Seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi now easy with Wi-Fi 6 (2023 update network guide)

Until now, seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi has been pretty hit and miss. Wi-Fi 6 and new Mesh technologies make it easier than ever before to get Wi-Fi everywhere.

We need to start with a few basics and caveats (warnings).

  • Wi-Fi 6 and 6E AX speed and reliability ‘benefits’ only work with the Wi-Fi 6 devices like recent smartphones, laptops, TVs and includes Wi-Fi 6 Mesh routers and satellites
  • Wi-Fi 6 is fully backwards compatible with Wi-Fi 5 AC and earlier, so it is worth buying it over older Wi-Fi 5 AC routers unless cost is an issue
  • Mesh means a single sign-on (SSID) and password allowing you to roam around the home and seamlessly connect to the nearest Router or Satellite
  • Router means the device that connects to your NBN gateway and distributes internet access over Wi-Fi and cabled Ethernet LAN
  • Satellite means the Wi-Fi transmitter that connects to the router via  Wi-Fi 6 (up to 1200Mbps) or Ethernet backhaul (1000Mbps full-duplex up to 100m).
  • Backhaul means it transmits the Internet to and from the router to the Satellite
  • Wi-Fi uses dual ‘bands’ (well, some use tri-bands but let’s not complicate it). The maximum transmission distance is about a 20-metre circle for its 5GHz (fast) band and a 30-metre circle for its 2.4GHz (slow) band used mainly for IoT (Internet of Things – smart devices)
  • Every wall, floor, window or cupboard can effectively halve the transmission distance
  • Full-duplex means the same speed both ways, like a two-lane road. Half-duplex basically means a one-lane road where you have to pull over to let oncoming traffic through – half speed. The main advantage of Wi-Fi 6 is full-duplex backhaul, and Wi-FI 5 and earlier are half-duplex

Walls absorb and deflect Wi-Fi, so you need to get the router in the right place.

Rule #1 – you may need to keep your existing modem/router

Pretty well all low-cost NBN reseller-supplied routers have a low Wi-Fi 5 or 6 signal strength. Think of these as 3-cylinder cars – adequate until you put them under loads like video streaming or gaming.

The NBN has two connection types. Fibre-to-the-Premises or HFC (cable) use Ethernet to connect. If you use the NBN for your phone, you will keep your existing router and use it as the Internet and phone gateway. If not, you can directly connect a new router to the Ethernet gateway or port.

However, the vast majority will have NBN Fibre to the Node and use a VDSL+ modem/Wi-Fi router. You need to keep this in place and run an Ethernet cable from its LAN port (yellow) to the new Router’s WAN port (likely blue). Or, as you will see later, TP-Link has X20 and X73 DSL Mesh modem/ routers. Easy.

Rule #2 – Location, Location, Location

Most NBN ‘terminations’ (where you connect your router) are in the worst possible places. These include at the front corner of the house or in the garage. Remember that Wi-Fi has a 20/30 metre diameter circular transmission, and the best place for the termination is smack in the middle of where the Wi-Fi action is or in the middle of the house.

This home is 30m long x 10m wide, and the FTTN termination is in the worst place in the master bedroom at the front (right) of the home. Wi-Fi only covers the bedroom and car park! The solution was a TP-Link Deco X90 router, and two satellites daisy-chained up the hallway.

The garage is one of the worst possible router placements.

That may mean getting an electrician to run an Ethernet cable or using Powerline Ethernet-over-Power lines to place the router in the best location (and it will need a 240V power point). To be clear – run a cable from your poorly placed router to the ideally placed router.

Rule #3 – Do you need a 3-cylinder or a V8?

That depends on the number of connected devices. These include smartphones, Wi-Fi security/baby cameras and doorbells, Computers (PCs, laptops, tablets, printers), Smart speakers (music streaming), TVs (soundbars and media players), smart lights, smart devices (like fans and thermostats), smart appliances (robovac, microwave, washer/dryer) and more.

A typical home may have only a few devices now, but you would be surprised how they multiply like rabbits when you have seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi.

Every manufacturer quotes theoretical device connection numbers, but we live in a practical world. To be clear, they are not wrong, but it all comes back to the simultaneous load. For example, simultaneous 4K TV streaming and having a dedicated gamer in the house may choke the router and Internet.

We recommend (minimum)

  • Up to 10 Wi-Fi devices – Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 AC1900-AC3000 (typical cost $100-300)
  • 11-20 devices – Tri-band Wi-Fi 5 AC3200 and AC5000 ($300-500)
  • 20 to as many as 100 devices – Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 AX3000 to as high as Tri-band AX11000 ($500-800)
  • 100+ – Tri-band AX11000 Wi-Fi 6 or 6E

Buy the biggest tri-band router you can afford – regardless of how few devices you have. It is a future investment.

The TP-Link Archer AX11000 V2 (left) is a 12-stream, Tri-band powerful beast and can be One Mesh Wi-Fi. The TP-Link Deco X90 is an 8-stream, tri-band AX6000 and can be Wi-Fi or Ethernet Mesh extended.

Rule #4 – extend Wi-Fi signal range

Remember the 20/30m 5/2.4GHz diameter circle range? If your router is further away, you need to extend that range either by:

  • A Wi-Fi Access Point usually using Ethernet backhaul and uses a different SSID and Password – not seamless
  • or a Mesh Extender uses Wi-Fi backhaul (some can use Ethernet backhaul) and the same SSID and password – seamless

Let’s focus on Mesh

We will use the Tri-band, AX6600 TP-Link Deco X90 router and Satellite ($879 but shop around. Extra Satellite is <$500) as the example. If you don’t need the bandwidth, there are also lower-cost TP-Link Wi-Fi 6 AX 1800, 3000 and 3600 models and DSL models for NBN fibre-to-the-node users.

We won’t get techy – we will leave that to a final review. The AX90 is a tri-band router that uses one 5GHz band as the backhaul (4×4 up to 4800Mbps full-duplex), or it can use Ethernet as a backhaul (at up to 2500Mbps full-duplex guaranteed rate).

It has one 5Ghz band (2×2, 1200Mbps) and one 2.4Ghz band (2×2, 574Mbps) to extend the internet range. These speeds are how fast your smartphone or smart device can connect to the Satellite – not the Internet.

We need to do some math – we will give you the answers.

The router can transmit a 5GHz signal in a maximum 20m diameter circle around it (about 300m2), but few homes are 20m wide, so you lose some of that outside the walls, in the roof and through the floor. The further away, and the more obstacles to go through, the slower the speed.

The router (green) is in the worst possible place losing half its transmit area by placing it next to a back wall. The best spot is the centre (orange zone) of the house.

The Satellite can also transmit the same area. But to get a good solid Wi-Fi backhaul signal, you need to place it line-of-sight about 5-7 metres from the router (overlapping circles).

←10m→ Router ← 5-7m → Satellite ←10m→ total 27m x 20m wide or 540m2

If you add a third satellite, the area becomes 34 x 20 or 680m2.

←10m→ Satellite ←5-7m→ Router ← 5-7m → Satellite ←10m→

Or you can daisy chain them

←10m→ Router ← 5-7m → Satellite ←5-7m→ Satellite ←10m→

If you have multiple floors and can’t get line-of-sight, you can use Ethernet backhaul up to 100m from the router. The Main Modem/Router is the NBN gateway in the image below. The top image is Wi-Fi backhaul, and the bottom one is Ethernet backhaul, although you can mix the two.

I want Internet in the shed

While the TP-Link Deco X90 can easily fix home blackspots, the ‘shed’ may be some distance away from the house. Or it may not be possible to run an Ethernet cable inside a home.

You can use TP Powerline extender adapters to run Ethernet over 240V power in full-duplex 1000/1000Mbps (AV2000 – approx. $170 a pair), then plug your Deco X90 satellite into its Ethernet port to cover that area. You can also add more X90s in a daisy chain to cover larger sheds.

Powerline is so easy – it either works or not, depending on power circuit wiring. The TP-Link are excellent in that they have passthrough power sockets and two Ethernet ports for wired connections.

Caveat: While Powerline is usually relatively stable and fast, it can be affected by old wiring, noise on the power lines and multiple circuits. Maximum transmission distance is around 100m, and you can use up to 8 of these around the home or office, but they all share the same 2000Mbps

Each time you daisy chain an X90 satellite, your throughput (internet speed) decreases – not your device to X90 connection speed. In practice using Wi-Fi backhaul, about 10 Deco X90 units are maximum and no more than three in any one daisy chain. If you use Ethernet backhaul, you can add more but remember that the main X90 router needs to handle more traffic.

Or TP-Links new PX-50 Ethernet over Power AX3000 modem.

TP-Link Deco PX-50 Mesh/Powerline Wi-Fi 6 AX3000 – the perfect 10 uses Ethernet over Power to make Mesh easy and foolproof.

Rule #5 – test seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi is working

While the TP-Link Deco X90 LED signal strength indicators, App, and web-based page tell you about connection speeds, that is really about the rate that your Wi-Fi device connects to the Satellite. Use the App to identify bandwidth hogs, and you can give them higher or lower priority.

The best indication of speed is to run OOKLA Speedtest in each room on a tablet or phone and see what the internet connection speed and latency is. For example, if you have a 100/20MBps DL/UL NBN package, it may be 20ms and 100/20Mbps at the router, but at the third Satellite, it may be 60ms and 35/15Mbps.

Also, note that it may take some time for the tablet or phone to seamlessly roam, e.g., disconnect from the previous Satellite and connect to the new one. If you are getting poor results, turn your device’s Wi-Fi off and on to get the nearest Satellite.

Now 4K streaming takes 15Mbps, 1080p takes 5Mbps, and 720p takes 3Mbps, so you can still stream.

You may benefit by connecting data-hungry devices like TVs and games consoles by Ethernet to the main X90 router using a gigabit switch or the LAN port on each Satellite.

CyberShack’s view – Seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi is now easy with Wi-Fi 6

Before Wi-Fi 6, I would have said Mesh was a waste of time and effort. Wi-Fi 6 being full-duplex solves the main issue. The TP-Link X90 is a tri-band that uses dedicated Wi-Fi or Ethernet backhaul, or both.

We would be remiss not to mention that there are other brands of Mesh routers like D-Link, Orbi, Netgear and more. But you need to be careful as some have proprietary mesh, don’t daisy-chain or have the option of Ethernet backhaul. 

So Seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi is now easy and can be very economical depending on your home size and needs.

We thank TP-Link for providing the test equipment for this guide.

Seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi