Pakedge Responds to Random Integrator Questions about IP Networks

As a follow-up to a CE Pro Webinar on wireless networking, Pakedge answers questions from dealers about PoE, SSIDs, WAPs, band-steering and more.


Earlier this year Pakedge, a leading provider of networking solutions for home-technology integrators, presented a Webinar on home-networking in the age of IoT. 

Attendees were so engaged in the online event that Pakedge presenter Shereena Banda was unable to get to all of the questions. Banda was gracious enough to respond to some of those questions as a follow-up to the Webinar. 

Best Practices for Optimal Network Design in Smart Homes

Follow-up FAQs by Shereena Banda, Pakedge

1. What is the purpose of band steering?

The purpose of band steering is to allow those devices that are 2.4GHz and 5GHz capable to be pushed towards the 5GHz when detecting congestion on the 2.4GHz. Band Steering is not a “do all fix all” solution. The recommendation for band steering is to use it in a less congested environment to allow for smoother transition from 2.4GHz to 5GHz.

If the wireless is highly congested on the 2.4GHz, then recommendation is to configure the 2.4GHz and 5GHz SSID to be different. Even if band steering is enabled, the ultimate decision for connecting to the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band will be up to the client device itself. 

2. When using dual band (2.4 and 5 GHz) is it best to have the same SSID for both bands or have separate SSIDs for each band?

This response is similar to that of #1 above. In a highly congested wireless environment, the recommendation is to configure separate SSIDs for each individual band. If the jobsite does not have a lot of wireless congestion, then configuring the same SSID on both bands may be used. By doing so, please be sure to enable band steering on the access point in use, if available.

3. How is MAC filtering for security protection vs. WAP2 or anything else? 

MAC filtering is not the best source of security. This is only recommended for those legacy products that require WEP security. Otherwise, we highly recommend using WPA2-PSK as your encryption, as this is the most secure type of wireless connection.

4. In residential network installations with ISP-supplied modems (from Comcast, AT&T, etc.), should these be replaced for a more robust system used with routers and switches?

The requirements of an install and the limited feature capabilities on the user interface of a modem/router usually determines if the install has additional needs to be met. Acquiring a more robust router and switch is when this may be recommended on an install. The ISP is primarily for reliability of throughput on the network. If the ISP has a limited amount of allotted speed, then this will naturally limit the network's capabilities.

5. What’s your thought with 5 GHz channel widths for 802.11ac APs (20MHz vs 40MHz vs 80MHz) when you have a project that is utilizing an ISP download speed of 300Mbps and there are more than 6 APs? This would refer to using DFS channels to provide for channel reuse (the use of DFS gives us a max of 4x 80MHz channels, 8x 40MHz channels, 16x 20 MHx channels). Most clients are expecting to get 300Mbps download over a wireless connection (typically with newer Mac Books and 802.11ac devices with 2 & 3 antennas). Are there any applications that can use the full 300Mbps or is that overkill for most applications? 

Although most end users will be expectant of their wireless to provide the ISP speeds which they are paying for, they will get rather close depending on the hardwired speeds directly from the connected network. Using the 300Mbps would be overkill for most applications. Most would not be using over 100Mbps including video streaming applications.

6. With the use of VLANs and components like Sonos, do the computers, iPads, iPones and mobile devices have to be on the same VLAN with the Sonos? Is there a best practice for a setup like this since the Sonos tends to be very chatty on the network?

When mobile devices need to connect to Sonos, yes they must be connected on the same VLAN as the Sonos or it will not be seen. Therefore, configuring an SSID on the wireless network to be on the same as the Sonos, this will allow for connection to the Sonos as well as the ability to still communicate with other multicast traffic devices. For those chatty devices, we recommend having them configured on a separate VLAN so this will to prevent loops and congestion on the network.

7. Can most unmanaged Gigabit switches handle multiple streams simultaneously? 

Yes, most unmanaged Gigabit switches have the ability to handle multiple streams simultaneously. The determining factor is how much bandwidth or traffic these connected devices are taking up on the network. Some are more bandwidth heavy than others and if they use broadcast traffic, this may cause loops if their devices are in excess. For these reasons, for larger installations, having managed switches and separating this type of traffic with VLANs becomes a very useful practice.

8. Can a PoE+ switch power a regular PoE device? 

Yes, a PoE+ switch is able to power a PoE device as they are backwards compatible. 

Watch the Webinar: Best Practices for Optimal Network Design in Smart Homes

9. Do you recommend assigning a specific channel to a WAP or allowing the WAP to auto-select? 

I would recommend statically setting the channel on an access point. By setting these to auto, some access points within environmental surroundings may follow others detected and set itself onto the same channel. By having these separated initially, it reduces the likelihood that your access points will follow that same condition.

10. Do you ever have to manually adjust how the network card in the router negotiates its network connection to the Internet modem, due to auto-negotiate between the two network cards not working? (For example – a competitor’s router/firewall rhymes with SONICWALL and TWCBC fiber Internet modem requires a manually network card configuration to work).

This may depend on the manufacturer as they will have their own network card requirements to be met.

11. Routers from ISPs for Home Connection have very limited firewall capabilities. Is anyone doing anything to develop a more robust firewall capability for Home-Based Networks? 

The specific modem/routers from ISPs will have their limitations. There are different Manufacturer models out there that range from simple firewall capabilities to greater capabilities dependent upon installation needs. For this reason, additional network components such as managed switches that are capable of handling more specific types of attacks (i.e. DDoS attacks, ARP attacks) help to keep the network secure.

12. For wireless networks let’s say you have two wireless routers that set up two separate networks, each with its own bandwidth needs. f you have x devices connected to network 1 and y devices on network 2 does traffic on network 1 affect the performance of network 2? 

If the wireless is close enough and there is an overlap in signal, then the performance may definitely be affected for all wireless devices on both networks. The factor to consider is how much bandwidth is each individual device taking up on the wireless network.

13. What are some major wireless coverage killers? In-floor heat, concrete walls, foil insulation. Any others? 

Other factors to consider when designing wireless coverage are rooms with mirrors, wireless bed controls, wireless refrigerators, wireless washer/dryer, chicken wire, metal objects, wireless portable phones. These are not the only devices out there that may affect your wireless network. There are many more factors to consider.

14. What is the best practice for setting up access points? Allowing the new access points to use same SSID and passwords as the main router and all contributing to one large SSID, or each access point having an individual SSID so you know specially which AP you are connecting to? 

This will vary per installation. In an install where there is minimal interference, using the band steering option which allows for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz to be configured for the same SSID on all access points is an option. If an install has extensive wireless congestion, then it would be recommended to configure separate SSIDs per band (i.e. 2.4GHz and 5GHz). As far as configuring different SSIDs per band per access point, this is useful for troubleshooting purposes, but not necessarily always required. If the client is requesting to know specifically which access point they are connected in which part of the job, then this is a special case in which to configure the SSID different per access point per band.