The Enterprise WiFi Access Points are a bit more expensive, compared to high-end consumer products, but the experience I had with coverage, speed, and stability, there is no doubt that this was the right choice to meet my needs. Read about my setup and how I got stable WiFi everywhere at home.
We need WiFi, everywhere! More than ever before!
Everything from our computers and phones to refrigerators, cameras, alarm systems, game systems, Apple TVs and so on relies on a good, speedy and stable WiFi-connection. 😎
I’ve never used one of the cheap-ass plastic-boxes that’s often provided for free when signing up with a Danish ISP, you know, one of those boxes where every feature thinkable for services like TV-channels, radio, phones, and the Internet are cramped into a single struggling box. I’ve always invested in my network-gear and bought the best-in-class consumer-grade products and even an Enterprise-grade router and firewall. However, switching from a consumer Wi-Fi access point to an enterprise-grade Wi-Fi access point, was a real game-changer!
Back in 2016 my setup and needs were entirely different. I lived together with my wife in an 80m2 apartment in the city of Aarhus, Denmark. We had a reasonably acceptable 250 / 250 Mbit Internet-connection, and the setup was based on a Fortigate 40C firewall/router and three Apple AirPort Extremes (802.11ac) around the apartment to cover every corner with WiFi.
Later that year we bought a house in Silkeborg, Denmark, moving from an 80m2 apartment to a larger 200m2 house with a large garden, entrance, and garages to cover, and the old AirPorts didn’t handle that job very well. Roaming between the access points was slow, and my iPhones was often stuck on the wrong access point, leaving me with a slow or sometimes unusable connection. Also, the three access points didn’t cover my entire house, let alone the garden, driveway, and garage.
It was time for something new, so I googled! The first thing I Googled was the “iPhone stuck on the first wifi access point it sees” and found that there are solutions to solve this roaming problem; technologies called 802.11k, 802.11v and 802.11r (client-steering, channel-steering, and band-steering). It was time to say goodbye to my beloved Apple network products and hello to something new.
My setup today
With the new house came a new faster Internet-connection; fiber 1000 / 1000 Mbit. A fast, stable gigabit internet-connection required new firewall and routing hardware. An Airport Extreme 802.11ac has a WAN to LAN Throughput of approx. 350 Mbps and a LAN to WAN Throughput of approx. 700 Mbps. My old Fortigate 40C router couldn’t handle the new gigabit connection as well. So the first job was to find a new router.
We are using Fortigate at my company and also in our data center. That’s why I choose Fortigate at home as well. 😁 The choice fell very naturally on Fortigates newest generation of small-business product: FWT-60E. A router and firewall that can handle my new gigabit connection without problems, and at the same time allows me to set up site-to-site VPN tunnels, so all of our networks are connected in one big pool, allowing me to poke our servers in the data center and the different boxes at my office, from home, and also access my home servers from work.
I would not recommend anyone buying Fortigate products unless there is a specific need like mine. Instead, I would recommend a somewhat cheaper solution from Ubiquiti such as their USG.
Access Points – hello UBNT
Now with an excellent router in place, the next natural point was to look at new Access Points. So with a somewhat lengthy introduction 😅 – welcome to what the article is all about 😆 Ubiquiti.
Wi-Fi gone wild
I had to replace my old AirPort Extremes with something better. So after much research, I found three different solutions that could meet my needs:
- Fortinet’s FortiAP products
- Cisco’s Aironet products
- Ubiquiti’s Unifi products
The most expensive components were Cisco’s Access Points, which stood at around $600 per Access Point. FortiAP is priced at around $550. The cheapest was Ubiquiti’s products with their Unifi AP AC HD which is priced at around $390 (converted from DKK to USD). The UniFi product line also has cheaper products which are priced all the way down to around $100.
When you need 6 access points, $200 per Access Point is undoubtedly also worth taking. 💸💸
I began to read a lot about the Unifi products and was only pleasantly surprised. Everyone I found who talked about Ubiquiti in YouTube videos or blogs loved their Unifi products. So the choice was pretty straightforward; I bought 3 x Unifi AP AC HD that would cover my house inside and 3 x Unifi AP AC Pro to cover outdoor areas.
Before installing a Unifi Access Point, you need to install their server software; Unifi Controller. The software can run on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
I already have some servers running at home, so I quickly installed their software on an Intel i3 NUC running Ubuntu Linux.
If you do not already have a server at home, I can recommend a little Raspberry Pi; they go for around for around $35. The advantage is that it uses almost no power and it’s easy to get started with the Pi. Here’s a guide specifically about Raspberry Pi and the UniFi Controller software.
After I installed the software on my Linux-box, it’s pretty easy to set up a new Access Points and include them in your network.
Setting up the Access Points
I chose their fast Unifi AP AC HD products to cover my home inside. It’s when I’m inside I need speed for my computers, Apple TVs, Chromecasts, Smart TVs, iPads, iPhones and my Nest IQ 4k cameras that runs a 24/7 Full-HD stream to Google servers.
I got my first Unifi AP AC HD mounted in the ceiling over the dining room, beautifully located center to the kitchen, the children’s rooms, and our bedroom.
Because Unifi’s products use PoE (Power over Ethernet), you only need one cable to your Access Point. Power and network come in the same single cable. Included with their Pro and HD models is a small PoE injector that adds the necessary power source to the network cable if you do not already have a PoE Switch in front of it.
I have chosen to use S/FTP CAT.7 cables, but according to Unifi, the older CAT.5E and CAT.6 cables are also working without problems. However, CAT.7 is becoming very cheap, so if you have to roll out new cables, pick the newest standard 🙂 I choose S/FTP rather than UTP as these cables are shielded.
I hooked up my MacBook Pro and ran a Speedtest.net. I was surprised by the positive result. The Wi-Fi speed almost doubled three times compared to my previous AirPort Extreme 802.11ac setup.
Roaming with multiple access point
As I wrote earlier, I had the classic “Sticky Access Point” problem, where my iPhone sticks to the first Access Point it sees.
So after setting up my Ubiquiti, I was ready to go for a walk around the house. 😉 I started a Facetime call to my beautiful wife. I walked around the house. The connection remained active, and there were no problems at all. Facetime never ran so smoothly walking around the house. 😁 The garage. The garden. The terrace. The driveway. The living room. The kitchen. The office. The master bedroom. Always full signal. After the conversation, I opened the Event log in my Unifi Controller and could see that my iPhone had roamed seamlessly between the different points. It works! Wehuu! 🙂
I’ll never return to Consumer Grade WiFi again. 😅
The Enterprise products are a bit more expensive, compared to high-end consumer products, but the experience I had with coverage, speed, and stability, there is no doubt that this was the right choice to meet my needs.
Like all the others I read about who loved their Unifi setup, I’m in! 🙂 I’m also an Ubnt fan now!