Improve Your Home Wi-Fi with Mesh, Powerline, MoCA, or More Routers

I set up MoCA a year ago and it has worked great for us.

Regarding the PoE Filter – is that needed if you’ve swapped out the cable amplifier outside your house for one designed for MoCA? I installed this Commscope unit and the documentation says nothing about whether it serves as a PoE filter as well:

So far, you’ve all neglected the critical issue of latency. “Speed” or “bandwidth” is not enough. Zoom, similar modes of video-conferencing, and real-time control of a remote process, require low latency – which Wi-Fi does not provide, partly because Wi-Fi is simplex; whereas Ethernet cable is full-duplex.

I don’t think it’s a substantial issue anymore. I tried to find any modern discussion of it and it’s absent. There are likely very few applications in which Ethernet’s lower guaranteed latency makes a difference. From what I can tell, modern Wi-Fi latency is in the low milliseconds to maybe 20 to 30 ms?

Zoom’s tech support notes:

  • Latency: The delay between packet being sent and received. Typically, a latency of 150ms or less is recommended. Higher latency values will result in noticeable delays between video and audio. For example, the time between you speaking and the other user receiving the audio on their end.

We can’t prove anything with a few anecdotes. I’ll say only that, as an amateur radio operator, I frequently operate remote radio stations via the Internet, and that it’s well known to my fellow remote operators and me that one MUST not have any Wi-Fi in one’s Internet connection.

In addition, I’ll mention that my wife sees clients about 20 hours per week via Zoom, and that 802.11ac Wi-Fi at 5 GHz with claimed speed of hundreds of MB/s works poorly for her; whereas Cat 6 Ethernet cable works flawlessly. Our Internet service is Verizon FiOS, 75 MB/s up and down, with no other video or big file transfers competing, and no significant interference from other Wi-Fi networks. -CCC

I mean, this does sound like urban myth, but I expect you test it and find it’s lacking. It really reminds me of the kind of Wi-Fi tech issues of many years ago, but you do have 802.11ac, so go figure.

There’s an easy way to diagnose the problem: Zoom has a Statistics item in Settings (why Settings? why anything in Zoom) and you could test a connection over Wi-Fi and Ethernet to see where the issues are.

We have gigabit Ethernet and typically achieve extremely low latency to the Internet and 200 to 300 Mbps downstream and higher rates upstream with 802.11ac.

I don’t use Zoom much myself, as I was unaware of its Statistics feature. I’ll play with that when I have time. However, I have done a lot of latency monitoring by means of PingPlotter, Standard version, currently v5.19.1.6774, while I have been connected to remote amateur radio stations. PingPlotter has shown repeatedly, consistently, that occasional episodes of high latency occur while my computer is connected to my router by Wi-Fi; but they do not occur while my computer is connected by Ethernet cable.

Just now, just for you, I ran PingPlotter for 10 minutes while my MacBookPro (16-inch, 2019) was connected to my IQrouter, just 10 ft away in the same room, by Wi-Fi at 5GHz with TX rate = 866 Mb/s, with no streaming, no Time Machine, nothing else loading my LAN or my Internet connection. Then I switched to a Gigabit Ethernet cable connection (I thought!) and ran for another 10 minutes. In both cases I was connected to a remote station that I use often. (This station is connected directly by fiber to FairPoint’s node in Portland, ME.)

PingPlotter shows me where — in which hop — latency occurs. In the first 10 minutes, PingPlotter showed one instance of about 50 ms latency and another of about 140 ms latency, each time in the first hop, between my Mac and my router. In the second 10 minutes, it showed five instances of about 250-second latency, again in the first hop. I smelled a rat; and, sure enough, I found that I had neglected to change a setting and my computer had continued to use Wi-FI.

Then I made sure that Wi-Fi was disabled and my Mac was using its Ethernet cable connection; and I ran PingPlotter for another 10 minutes. This time, latency never exceeded 58 ms end-to-end; and the maximum latency of the first hop (between my Mac and my IQrouter) was about 2 ms.

I saved screen-shots of these results and I’ll e-mail them to you directly if you ask. Idunno what the TidBITs Talk reflector would do if I tried to post them here.

While I was typing this message, PingPlotter continued to run for yet another 10 minutes; and this time end-to-end latency remained under 40 ms, while first-hop latency remained around 1 ms.

I have observed similar behavior for about four years, with several different Macs, with two FiOS ONT’s, and with the Wi-Fi access points of two different IQrouters, one v2 and one v3. As I’ve mentioned, many of my fellow ham radio operators have observed likewise.


Well, this is amazing. The improvement is huge compared to the AV1200 Tp-Link I had.

A problem I have found with my mesh network (Deco) is that my computers do not automatically connect to the feature 5 ghz band and often connect to the slower 2.4 ghz band, particularly after sleeping. There is no way I have found to force them to use the 5 ghz band. The signal strength for both is about the same. The only way I have found to get them to connect to the 5 ghz band is to cycle the airport connection on and off until they grab the 5 ghz by chance. Once connected, they will usually stay there until the next sleep. I could turn the 2.4 off, but I have devices which only work with it. The older routers allowed you to give the two bands different network names but that created problems of it’s own.

Depends on whether the amplifier has a filter built in. If it doesn’t (as seems to be the case for this one), then you will want to keep your filter.

For those unfamiliar with MoCA, it uses your in-home coaxial cable for LAN traffic.

If you have cable TV/Internet service entering your home via copper coaxial cable, then the cable in your home is physically connected to your neighbors via the shared cable. A PoE (point-of-entry) filter is a device that should be installed where the cable enters your home (before the first splitter). It keeps your MoCA signals from leaking out to other homes and keeps any unfiltered MoCA signals from your neighbors from entering your home.

If, on the other hand, you don’t have a coaxial cable connection to other homes (e.g. a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) solution, where your coax terminates at the optical transceiver where the fiber enters your home), then a filter shouldn’t be necessary.

Regarding the amplified splitter in question, if it doesn’t advertise itself as having a built-in PoE filter, I would assume it does not have one. This actually makes sense, because a filter is not necessary for all installations (e.g. an FTTH system) and you may be using it in conjunction with other equipment (maybe in the middle of a network instead of at the point of home-entry), where a filter would cause problems.

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Okay, that makes sense. Presumably I should install the filter upstream of this amplifier?

Yes. On the cable as it enters your home, before it reaches any other equipment (like your amplified splitter).

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Glenn, I have a lot of respect for your writings, to the extent that I now wonder what I’m experiencing. With distressing frequency, I click to open a new tab in my browser, and nothing happens for one to ten seconds. By nothing, I mean that Firefox opens the new tab, but it sits there empty, with the message at the bottom that data is being transferred. By distressing frequency, I mean about 5% to maybe 10% of the time. And it’s with a wide range of web sites. Any ideas what is going on? (What I described was with my AirPort Express. A few days ago, I got a new AX50. While it is still too new to draw conclusions, but the problem does seem to be reduced.)

Sounds like it could be an over-zealous firewall rule. I had to disable my router’s built-in intrusion detection features because it was treating my own outbound connections as some kind of attack - causing hundreds of broken connections whenever I loaded a web page with a lot of embedded content.

I blogged about this back in 2014:

Despite the headline, this can affect routers from all vendors, not just Comcast.

Okay, thank you very much David! I really appreciate the advice.

Now on sale at Costco $50 off : Google Wifi - AC1200 Smart Mesh Wi-Fi 4 Pack I just bought one today.

As I mentioned above, some wifi routers seem to be too smart for their own good. Maybe they are bogged down trying to optimise the connections instead of giving a fast simple connection. Just a thought - not my area of expertise! :blush:

The Google Wifi AC1200 Dual-Band Whole Home Smart Mesh only supports 802.11ac, 802.11n (2.4 and 5GHz frequency bands), 802.11g, 802.11b, and 802.11a, so not the latest WiFi 6 technology and it has no USB ports. Consumer Report rated it 13th of the 19 Mesh routers they last evaluated with good data security and privacy but only average throughput.

Definitely test this in Safari too. If the problem is systemic, it will affect all browsers, but if there’s something wonky with just Firefox, Safari will work normally.

I’ve been seeing something a little similar to this in Brave on my M1-based MacBook Air with the betas of macOS 12 Monterey. I haven’t figured it out yet, but it seemingly doesn’t happen in Safari, so I suspect it’s an issue between Brave and Monterey.

My suspicion is that if you’re really experiencing latency problems, the slowdowns would continue across all connections from all sources, so you’d notice more than initial page loading issues. Regardless, some speed tests, like Cloudflare’s, will report on latency as well.

Hello. I want to replace my aged A1470 Time Capsule (with a potentially failing drive) with a faster router. It is bridged to a TP-Link RE550 in my garage, and bridged to a TP-Link 220 in my vintage Airstream office, out in the yard. There are a couple of MacBook Pros (including mine) on the network, as well as a few Apple devices.

I can administer the Time Capsule on the Airport utility, and can use TP-Link’s Tether app for those devices. That said, I’m far (quite far) from being a networking maven. I don’t want to cable any of the network by Ethernet. The other issue is I want to continue using the wireless backup capability of the Time Capsule, so the new router would have to have a USB port for an external drive and some kind of helpful software for managing wireless backups.

I am wondering if anyone can suggest a new router that would work easily with Macs and my existing setup. Another question is if the 802.11ac capability of the two older TP-Link devices would slow down the capability of a new router? As it is, my throughput in the Airstream is slow, and for most of my business needs (except the occasional video call) it is OK, but far from robust. Thanks for any help!

I’ve got a TP Link A20 that does up through 802.11ac and it works fine for me.

Frankly…I’ve found that network backups via Time Machine are a PITA and subject to frequent failures…I had setup identical destinations on 2 different Macs running the same OS version and set up identical Time Machine setups for two laptops…and found that they just intermittently and random fail for no reason I could ever figure out. So…eventually I gave up on them and did a roll your own Time Machine like solution using CarbonCopyCloner. Setup a shared folder on each of the remote Macs…one a mini in the entertainment center and the second on the iMac fileserver/Lightroom photo processing machine back in the office…both of those are always on. I set up CCC jobs using the Remote Macintosh destination option and selected /Users to be the only thing backed up since we keep data on either the iMac file server, DropBox, or in home directory…with alternating backups between the two remote Macs…it’s been running flawlessly for going on a year now and it even works if the laptops are asleep at night. If you’ve got a Mac that’s always running…that’s what I recommend instead of Time Machine for laptop network backups.

As to upgrading the main router to an ax router…anything connected to the slower ac routers should not have an impact on the performance of the ax router…especially with mimo, dual band and all the other jazzy stuff that’s in newer routers. The only issue might be getting the downstream wireless points connected…are they cable connected now or bridging wirelessly?

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