Your neighbors also probably have the same sort of WiFi setup and if you are all on the same channel you will have ugly contention for the same bandwidth and the same channel space issues.
When electronics gear like DOCSIS stuff is too close to the radio signal source, harmonics and their sideband effects and all sorts of freaky RF stuff makes designing circuit boards in these sorts of gadgets a bit of a major challenge.
Xfinity combined DOCSIS 3.1 cable functionality with wireless AP functionality in one gizmo which can only cater to a few client devices that join the wireless communication jamboree that goes on in your home between the wireless access point and each client device seeking internet services - whilst managing contention from your neighbors for said channels and bandwidth while it is at it and is clearly not up to the task expected of it at all.
Those are the PC words for that situation, my own are a tad more colorfull...
At that juncture in the March of 2020, “she who must be obeyed” and I had many, many FREDs that were used for doing our jobs and assorted hobbies from home base alpha.
52 of them in total by my reckoning, but I may have missed a few.
I then had a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 smartphone, a large iPad, two Macbook Pro's, six AMD workstations, an Ethernet NAS and a Huawei MateBook X-Pro that was laptop of the year for 2018, to name but a few of my gadgets.
“She who must be obeyed” has her iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook Pro and her work Lenovo Laptop.
Then there is the Apple TV gizmo, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Sony SmartTV...oh and the Solar panel stuff and the Ring Door bell and the other ring devices out the sides, out front and out back...
Anyways, said Xfinity technical guru gave me a few tips to potentially make things better with what I had and I hauled out my brand new never before used old school Apple WiFi 4 Wireless router that was now a good 5 years old and plugged that in as he had suggested to the above pictured poxy Comcast Gateway modem gizmo in the forlorn hope that it would somehow solve the problem.
This did not make things faster and it was in fact significantly slower but the network was actually much more stable.
This situation changed when “she who must be obeyed” and I were on Zoom conference calls the next day however.
I did not have an issue until she VPN-Zoomed in.
I have told her you can use video on these Zoom sessions for the first few minutes and do intro's, then turn off the video conferencing but she just ignores me.
If you are using VPN plus Video on conference calling sessions by the way you are making the voice and video packets cross the network twice which is not sustainable to the WiFi network‘s stability on such older WiFi 4 gear and the conference call will repeatedly drop while in session.
You should NOT use Zoom or any video conference call meeting software in video mode while on any VPN session on your home WiFi, keep to voice only and the shared screen format for presentations.
Video chews a huge chunk of the bandwidth of your WiFi anything version space and too many people with full video on a huge conference call effects the voice quality..
As such I decided to do what the awesome Comcast technical guy had told me was the choice option, which was getting my own DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem.
This saved us $14 a month as well which paid for the new Netgear Nighthawk CM1200 gizmo by the way.
The Modem box tells you the voice situation at the bottom left of the box (in red).
The Gateway with the voice component built into it is the CM1200CV modem which was $55 more than the CM1200.
I see the new replacement for the CM1200V is the CM2050V gizmo @ $249.99.
V is for Voice services in case you were wondering.
I looked at my Xfinity account and it listed me as having voice services.
The CM1200 is not supposed to work per Xfinity technical gurus but it seems you can provision the data only piece if you have the voice contract and they will actually do it.
At Best Buy I asked them for some advice as the Mesh Networks WiFi 5 gear the Comcast tech told me about seemed to be the way to go and he had mentioned I should consult with the Best Buy resident WiFi Guru on the best one for multi level houses.
After I researched the matter myself for some 4 odd hours on the old interwebs thang and found concurrence with that good advice, with some intense goggling on the Googles, I had some rough ideas about what to look for.
The choices for Xfinity, Cox and Spectrum DOCSIS 3.1 Cable modems are many.
My top 5 DOCSIS 3.1 Cable modem Recommendations are:
NetGear Nighthawk CM1200
Arris SURFboard SB8200
NetGear Nighthawk CM2000
Netgear Nighthawk CM2050
You will notice I do not support any Cable modems that also sport WiFi router capability.
This is mainly because of the AC2350 dual band WiFi chips these things seem shod with, in my humble opinion, truly suck.
I got 20 different manufacturers WiFi 5/6 gear in a big test with a KB Homes development showcase setup in the San Francisco East Bay Area inn 2020 and 2021 and I was not impressed with any of the mixed Modem/AP devices bar the Netgear X4S.
Go with specialist stand alone gear that does WiFi 5 or 6, as it will be better.
Get a decent Cable Modem that does DOCSIS 3.1 action and keep the functions separate, but remember DOCSIS 4.0 is near...
You might think you are saving money by having a combined device that does both functions in one device but these devices are by and large a fat waste of time and money unless you are solo with just one Computing device like a laptop.
They also just do not do what the stand alone devices do with QOS and security functions they serve plus a myriad of other cool features the stand alone devices sport.
The Netgear X4S device does do most functions well but it ain't cheap!! It also has lotsa gotchas. Ones that I could never live with....
For WiFi 5 or 6 routers you can spend a lot of money, the Netgear orbi stuff starts at $385 and goes up to $999.
You get what you pay for with WiFi gear in case you are wondering. Here, cheap is indeed chicken cheep.
Wi-Fi 6 uses Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) modulation, which allows up to 30 clients to share a channel at the same time, thereby improving efficiency by boosting overall capacity while reducing latency.
To cut a very long story short, OFDMA assigns time intervals to clients that allows them to better parse out available network channels.
For example, if one person in your home is streaming a movie and another is checking social media on a smartphone, OFDMA allows a router to assign channels to each device based on when it needs it most.
Wi-Fi 6 also uses Target Wake Time (TWT), which allows devices to determine when they will normally wake up to begin sending and receiving data.
For fancy new home door locks, WiFi 6 is the floor, the minimum entry point.
Do not waste your time on older WiFi gear for these devices. It will work, but sans the features they sport.
Lockly Vision for $399
The new WiFi 6 standard also takes advantage of previously unused radio frequencies to provide faster 2.4GHz performance, and it uses refined bandwidth management to provide enhanced Quality of Service (QoS) options.
Additionally, Wi-Fi 6 offers eight-stream uplink and downlink Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO), which streams data simultaneously rather than sequentially, allowing a more equitable sharing of bandwidth among connected MU-MIMO enabled clients.
Wi-Fi 5 MU-MIMO topped out at four streams. WiFi 6 doubled this to 8 which is why it is kick-ass.
Aside from the capabilities mentioned above, Wi-Fi 6 also offers features like beamforming, which transmits Wi-Fi signals directly to clients rather than over a broad spectrum.
All Wi-Fi 6 devices can also handle WPA3 encryption, which is the newest iteration of Wi-Fi security that'll use features like robust password protection and 256-bit encryption algorithms to make it harder for people to hack into your network.
One nasty surprise I did uncover when using WPA3 - Your network bandwidth starts to think this is 802.11b time again in the 1998 era and drops to 30 or so Mbps......throughput (No thank you!!)...
Your network will also theoretically run faster due to background networking improvements, like support for 1,024-QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), a method that allows more data to be packed into each signal for increased throughput (with WAP3 Off - of course).
This can deliver up to 25 percent more capacity than the 256-QAM method used in most Wi-Fi 5 routers by the way.
All this jargon is quite a lot to unpack, but rest assured that any device you get that supports the final Wi-Fi 6E standard will have all of these features and capabilities in place.
You can still get older orbi WiFi 5 mesh goodies that are still pretty good by the way.
If your use case is for business type action with video streaming and not much in network Game action, WiFi 5 mesh setups are still pretty effective and the price is right as well.
All the new Apple M1 goodies sport WiFi 6 chipsets but not the newer 6e stuff.
Look for WiFi 5 or 6 mesh gear that supports Satellite devices with 2-4 Ethernet ports on them so that you can bridge data over WiFi and then go to Ethernet in your offices and rooms from the Satellite device.
Take note of the WiFi maximum throughput details on the Apple M1 based Macbook Air in the table above by the way.
I bought a couple of AX210 based 6e NICs with Intel chips for both WiFi and BT 5.2 action and tested them with my WiFi 5 RBK50v2 setup.
My M1 Macbook air tested out at 626 Mbps on the WiFi 5 orbi RBK50v2 AP. On 1 GbE Ethernet it could only manage a paltry 260 Mbps.
The two WiFi 6e shod AX210 AMD Ryzen workstations scored 526 Mbps and 1 GbE was between 279 and 426 Mbps…
So I abandoned 1 GbE on all my devices after testing on two went impressively well and believe me my testing had Netgear, Cisco and others bleating that my standard was unrealistically high.
Well, I gotta be happy with it....
The new OKN cards have been stunning on Zoom but one quirk was freaky irksome.
These X210 PCIe NICs also come with Bluetooth 5.2 on the same WiFi NIC gizmo.
Turns out the BT 5.2 thang was an issue for my AMD Ryzen rigs on the cheep cards I bought, because of CSM in the BIOS and the fact there was a reset on the Bluetooth device thousands of times a minute.
I suspected and confirmed poor soldering was the culprit here.
These Cheep Chinese devices often display piss poor soldering work requiring you to resolve the poor workmanship yourself, if you care.
Though I am a pretty skilled solder meister myself from my years in the S.A Telkom Microprocessor lab, I prefer not to on brand new gear and opt for the Amazon returns window at my local Kohl's store instead.
I also found the lack of adequate power for the BT 5.2 chip, which does not come from the PCIe bus, is what is causing the on/off power flipping problems in combo with the truly shite soldering effort.
That combined with the fact Windows 10 uses a 2006 BT driver on a BT 5.2 device, is actually a major hassle.
In fact, the way Windows 10 loads generic device drivers instead of the proper ones is something that power irks me greatly.
I am drifting to Linux as a result and will probably be off of Windows OSes on all my machines as a result of this sort of irksomeness from Redmond.
They took control of the device drivers for Windows a few years back did Microsoft and have failed to do a decent job of it since.
I give them a Double P rating for their effort on Windows 10/11 device drivers (PP) - this stands for Piss Poor by the way.
Pass the salt!!
The Microsoft mouse and keyboard combo I use would randomly freeze for 5 -15 minutes which is how long the on-off switch flip takes the OS to shut down the Bluetooth devices which is mega-irky.
I just loaded the F37a BIOS for Gigglebyte to help solve these issues and had to shut off CSM support which is on by default for some strange and bizarro reason.
I had to turn off all power saving settings in device manager properties on all USB and BT devices in Windows Device Damager as well by the way……super-mega-irky!!
The other fix is the purchase of a double USB header with male USB Power plugs you have to feed back into the computer enclosure from the dual USB ports facing outwards and you then plug in the BT 5.2 power into the small circuit board the header device comes with.
This powers the BT device from the two external USB ports and looks very ugly!!
This means Gigglebyte motherboard power is mega-irky.
Is life not wonderful, with all these little things of irk to irk you off!!
Neway, back to the MacBook gear, the older Intel based MacBooks throughputs are quite challenged when it comes to expected throughput on WiFi 5 or 6 AP's.
My 15“ i9 shod MacBook Pro which is armed with WiFi 5 got 579 Mbps throughput. Below is a table of various legacy MacBook WiFi chips capabilities.
As you can see a 2018 13" Macbook Air is a dog on WiFi and it can only do WiFi 5 and below...
While your Netgear orbi app will test out at 923/42 Mbps if you have a Samsung S21 Ultra and my setup, your collection of devices will only go as fast as the WiFi chip they came with.
That is to say you will not see much higher WiFi speeds than 120 Mbps on a 2017 series MacBook anything...
Zoom works much better with 1 GbE Ethernet switches than WiFi 5 or 6 by the way though it appears these AX210 cards are doing something with the voice and video Zoom traffic to make it work quite well.
Think this is the beamforming tech in action here.
I am not seeing shared screens well in Zoom though but I need a few more sessions to get into this as it may be Teams and Webex related.
My Netgear orbi RBR50v2 mesh master device and its one RBR50v2 Satellite form a WiFi 5 bridge between upstairs where our offices are and downstairs where the TV and media station action is.
Upstairs I plug the RBS50v2 satellite into my Force10 1 GbE switch and all my desktops and laptops are also using 1 GbE via CAT6e cables to plug into said Force10 switch.
When you look at WiFi devices themselves by the way, you rapidly realize there are many technologies and chipsets at play here.
You will see things on the WiFi devices boxes like Dual-Band, Tri-Brand, AC2200, AC3000, AX3300, AX4200, AX5700, AX6000 and AX6600 and such.
What this means is that the radios in the WiFi devices, if it is AX or AC designated can serve WiFi speeds at the number stated after the AC or AX letters in Gbps.
For example the speed of the data in an AC3000 device is 3 Gbps, the AX4200 is a 4.2 Gbps device and the AX6600 can do 6.6 Gbps data transfer speeds on the WiFi side of the equation.
The AC stuff works the exact same way as the AX in terms of speed it operates at.
Do not forget the DOCSIS 3.1 feed coming in from your ISP is a mere 1 GB/s and has nothing to do with the AC or AX WiFi speed at all......
If in doubt ask your DOCSIS 3.1 based ISP what "Multi-Gig" internet means exactly.
In my book multi is more than one, so where is it then?
Where this AX or AC frequency rate on your WiFi mesh device makes a difference is if you have sawn of savages doing gaming between each other in network (WiFi) and not impacting the Internet.
Here, the more bandwidth you have on the WiFi AP side of the equation the better.
Conference calling, gaming and video action can be served in the home network with AX without much impact to the Internet WAN side of the equation.
For this purpose, AX6600 looks most appealing indeed and AX11000 is pure heaven!
The Older WiFi 5 stuff my rig uses is AC3000 based which are Tri-Band mesh radios serving 3 Gbps when you add the three radios capability together and are more than suitable for most home networking setups but not as fancy as the newer AX6600 Tri-Band fare.
It has to be said that the AX series capability with WiFi 6 mesh gear has a large advantage over the older WiFi 5 AC gear mainly due to the six (6) antennae and the mesh capability.
My top 5 WiFi 6 router devices are:
Netgear orbi AX6000 Tri Band Mesh WiFi 6 - 3 Pack ($999)
Meshforce M7 Tri Band Mesh WiFi 6 - 3 Pack ($249)
Asus ZenWiFi AX Tri Band Mesh WiFi 6 (XT8) ($449)
TP-Link Deco X68 Tri Band Mesh WiFi 6 ($280)
Netgear orbi RBK852 - Tri Band Mesh WiFi 6 - 2 Pack ($632)
The sole surviving synapse made an executive decision to go for the CM1200 and the orbi RBR50v2 WiFi 5 system, given that I suspected that we are in home networking realities for the next God knows how long….
I went for the orbi mesh WiFi 5 system mainly because of the Ethernet bridge feature and also because it had Bitdefender security built into it via Netgear Armor which I have found is a pretty cool way to protect devices on your network.
It solved my AV and malware cost control problem.
WiFi 6 was not around in my Best Buy store when I bought my goodies by the way. The orbi RBK50v2 pack was pre WiFi 6 gizmo era.
With Bitdefender activated on these orbi mesh devices through Netgear Armor, this system blocks nasties as you surf the interwebs.
You can now pick up this Netgear orbi WiFi 5 gear for a song and this will do the job well for most folks that just want range and good performance at a reasonable price.
Those new orbi WiFi 6e goodies in three pack form cost over $1000.......(one router two extenders).
Bitdefender also tells you which device doing the web surfing is the culprit when it runs into a malware nasty by the way.
I have seen many people reviewing these claiming this is worthless and irksome but they are uneducated on the subject.
Irksome with the stupid messages for sure!
I have been reviewing AV and Malware software for over 35 years and I believe its a pretty reasonable solution, after testing a good few of them.
It's also one less thing to manage in the home network environment.
I was spending too much paying for Malware and AV software per device with webroot and Spyware Dr.
I saved another $300 per annum minimum doing the Bitdefender thang on the orbi platform.
Sure, the Netgear Armor GUI sucks but the Bitdefender piece itself does the job.
You can send the Bitdefender install pack to any device on your home network from the App on your smartphone too, pretty cool in my estimation of things.
“She who must be obeyed” signed up for the Xfinity stuff without my input but I did not want a combined Cable Modem Gateway that also included a normal WiFi router as apart from the fact none of them work very well, when I was in college studying electronics, RF frequency issues mixed with digital chips were stuff nightmare legends are made of and when I dived into it I found RF is a truly weird and dark art to cater to in digital electronics circuits.
As the system was not delivering I got to undo most of her poor decisions on the details of what we got with Xfinity.