|The Aruba AP-515 "WiFi-6" Access Point|
Getting good WiFi at home
If you have a large home, or one with thick or insulated walls, you may need more than one access point to get good WiFi coverage. BT are making a point of this in recent adverts, but please do think carefully about this. WiFi is simply part of your home or office network infrastructure and a totally separate thing to your Internet Connection. Yes, smaller homes often have one box for all (modem, router and WiFi), and that does work for smaller homes. But if you want good networking at home or office, I'd recommend thinking about your network infrastructure (WiFi, Cabling, and switches) as a separate project than your choice of ISP. Good networking at home can make all the difference. WiFi repeaters and power ethernet devices are generally no match for running a network cable to where you need an access point. With PoE (power over Ethernet) that can be one cable and no need to find a power socket near where the AP is located (important when on the ceiling). Any fixed machines on desks, or TVs, etc, are often better handled on cable as well, and there are some nice PoE powered 5 port switches that are available making it easy to run one cable to behind the TV for several devices and not need another power socket.
Please, don't do what I saw in one place. We spent a weekend at a large holiday home. WiFi did not reach from one end to the other. They had installed two totally separate ISP connections each with a separate WiFi modem/router with the default ISP set SSID and password, in order to "cover" the whole house!
Ubiquiti have been pretty groundbreaking in making a lot of network equipment available at a reasonable price, including good WiFi access points. I tried these and we were selling them at A&A. I am using Ubiquiti IP Cameras and they are pretty good (just got some of the G3 Pro models which do proper PoE, and they are nice).
I tried these access points at home, and I did run in to a real problem with iPhones, roaming between access points, and IPv6. At one point we thought FireBricks may be a factor, but it seems that is just because A&A sold Ubiquti APs, FireBrick routers and IPv6 networking - the problem was seen with non FireBrick routers. The problem looks like it is probably iPhone related, but hard to say if iPhone bug or not. The big clue was when someone found that turning off IGMP snooping on the AP solved the issue. This makes some sense as IPv6 uses multicast for neighbour discovery, so broken IGMP and multicast could break IPv6. What is interesting is we have also seen this on another make of AP now, though still iPhone specific, and it looks like it relates to 802.11r roaming. My guess is an iPhone bug.
I changed to Aruba access points. They are a bit more pricey than Ubiquiti - around twice the price. Ubiquiti really have done a good job on price.
They have a confusing array of model numbers which fooled me a bit. Not only for different grades of WiFi standard and speed, and number of radios, but for indoor and outdoor, and for internal and external antenna. They have models for specific countries - the one we need is "RW" (which I assume means Rest of World).
Like most systems to manage a set of access points you need a controller. Ubiquiti do controller software for multiple platforms for free. What Aruba were doing is a separate hardware controller, but they then added Aruba Instant which is where one of the APs acts as a controller for the set, providing a nice web interface. This has the advantage of no separate controller, but also, if that AP is off line another takes its place with the same config, so redundancy built in. What was confusing is that this was a separate model - the IAP-305 is the one that can be a controller and the AP-305 cannot. What fooled me further is that later models are all able to be a controller but don't have the I in the name, so an AP-375 is an outdoor AP and there is no IAP-375 which confused me. The AP-375 can be stand-alone / controller. I'll be trying an outdoor AP (AP-375) soon, to ensure good coverage of the garden for the summer, and I'll no doubt post more on that.
As for roaming iPhones and IPv6, the Aruba has control of separate roaming related settings for 802.11r, 802.11k, and 802.11v. It seems only the 802.11r breaks iPhones and IPv6, but roaming is pretty seamless with the other two settings turned on. I am sure one day this will be fixed in iPhones and so 802.11r can be enabled.
Personally I like the Aruba better, but that does come at a price.
One of the interesting things for both manufacturers is the new 802.11ax standard (aka WiFi-6). I don't have a device that can use it yet, but it is rumoured that iPhones may have this year. Aruba have an AP that does it (AP-515). Once they are both available, I'll give them a try and keep you posted.