802.11AC AP

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802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:34 am

I'll be buying a PFSense router in the next month or so (Netgate APU4) and I want to ditch my old 802.11n DIR-655 router in the process. I see a lot of "enterprise" setups that are significantly more expensive than just buying another router. But I don't want to have to fiddle with another router on top of the new one I'm going to buy. And I'm pretty set on PFSense since I'll be using it as part of my capstone project and I really like the features.

So, does anyone know of a decent 802.11 AC access point I can get that's not a $300 "enterprise" AP or another $150-$200 router? Because either they don't exist or my Google-Fu fails me.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 11:05 am

You should be able to add a wireless card to pfSense to add AP capabilities, or there is the Ubiquiti stuff (http://www.ubnt.com/unifi#apac).
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 11:14 am

PFSense has VERY limited hardware for WiFi from what I read. I thought about building my own box but it was fairly pointless because of the WiFi support being so poor. There isn't any 802.11 AC cards that I know of that are supported.

And that WiFi AP that has 802.11 AC is $300.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 12:58 pm

Why not just get an Asus (or similar) AC router and use it in Bridge mode? Seems like it would be less expensive and no more difficult to set up than the enterprise ones (which only really benefit when there are multiple APs and an abundance of clients)-managing one of either is about the same.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:59 pm

I was hoping that maybe there is a corner of the internet where there exists a consumer-grade access point that costs what a 3x3 router costs.

Consumer routers that face the internet rarely get updates, the process isn't as nice, and they are not supported very long. My DIR-655 was still being made but they stopped firmware updates for my hardware version about a year after I bought it. I like the idea of having hardware that is supported and gets updates. There have been quite a few storied about GNUTLS and OpenSSL this year that make that a greater priority fo rme. PFSense will likely keep updating the hardware well past the next 802.11 WiFi standard/upgrade. If Netgear doesn't, the community image will likely keep going, especially with the box I'm looking at having x86 in it.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 3:01 pm

Losergamer04 wrote:Consumer routers that face the internet rarely get updates, the process isn't as nice, and they are not supported very long. My DIR-655 was still being made but they stopped firmware updates for my hardware version about a year after I bought it. I like the idea of having hardware that is supported and gets updates. There have been quite a few storied about GNUTLS and OpenSSL this year that make that a greater priority fo rme. PFSense will likely keep updating the hardware well past the next 802.11 WiFi standard/upgrade. If Netgear doesn't, the community image will likely keep going, especially with the box I'm looking at having x86 in it.
You could get a router compatible with an open source firmware (such as the Buffalo AC 1750 that comes with DD-WRT installed) and then update it with new firmware releases yourself as necessary.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 3:43 pm

Losergamer04 wrote:I like the idea of having hardware that is supported and gets updates.


Unfortunately, you're describing business-class hardware, with an active support contract.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 4:07 pm

Losergamer04 wrote:I was hoping that maybe there is a corner of the internet where there exists a consumer-grade access point that costs what a 3x3 router costs.

Consumer routers that face the internet rarely get updates, the process isn't as nice, and they are not supported very long. My DIR-655 was still being made but they stopped firmware updates for my hardware version about a year after I bought it. I like the idea of having hardware that is supported and gets updates. There have been quite a few storied about GNUTLS and OpenSSL this year that make that a greater priority fo rme. PFSense will likely keep updating the hardware well past the next 802.11 WiFi standard/upgrade. If Netgear doesn't, the community image will likely keep going, especially with the box I'm looking at having x86 in it.



Sometimes, the hardware itself is the limitation, not the firmware. Like the panic about WEP being so insecure, so we got stop-gap measures like WPA-TKIP. WPA2-AES required different hardware.

Another example would be that some "Wave 1" .11ac devices can't do beam-forming or MU-MIMO, due to limitations in the underlying chipset.

IIRC, 802.11ad is going to require new hardware as well. 60GHz vs 5GHz.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 6:03 pm

The PFSense community supports the hardware I've chosen and I suspect it will be supported for a while with the drivers written and it bring x86. The DDWRT routers don't support all the things I may want to do in the future.
As for the limitations of hardware, that is why I was trying to find just an AP to use and could sawp without changing routers. The only reason to update a router is because of the WiFi. The core NAT/PAT and DHCP features that are at the core of the device haven't really changed in a decade.
If I could just swap the AP I won't have to deal with the reconfiguration when a new WiFi feature is added.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 6:27 pm

Losergamer04 wrote:As for the limitations of hardware, that is why I was trying to find just an AP to use and could sawp without changing routers.
If I could just swap the AP I won't have to deal with the reconfiguration when a new WiFi feature is added.



Ah. You want a 'lightweight' AP (like the original 802.11b APs). I can poke around, and see if Ubiquiti or any other vendors are selling .11ac versions of those.


*EDIT*

K, looks like Ubiquiti's UniFi UAP-AC (*not* the PRO version) is a lightweight radio, and sells for about $325.

Here are the caveats:

1) It requires 802.3at PoE either via an injector or from a compliant switchport. Regular old 802.3af just doesn't provide enough power to the unit.
2) You'll need a PC running controller software from a computer on the same L2 network as the AP, or from an offsite NOC.
3) By using the PC to run the controller instead of the router, you won't see the full potential of the AP. Traffic will flow from the AP to the switch fabric, to the PC, back to the router, then out (and vice versa). Lots of unnecessary traffic, but at 1.3Gbps, you may not even notice the speed hit.


I should add that I used to use Ubiquiti radios (cards, not APs) whenever possible professionally, because they have fantastic receive sensitivity, and plenty of output power.

*EDIT, the 2nd*

Looks like everything below $300 is gonna be your average Netgear/DLink/Linksys type devices. Even the Huawei and Xirrus APs cost $500 and up.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 7:51 pm

Losergamer04 wrote:Consumer routers that face the internet rarely get updates, the process isn't as nice, and they are not supported very long.


What's with the false generalizations? :wink: I have Netgear R7000, it only costs around $190, it gets updates relatively often (last official firmware was released last month) which are VERY easy to install, has an excellent signal strength and range (well, mostly for 2.4GHz signal since 5GHz stuff naturally has a much greater attenuation), it is wall-mountable and you don't really need any "support for very long" if you just need to use it as a "dumb" access point, which you can easily do with this model:

Image


And if you don't like the official firmware for some reason (it does have few bugs and some limited features) - you can always put a custom DD-WRT, which also being updated fairly often.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:13 pm

JohnC wrote:... Netgear R7000...



That's pretty sweet for the price. Just looking over the specs, that looks like a fine little WRAP. Putting it in AP mode should accomplish Losergamer04's objective, like you said.

The only thing that gave me pause was the onboard amplifiers. I'm a little wary of those, since they amplify noise, as well as signal.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:18 pm

Dlink DAP-1665 for $99
Others too:
http://www.newegg.com/Wireless-AP/SubCategory/ID-335

But again, any router in Bridge mode won't be internet facing, so you don't need to worry about updates all that much. Not much more than you would for a switch. Authentication issues and flaws are the only area of concern and usually if there is a hole there they will get updated.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:05 pm

Hi. I'm a pfSense user for the last year or so, love it to bits. I'm also all about getting the latest and greatest Wifi gear. Currently using a WRT600N and E3000 as dumb APs, running DD-WRT.

I haven't seen anything worthy in the 802.11ac space yet, and am mainly posting to keep apprised of responses. I'll probably get some consumer 802.11ac routers and use them as APs late this year or next year. :(

Edit: That R7000 looks really nice. I may have to look into one or two of those.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:31 pm

Hz so good wrote:Ah. You want a 'lightweight' AP (like the original 802.11b APs). I can poke around, and see if Ubiquiti or any other vendors are selling .11ac versions of those.


I had looked at the Ubiquity but it was spendy.

That D-1665 looks exactly what I am looking for, Demani! A simple AP.

Forge, would this not work for you as well? And you may get a PM from me later with questions. :wink:
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 10:37 am

Losergamer04 wrote:
Hz so good wrote:Ah. You want a 'lightweight' AP (like the original 802.11b APs). I can poke around, and see if Ubiquiti or any other vendors are selling .11ac versions of those.


I had looked at the Ubiquity but it was spendy.


Yeah, but you get what you pay for. ;)

That Netgear Nighthawk is a sweet deal, though.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:22 pm

Maybe don't worry about AC. It runs only on 5GHz so the speed drops off with range fairly fast. Unless you have a legit use for a wireless client that will always be near to the access point and the uses are not bandwidth-limited otherwise (ex: your internet connection will be a bottleneck anyway) just get a good N access point.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 7:05 pm

I use Xbox 360s as WMC extenders and I want to remove congestion on the n band for the one I don't have using a power line network adapter. I will eventually wire up my home with CAT6 when I get the time.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 7:33 pm

Losergamer04 wrote:I use Xbox 360s as WMC extenders and I want to remove congestion on the n band for the one I don't have using a power line network adapter. I will eventually wire up my home with CAT6 when I get the time.


We'll all be on CAT9 by that point.

j/k

*runs*
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:05 pm

Losergamer04 wrote:I use Xbox 360s as WMC extenders and I want to remove congestion on the n band for the one I don't have using a power line network adapter. I will eventually wire up my home with CAT6 when I get the time.


I still don't understand how AC matters, especially when you could do powerline networking although I'm sure there's a reason you haven't done that already. First, how far away is it from the intended access point? AC might be no better than N. Also, you will need an AC bridge at the XBox as well. How many other devices do you have on N which make you feel it is 'congested'? Does the XBox only have issues when other devices are using the N network? Also, afaik AC uses the same 5GHz frequencies that N does, so if the congestion is from other networks AC won't help.

I was a little annoyed when AC came out and routers and some devices started integrating it not long after I upgraded my early N router. But then I realized AC is limited in range (a lot of the advantage of AC comes from using wider max 160MHz channels in addition to 5GHz), that it would only matter for intranet transfers and then only for fairly large transfers. I decided that having a very good N router was just as good because the only issues I ever have are at the edge of the range which AC won't change.

But if the point is to get teh new shinies, then go for it :)
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:44 pm

MadManOriginal wrote:
Losergamer04 wrote:I use Xbox 360s as WMC extenders and I want to remove congestion on the n band for the one I don't have using a power line network adapter. I will eventually wire up my home with CAT6 when I get the time.


I still don't understand how AC matters, especially when you could do powerline networking although I'm sure there's a reason you haven't done that already. First, how far away is it from the intended access point? AC might be no better than N. Also, you will need an AC bridge at the XBox as well. How many other devices do you have on N which make you feel it is 'congested'? Does the XBox only have issues when other devices are using the N network? Also, afaik AC uses the same 5GHz frequencies that N does, so if the congestion is from other networks AC won't help.

I was a little annoyed when AC came out and routers and some devices started integrating it not long after I upgraded my early N router. But then I realized AC is limited in range (a lot of the advantage of AC comes from using wider max 160MHz channels in addition to 5GHz), that it would only matter for intranet transfers and then only for fairly large transfers. I decided that having a very good N router was just as good because the only issues I ever have are at the edge of the range which AC won't change.

But if the point is to get teh new shinies, then go for it :)



Some of the perks of AC:

1) Single Channel Architecture (no more MCA)(meaning with multiple APs, the entire network looks like one AP, instead of the cell-based MCA we use now)
2) Multi-user MIMO (up to 8 streams)(my cellphone does 2 simultaneous streams)
3) Beamforming (attempts to "steer" the signal towards the recipient)
4) 160MHz wide channels (you *need* to use the wider channels to see the higher data rates)
5) > 1Gbps aggregate backplane, supporting multiple stations per AP
6) With multiple antennae, channel bonding, and likely multiple radios as well, data rates of up to 6Gbps should be possible (433Mbps at the least)
7) IIRC, they updated the PHY as well
8. You can use the 5GHz channels plus the 2.4 as well, so as you get far enough away from the AP, instead of just losing all signal, the client device will shift to the longer range 2.4


It's true that 5GHz radios have shorter range than 2.4GHz. That's just how it works. The greater the frequency, the shorter the distance. That's why 900MHz signals propagate much further, and why 60GHz WiGig will only have a ~10ft range. Unless you start adding in amplifiers, but that's another story (and also can run afoul of FCC rules).

And you're also correct that the further you get from the radio, the lower the speed will be. That's why even old 802.11b had 4 different data rates, depending on distance. Whenever you see a speed rating for an AP, always assume the manufacturer is talking about being within spitting distance (and LOS) of the radio. With 802.11n, I think the furthest you could be from the AP, and still get the full speed was 40ft. Not a big deal at home, but it becomes very troublesome in larger installs, like I've done. With .11b, since it was 2.4GHz, you could be 110ft from the radio, and still get 11Mbps.

*edit*

I should point out that while greater frequency = shorter range, greater frequency also means faster data rates.

And none of the above gets into the issues of antenna selection, since I'm assuming this is about an indoor home install. Home units tend to ship with 2-3db omnis. You'd need the proper ends, crimpers, LMR-400 coax (10ft per run max), and mounting equipment, but you really can 'shape' the signal and buy yourself a little extra distance by using different antennas.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 10:36 pm

Hz so good wrote:4) 160MHz wide channels (you *need* to use the wider channels to see the higher data rates)
5) > 1Gbps aggregate backplane, supporting multiple stations per AP




I really should've elaborated on these two (doing this off the top of my head).

RE: 160MHz channels, you won't be using those in an environment with multiple APs. You can mix and match, and use a 80MHz channel, and then two 40MHz channels, or 20/40/80, for instance.

RE: 1Gbps backplane - that's only for 'Wave 1' devices. Wave 2 should up that to 3Gbps aggregate per AP.


*EDIT*
Here's a nice overview of what 802.11ac brings to the table.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:29 pm

I understand in general what the differences and advantages of ac are (although some of those things like beamforming are available in certain N devices) but for this specific case I am not sure what the benefit is...the only way it would seem to matter is if he has numerous so many wireless clients on his network that the available bandwidth is saturated. Since he wants one to work with PFSense, if the benefits of ac don't matter, then he might as well go with one of the many N wireless devices that will work with his software.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:32 am

MadManOriginal wrote:I understand in general what the differences and advantages of ac are (although some of those things like beamforming are available in certain N devices) but for this specific case I am not sure what the benefit is...

Beamforming is more "standardized" with 802.11ac devices so you have more chance of it actually working :wink: Although it still has a limited functionality and mostly works at medium ranges.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:36 am

MadManOriginal wrote:I understand in general what the differences and advantages of ac are (although some of those things like beamforming are available in certain N devices) but for this specific case I am not sure what the benefit is...the only way it would seem to matter is if he has numerous so many wireless clients on his network that the available bandwidth is saturated. Since he wants one to work with PFSense, if the benefits of ac don't matter, then he might as well go with one of the many N wireless devices that will work with his software.



I hear what your saying. I just feel that .11ac is a solid move in the right direction for the standard, and there are benefits to it beyond just the speed, although that will come into play as more .11ac devices support multiple simultaneous spatial streams on the downlink, and Gbps internet service moves beyond just a few cities.

MU-MIMO is a great feature. With regular MIMO, the AP diced up the data stream into multiple streams, and used all the antennas, to everyone elses detriment. MU-MIMO will allow more users to simultaneously use that capability.

Improving the PHY layer, ditching some unneeded preambles, extra modulation capabilities, and using beamforming (standardized this time, not vendor-specific) to attempt to improve the end-user experience are great moves.

Granted, back when I installed WiFi networks professionally, I would've killed for this kind of equipment. If you read the entire spec, it solves so many more problems that it creates, and enables the network engineers and admins to spend more time doing their jobs, and less dinking around with the network wondering why X number of users have issues, while Y number work fine.

Just my two cents.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:01 am

Of course, you're just discussing it broadly rather than for this specific case. It's also a stop-gap measure in this case since he says he will hard-wire it in the future. Plus, if the software compatibility is a requirement, well, that narrows things down it seems.

It may just be *slightly* too early for .ac for this specific application, which is always a shame, but if you have a problem to solve you have to work with what's available. If he was asking this in a year there would probably be an obvious solution and the thread wouldn't even be necessary.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sun Jun 08, 2014 11:20 am

Yes, AC has shorter range and doesn't penetrate through walls as well as N because of the different frequency. But it's more than just that. AC also has less noise. So while the signal may be weaker, the noise is usually weaker as well. From my experiance, it's not that short of a range in the real world because of that. My house is only a 2-story and 1,800 sq. ft so I don't susupect the range to be a problem.

The N is operating only on 2.4 GHz in my home. So by using AC it will free up "space" in the N range. WiFi is inherantly simplex and prone to collisions. The more devices the more of a chance of this happening. So while I surf the internet and watch TV I sometimes drop packets on the tablets and the XBox 360. By getting those devices on the AC/5.8GHz range I won't run into that.

And why not run all powerline in my home? 2 reasons. 1) The real-world bandwidth I've seen is ~50 mbps. That's not enough to run 2 HD streams without problems. 2) it's also a "hub" style network. So by adding more devices operating at the same tim I'll probably run into the same problems as my WiFi.

A stop-gap AC AP is just what I am looking for. Hz so Good pointed out a lot of new things coming down the pipe that I'll probably want when the new silicon shows up in the next wave of AC devices. But, for now, my network is a pretty good mix of stuff and I can get away with reducing congestion on my N network (10+ devices, would you expect less from a TR reader?) by putting things on the AC network.

Another point to make is, how do I put this... Krogth and I probably share the same opinon of it (not impressesed.)
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:37 pm

What about phone-line networking?

I've considered doing this as an alternative to running Cat5/6 to the living room or putting an expensive 802.11 access point there, as all of those devices are each using their own wireless adapters, though granted, such a link in my case wouldn't need to support more than one mostly-HD stream.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:53 pm

For those of you who have forced-air HVAC systems, you've no reason not to have Cat6 house-wide.
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Re: 802.11AC AP

Postposted on Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:37 pm

MadManOriginal wrote:Of course, you're just discussing it broadly rather than for this specific case. It's also a stop-gap measure in this case since he says he will hard-wire it in the future. Plus, if the software compatibility is a requirement, well, that narrows things down it seems.

It may just be *slightly* too early for .ac for this specific application, which is always a shame, but if you have a problem to solve you have to work with what's available. If he was asking this in a year there would probably be an obvious solution and the thread wouldn't even be necessary.



Well, yeah, I tend to get a little excited when something is right in my wheelhouse. ;)

I was just speaking about in general, and believe me, I've had to make due with creaky old equipment before. My experience has always been that if you've got the chance to buy a little ahead of the curve, and it isn't cost-prohibitive (equipment or support-wise), go for it. Back in '03-04, I was installing some of the first outdoor MIMO 802.11 equipment. Sure, not every client supported it, but it made sense, since the gear was reasonable and new clients that could use MIMO were coming out almost daily. I'd also install fiber optic Gigabit links from each bldg to the base station, even though the outbound bandwidth maxed out at 54Mbps full-duplex. Just because you don't need it today, doesn't mean you won't need it next week.

One thing I do like about the more costly 802.11 equipment is the ability to use multiple SSIDS, multiple VLANs, QoS enforcement on the AP itself, 802.1x authentication, etc... Will a home user need it? Unless they're like me, doubtful. Then again, we are all geeks here, so *somebody* will find a use for it. Once I finish my CCNP and CISSP, I'm going for my VMWare certs, so I can really use the speed provided, without needing to run gigabit links throughout the house. Others will probably use it for streaming HD to multiple devices throughout the home.

Some people have been decrying WiGig as pointless, since it has such limited range. Those same people also tend to be unaware that they're already using a similar tech working in the same spectrum range: WirelessHD.

/Again, just my two cents.
Last edited by Hz so good on Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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