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Wifi... Extender? Booster? Help me replace this thing.

Drake ChambersDrake Chambers Lay out my formal shorts.Registered User regular
We're switching from Frontier to Comcast for our internet service. This is happening and is non-negotiable.

Frontier set us up with their branded gateway / modem. However, when the tech set it up, he said that the wifi it provided was of pretty poor quality and so he also installed this thing:
jiggd69vqdpy.jpg

Wifi connectivity through this device is very good throughout our home. I'm sure Frontier is going to want it back, so I'd like to replace it with my own piece of hardware, but I'm having a hard time finding this particular device mentioned outside the context of a Frontier-operated setup. This is complicating my efforts to find a substitute.

It sure seems like a $20 wall plug wifi booster would do the same job but I wanted to check first in case anyone could look at this thing and tell me that it's more secretly awesome than I think.

Posts

  • dporowskidporowski Registered User regular
    Looks like a branded version of http://www.airties.com/product-4920.html after a bit of cursory digging. Not for sale at that link, but I'm sure you can use the model etc to find a source or something comparable, as that link DOES have the specs.

    Shadowfire
  • AngelHedgieAngelHedgie Registered User regular
    So, here's the thing - you shouldn't use their combo router, for a number of reasons. Instead, you should use your own router for running your network. Not only will you get better performance, you'll also have better control of your home network.

    XBL: Nox Aeternum / PSN: NoxAeternum / NN:NoxAeternum / Steam: noxaeternum
  • ShadowfireShadowfire Vermont, in the middle of nowhereRegistered User regular
    Eh.. Depending on the size of the house, the Comcast gateway is actually pretty decent. But you are paying a rental fee which isn't ideal. You would need to buy a new modem and router to get out of that, and if you're doing phone service through Comcast, you have a grand total of one modem to choose. Their older model gateway, which hovers around $200.

    WiiU: Windrunner ; Guild Wars 2: Shadowfire.3940 ; PSN: Bradcopter
  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited March 2017
    We're switching from Frontier to Comcast for our internet service. This is happening and is non-negotiable.

    Frontier set us up with their branded gateway / modem. However, when the tech set it up, he said that the wifi it provided was of pretty poor quality and so he also installed this thing:
    jiggd69vqdpy.jpg

    Wifi connectivity through this device is very good throughout our home. I'm sure Frontier is going to want it back, so I'd like to replace it with my own piece of hardware, but I'm having a hard time finding this particular device mentioned outside the context of a Frontier-operated setup. This is complicating my efforts to find a substitute.

    It sure seems like a $20 wall plug wifi booster would do the same job but I wanted to check first in case anyone could look at this thing and tell me that it's more secretly awesome than I think.

    It is slightly more awesome than you think.

    That is a rebranded AirTies 4920: http://www.airties.com/product-4920.html

    As far as I can tell, Frontier is selling these either at-cost or at a small loss. These aren't widely available in the US for consumers, but overseas they sell for about US$140-150.

    I wouldn't buy one of the little $20 wall-plug repeaters. They'll fuck your bandwidth. Expect to pay $50-100 for a decent repeater.

    Spoiler'ed for unnnecessary detail:
    See, once upon a time wifi radios were effectively half-duplex. A wifi router could only transmit or receive, not simultaneously, and not to multiple clients at once. bandwidth was shared across all clients. Low-end repeaters cut your bandwidth in half because the repeater could only talk to your infrastructure AP (wifi router) or your client at any given time, not both simultaneously. Having multiple computers behind a repeater was really bad, because then you're sharing bandwidth that you've already cut in half.

    Fancier repeaters back in the day got around this problem by having two separate radios.

    A couple of developments in the last decade helped that problem immensely. The first was the proliferation of dual-band wifi that can use both 5ghz and 2.4ghz frequency spectrums - if one frequency is congested you can fall back to the other. Dual-band repeaters usually use one band for the connection back to the router and the other band for servicing clients, either automatically or with a bit of fiddling in the configuration.

    The second development, and arguably more important for this conversation, was MIMO. MIMO is short for Multiple Input Multiple Output and does exactly what it says on the tin. It uses multiple antennas to transmit on multiple streams simultaneously.

    A 1x1 MIMO wifi device can have 1 transmit stream and 1 receive stream. A 2x2 can have 2 receive streams and 2 transmit streams.

    The AirTies 4920 is a dual-band repeater with 3x3 MIMO, which means it has plenty of room to communicate with the wifi router while simultaneously serving clients.

    That shitty $20 plug-in repeater? It's probably single-band 1x1, which not only forces you to a single band but also cuts your bandwidth in half, just like the low-end repeaters of last decade.

    The good news here is that the AirTies 4920 isn't just a repeater: it's a mesh device, which means it's designed to communicate with multiple peers and use an algorithm to steer your laptop to use whichever repeater has the best connection. You only have one, so those are features you're not using... and don't need to pay for.

    IMO, you have a few reasonable options:

    Buy the AirTies off of Frontier (somebody on Reddit says they sell them outright for $70) or buy a used AirTies 4920 for sale on eBay. You know that device works, you know it covers your house well, and you're already familiar with it. What makes this risky is... I don't know if Frontier locked down their branded AirTies to only work with Frontier routers. Sometimes ISPs are assholes like that.

    Find a proper dual-band repeater with 2x2 or better MIMO capability. The Wirecutter recommends the TP-Link RE450 but I can't find any confirmation that it is 2x2, and they note that you have to specifically tell it to use one band for the connection to the router and the other band for servicing clients. Not too bad if you don't mind fiddling with configuration. ($84 from NewEgg)

    I'm skeptical but The Wirecutter rarely does me wrong.

    TP-Link has a 4x4 repeater that they just announced (RE650) but I don't think it's quite available yet. You might have to wait a month or two.

    I personally like Asus networking products. I've never used it, but their RP-AC56 is a dual-band 2x2 repeater. ($80) If you want to get a little fancier, their RP-AC68U is 3x4 for $150.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
    Drake ChambersGnome-Interruptus
  • Drake ChambersDrake Chambers Lay out my formal shorts. Registered User regular
    Thank you for the responses.

    I've done a little more digging and I think what I really want is an access point as opposed to a repeater. Under our current setup we have an ethernet cable going from our modem to the 4920. We only have one desktop PC, and it's also connected directly to the modem via ethernet.

    Other connections to be made in our home are just our TV (which is in the same room) and our phones and tablets. I'm kinda leaning towards this guy:
    TP-Link TL-WA901ND Wireless N450 3TER Access Point

    It doesn't MIMO though (which is probably why it's half the price). What would we be sacrificing in that case?

    Feral
  • MugsleyMugsley Registered User regular
    A few things:

    1) Buy your own modem for Comcast. Wirecutter has a recommended list for those as well. It will pay for itself in saved rental fees within a year.

    2) The Access Point you linked will work fine for your usage case. Another option is THIS. Either one may take a bit of effort to get set up properly, but should be fine once you get it going.

    3) I'm not sure how much MIMO really matters for the average household. If you don't have a multitude of devices trying to grab the access point on a regular basis, there should be enough bandwidth to handle the traffic.

    4) If you want to go a slightly different direction, you can get a Comcast/DOCSIS modem with an integrated wireless router and add a range extender near where your AirTies is currently located. We use the RE450 at home without any problems.

    Drake ChambersFeral
  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    The presence of an Ethernet cable definitely makes things easier.

    The benefits of MIMO in this case would appear if you have multiple wifi clients simultaneously connecting to the access point and transferring a lot of data.

    If there is only one WiFi client on the access point then the benefit of MIMO is very small.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
    Drake Chambers
  • Drake ChambersDrake Chambers Lay out my formal shorts. Registered User regular
    I went ahead and ordered the access point and I'll definitely be replacing the Comcast modem with my own once I get things up-and-running. I might come back in a few days if I run into any trouble with the setup.

    Thanks again for all the advice!

    FeralMugsley
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