A bit of fun with home networking

There are several reasons why a robust, reliable home network are important to my husband and me. First, we both work from home. Second, the vast majority of our entertainment is streamed. Lastly, the mobile phone reception in our apartment complex is poor. In many ways, our connection to the internet is our only connection to our lives and livelihoods.

We’re fortunate, as far as networking is concerned, to have all of our connected devices concentrated in two areas of two adjacent rooms. As a result, only one long cable run was needed to wire all but our mobile phones to the network. We’re also lucky enough to live in part of Time Warner Cable’s territory that offers 300mpbs service, providing further incentive for a strong home network.

The network starts with an Arris1 Surfboard SB6190. Time Warner charges a monthly lease for a cable modem and router combo, but we have our own router and I’d rather not waste the money renting a poorer-quality modem. Since the Surfboard is a dedicated router, it also eliminates double NAT and any steps otherwise needed to mitigate that on the leased modem.

Our router is an Asus RT-3200; it’s a tri-band router, meaning it has two 5GHz radios, in addition to a 2.4GHz radio. While this may seem excessive, we’re afflicted with interference both from our many neighbors, and from the sheriff’s office across the street.2 The router seamlessly switches devices between the two 5GHz radios based on interference, location within the apartment, and each device’s demands. It also supports up to nine guest networks, with expiring access, allowing considerable flexibility. We use two: one 5GHz network for guests, and one 2.4GHz network to isolate certain “internet of things” devices.

For everything hardwired, I’ve run Cat 6e cable from the gigabit router to TP-LINK gigabit switches, ensuring our streaming devices, and laptops when we’re at our desks, make full use of our cable speeds. I even added a gigabit ethernet adapter to our Raspberry Pi so that it could more-accurately measure our connection speed; otherwise, because the Raspberry Pi uses a 10/100 ethernet port and our connection speed is 300mpbs, Home Assistant’s speedtest returned inaccurate results.

Beyond the speed and robustness of the network, we also benefit from Time Warner offering both IPv4 and IPv6 service in our area. There’s generally less traffic on the IPv6 side of our connection, and since services like Netflix support both protocols, our router prefers IPv6 and we encounter fewer streaming issues.

  1. née Motorola, before Google had its way with the company.
  2. Their presence is also largely why mobile phone coverage is so poor in the area, not that I mind having them nearby.