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Hands on: Google WiFi mesh home wireless network

While it helps tackle wireless blackspots around your home, Google WiFi has an Achilles’ heel which could be a deal-breaker for many NBN homes. As we fill our homes with wireless gadgets, reliable WiFi coverage1 is becoming more of a challenge. A flaky home wireless network might be tolerable if you’re only checking your email and browsing the web, but it soon becomes unbearable in busy households streaming music and video to every room.

Hands On: Google WiFi Mesh Home Wireless Network Google WiFi gives your home a wireless overhaul to fix coverage blackspots.

In the past, improving your home wireless coverage has involved upgrading to a more powerful WiFi router or investing in WiFi repeaters, which can be temperamental. The new generation of mesh home networks take the pain out of this by letting several WiFi hubs work in unison to provide blanket wireless coverage.

Welcome to the party

Hands On: Google WiFi Mesh Home Wireless Network The Google WiFi hubs work together to cover your entire home.

Google WiFi launched in Australia last week, alongside Google Home2, to compete with mesh networks from the home networking giants: Linksys Velop3 and Netgear Orbi. At $199 for one WiFi hub or $499 for three, Google WiFi certainly has a major price advantage over its rivals, although this comes at a cost.

Like the others, Google WiFi is very easy to set up. Take one WiFi hub out of the box, plug it into the power and connect it to your broadband modem via the supplied Ethernet cable. This becomes your primary Google WiFi hub.

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Next download the Google WiFi app (iOS/Android) and follow the instructions to setup the wireless network and add the other WiFi hubs. The app recommends placing the second hub around two rooms away from the primary, then it performs a quick test to check that it’s within range. Now you can daisy chain subsequent hubs, they don’t all need to be within range of the primary hub.

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Get the latest news and updates emailed straight to your inbox. Once the system is up and running the improvement to your WiFi coverage is striking, especially if you live in a multi-story home. You can walk around the house and seamlessly roam from one hub to the next whilst staying on the same WiFi network, like the way your phone switches between mobile towers when you’re on the move.

Hands On: Google WiFi Mesh Home Wireless Network The Google WiFi app, available for Android and iOS.

Each Google WiFi hub features two Ethernet ports, letting you connect Ethernet-only devices like desktop computers, network printers and network drives so you don’t need to run as many cables around your home. The WiFi coverage maps below compare Google WiFi with the coverage from a FritzBox 7490, in a narrow three-story house. It stacks up well against the Linksys Velop coverage maps4, which was tested against a Telstra Frontier gateway.

Hands On: Google WiFi Mesh Home Wireless Network On the middle floor of a three-story home – LEFT: FritzBox 7490, MIDDLE: single Google WiFi hub, RIGHT: three Google WiFi hubs (blue hub is upstairs). Photo: Adam Turner

The results are distorted by the fact that both Google WiFi and the FritzBox support bandsteering – automatically switching your devices between the 2.4 and 5GHz wireless bands in search of the best performance. To be fair, I don’t think the maps quite do the FritzBox justice and perhaps it’s more reluctant to shunt devices to the 2.4GHz network. Also keep in mind, Google WiFi also supports beamforming which bends the wireless network towards your device to improve the signal strength – temporarily improving coverage in the furthest reaches of your home.

You can also use the Google WiFi app to prioritise one wireless device in your home above all others.

Hands On: Google WiFi Mesh Home Wireless Network Top floor: LEFT: FritzBox 7490 downstairs, MIDDLE: single Google WiFi hub downstairs, RIGHT: three Google WiFi hubs on the right (blue hubs downstairs). Photo: Adam Turner

Strike up the band

Technically Google WiFi falls short of its mesh networking rivals because it’s only a dual-band wireless system, not tri-band like its more expensive competitors. To be fair your average user wouldn’t notice the difference, and it helps Google keep the price down.

Hands On: Google WiFi Mesh Home Wireless Network Bottom floor: LEFT: FritzBox 7490 upstairs, MIDDLE: single Google WiFi hub upstairs, RIGHT: two Google WiFi hubs upstairs (and a third two floors up). Photo: Adam Turner

Google WiFi hubs run 2.4 and 5GHz networks side-by-side, which appear as a single WiFi network to your devices. Meanwhile the Linksys and Netgear systems run an extra invisible 5GHz network, which the hubs use to talk among themselves and relay traffic back to the primary hub without choking the main WiFi network that your handheld devices rely upon. Without this separate dedicated 5GHz backhaul link, Google WiFi’s 802.11ac wireless network is only rated AC1200 – with theoretical maximum speeds of 1200 Mbps (more like 500 Mbps in real world conditions). Meanwhile the AC2200-rated Netgear and Linksys gear can theoretically double this performance, but realistically Google WiFi’s AC1200 is sufficient in a country where you’re lucky to have 100 Mbps broadband speeds.

You’d only put Linksys and Netgear’s extra speed to use when transferring data around your home.

Keep it simple

While Google WiFi is easy to configure and offers impressive coverage, unfortunately it sacrifices many advanced features in the pursuit of simplicity. The parental features are very basic, although you have the advantage of being able to access them while away from home. Once you dive into the advanced network settings you can change the DNS settings but you can’t configure Dynamic DNS. Likewise you can allocate static IP addresses for devices on your home network, but you’re stuck with the default 192.168.86.x IP range. The real surprise with Google WiFi is that it doesn’t support “Bridge Mode”.

This won’t matter in some homes, but in others it’s an instant deal breaker – especially if you’re on the NBN. In a nutshell, Google WiFi insists on being the heart of your home network, plugged directly into your broadband modem so it can hand out IP addresses to all your devices and direct traffic around your home. Of course you might not want Google WiFi to handle all these tasks, especially if you’ve already invested in a high-end broadband router which lives at the heart of your network. Alternatively you might rely on your ISP-issued broadband router to run your NBN home phone5.

With Linksys Velop, Netgear Orbi or practically any other WiFi gear, you can select Bridge Mode so it runs your wireless network but still lets your broadband router play household traffic cop. In return you generally lose a few network management features built into the WiFi gear, like parental controls, but your broadband router might be able to handle those.

Hold the phone

Google WiFi doesn’t offer Bridge Mode when you’ve got more than one hub working as a mesh, which is an incredible oversight. This means you’re faced with three options; replace your broadband router with Google WiFi, put your broadband router into Bridge Mode, or plug Google WiFi’s primary hub into your broadband router. If you’re on the NBN and you disconnect your ISP-issued broadband router, or put it into Bridge Mode, you’ll probably lose your home phone – as most NBN-based home phone lines actually run over the broadband. Killing the phone service is obviously unacceptable in some homes.

The only other option is to plug the primary Google WiFi hub into your broadband router and let them both play traffic cop. At this point you’ve cut your home in half. Wireless devices on your Google WiFi network, like your smartphone and notebook, can’t talk to the devices connected to your broadband router via Ethernet – like your desktop computer, network printer and network attached storage drive. You can also encounter Double-NAT firewall issues which can screw up your port forwarding and online gaming.

This obviously isn’t a problem in homes that run everything over WiFi and don’t use the Ethernet ports on their broadband router. If you do use them, you’ll need to plug those Ethernet devices into the Ethernet ports on the Google WiFi hubs to ensure they can talk to your wireless devices.

So what’s the verdict

It’s quite possible Google might add Bridge Mode in a firmware update down the track, Google tells me “this is just the start of the Wi-Fi product journey and we’re always working on improving our products”. In my experience, buying hardware in the hope that future firmware upgrades will come to your rescue is often a recipe for disappointment.

Otherwise Google WiFi ticks a lot of boxes; it’s easy to set up, the boost to your network is impressive and the price is right assuming you’re satisfied with AC1200 wireless speeds. For some homes it’s the perfect solution to your WiFi woes. Yet if you’re wedded to your current broadband router, for whatever reason, make absolutely sure you consider the implications of the lack of Bridge Mode before you take the plunge.

References

  1. ^ reliable WiFi coverage (www.smh.com.au)
  2. ^ Google Home (www.smh.com.au)
  3. ^ Linksys Velop (www.smh.com.au)
  4. ^ Linksys Velop coverage maps (www.smh.com.au)
  5. ^ rely on your ISP-issued broadband router to run your NBN home phone (www.smh.com.au)

Are you overpaying for broadband?

Check out these CEE 2017 deals

The answer is probably yes. It’s time to revisit the broadband plans for service providers in Singapore to see how you can get the biggest bang for your buck. With the PC show 2017 and CEE 2017 happening at the same time but at different locations, we hope our quick comparison table will help you decide where to head to this weekend. The PC show this year is held at Marina Bay Sands while the Consumer Electronics Exhibition (CEE 2017) at Suntec Convention Centre. Both events will run from 1 – 4 June 2017.

At the shows, telcos will be featuring the Mesh Network, a system aimed to enhance your home WiFi. It’s basically a system of multiple Wi-Fi stations that work together to cover every corner of your home with a strong wireless data connection. To us, it seems like a network more suited for bigger houses rather than our tiny HDB apartments but hey, you may have your favourite spots in the home that you want strong wireless data signals. If you are curious about Mesh Network, check out WhizComms booth at Suntec and asks about their WiFi Clinic, an onsite home WiFi Audit Service and installation service for information about suitable equipment and how to maximise WiFi coverage in your homes.

Summary of Broadband deals at PC Show 2017 and CEE 2017:

  • For the cheapest 1Gbps home broadband, it seems like WhizComms is in the lead. Other than offering the lowest priced home broadband monthly subscription at $36, the contract period is only 12 months instead of the usual 24 months for most other players. WhizComms is also running a promotion now-for the firs 50 customers per day, you pay only $18 per month of subscription.
  • For those who don’t like to be bound by a contract, MyRepublic offers 1Gbps home broadband at $59.99 per month.
  • Singtel has the cheapest WiFi mesh service at an additional $10 per month for AirTies WiFi Mesh. If you are interest to supercharge your coverage in your home, you can consider taking up the AirTies WiFi Mesh plan. For Singtel mobile customers, you get the additional benefit of 10% off your mobile subscription.

Singtel M1 Starhub MyRepublic WhizComms Minimum Contractual Period 24 months 24 months 24 months 24 months 12 months Price $59.90/month for 24 months $49.90/month for 24 months $39/month for 24 months $59.99/month for 12 months or no contract

$49.99/month for 24 months

$36/month for 12 months

$32/month for 24 months

Freebies

  • Free 4 months subscription
  • Free Wireless Dual-band AC router
  • Free Home line
  • Free Singtel WiFi
  • Free 4G mobile broadband (500MB)
  • 10% off mobile subscription.
  • Wireless AC Router
  • 24 mths 4G Mobile Broadband – Typical Download Speed (Mbps)*: 41.1 – 104.0
  • Home Fixed Voice Service
  • ONT Activation (worth $58.85), Delivery on Weekdays, Monday – Friday (9am – 5pm)
  • 3 months’ subscription to Internet Security
  • Option to top-up for Entertainment Add-ons from as low as $5/mth
  • Free 3 months subscription for 24 months contract
  • $250 new router discount for 24 months contract
  • $100 new router discount for 12 months contract
  • Free TP Installation (worth up to $235.40)
  • Free Home Voice line subscription
  • Free 6 months subscription for 12 months contract (First 50 registrations per day at their CEE booth)
  • Free 3 months subscription for both 12 months and 24 months contracts if you’re not the first 50 to subscribe each day at the booth
  • Option to add on router at $98

Mesh Network or other WiFi Booster service

  • Add $10/month for AirTies WiFi Mesh (total $240 over 24 months contract)
  • Add $30/month for Linksys Velop Dynamic Tri-band technology (total $720 over 24 months contract)

NA

  • Add $20.90/month for Linksys Velop (total $501.60 over 24 months contract)
  • $249 for 1 unit of Linksys Velop Whole Home Mesh WiFi System
  • $620 for 3 units of Linksys Velop Whole Home Mesh WiFi System

NA

  • Add in total $338 for Mesh service with coverage up to 3000sqft (Usual price $428)
  • Includes 2 units of Seamless WiFi Roaming System from TP-Link Deco (commonly known as Mesh Network)
  • Complementary accessories provided for setup (e.g.

    cables, power plugs, adapters)

Effective Price for 1Gbps broadband without Mesh Network service (excludes non-quantifiable freebies) $49.92/month $43.66/month $39/month $41.66/month 12 months contract:

  • $18/month (only 1st 50 sign-ups per day at the booth)
  • $27/month (if you’re not the first 50 to sign-up at their booth)

24 months contract:

Show Booth CEE 2017, Suntec Convention Centre Level 4, Booth 8818

PC Show 2017, MBS Level 1, Booth 8018

CEE 2017, Suntec Convention Centre Level 4, Booth 8438 CEE 2017, Suntec Convention Centre Level 4, Booth 8460 / 8480PC Show 2017, MBS Level 1, Booth 8009 CEE 2017, Suntec Convention Centre Level 4, Booth 8101 CEE 2017, Suntec Convention Centre Level 4, Booth 8501

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Shortlists for 2017 ISPA Awards announced

Shortlists for 2017 ISPA Awards announced

The 19th ISPA Awards1 is only two months away now and the fifteen categories had their shortlists announced on Friday 5th May and we are a bit slow is getting the list up onto our news due to the small matter of a launching a new version of the thinkbroadband site.

“The companies shortlisted at this year’s ISPA Awards play a vital role in ensuring the UK remains a world leading digital economy.

The 19th ISPAs once again demonstrates the innovation and diversity of our industry and I look forward to finding out the winners at the gala awards ceremony on July 13th.”

ISPA Secretary General Nick Lansman

The venue for the awards ceremony has changed for 2017 and is the Caf? de Paris with the process behind the awards commencing last December as companies entered, followed by technical testing that we carried for the four broadband categories and hosting, thus ensuring that for example in the superfast broadband category the service is not just a slow old service hiding behind a fancy name.

The 2017 ISPAs shortlist Best Superfast Broadband Best Business Broadband ASK4 Bridge Fibre Entanet International BT Business Exa Networks Hyperoptic Hyperoptic Luminet Venus Business Communications M247 RM Education Venus Business Communications Best Rural Broadband Best Wireless Airband Community Internet ASK4 Gigaclear plc Luminet Quickline Communications M12 Solutions (Wessex Internet) South West Internet M24Seven Wessex Internet from M12 Solutions South West Internet Best Host Best Wholesale catalyst2 Entanet International Exa Networks TalkTalk Business Heart Internet Venus Business Communications Memset Zen Internet Storm Internet Best Hardware Best Tech Law Firm Linksys Velop Browne Jacobson LLP RADWIN JET PRO Kemp Little LLP Sky Broadband LawBite Preiskel & Co LLP Best Marketing Best VoIP

Bowan Arrow – ShoreTel Partner Demand Program

Gradwell Communications

Entanet International Ltd – Target Partner Programme

iNet Telecoms

LivingCom – The Rental Requirements of Millennial Movers white paper

Soho66 Plusnet Telappliant

StudentCom – Generation Z

VIA

Talk Straight Ltd (Schools Broadband) – Discovery Kids

VoIPstudio Executive of the Year Best Cloud Dana Tobak, Managing Director & Co-Founder, Hyperoptic catalyst2 Furqan Alamgir, Founder & CEO, Connexin Exa Networks Lee Perkins, CEO, M24Seven Memset Matthew Hare, Chief Executive and Founder, Gigaclear Storm Internet Steve Hodges, Managing Director, Astro Communications Talk Straight Suzie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive, Internet Watch Foundation VIA Best Consumer Customer Service Best Business Customer Service CableCom Networking catalyst2 Hyperoptic Entanet International MacAce Luminet Plusnet Storm Internet Sky Talk Straight Wessex Internet from M12 Solutions Telappliant Wifinity Limited Best Security Exa Networks MacAce Memset Sky Storm Internet Talk Straight

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References

  1. ^ 19th ISPA Awards (www.ispa.org.uk)
  2. ^ Login (www.thinkbroadband.com)
  3. ^ Register (www.thinkbroadband.com)