Category: Network Management

KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi vulnerability–what is affected

Telstra Gateway Frontier modem router press picture courtesy of Telstra

A wireless router set up in the ordinary way as a base station or hub for your home network isn’t at risk of the KRACK exploit

The computing press has been awash with articles regarding a recently-discovered security vulnerability that affects Wi-Fi wireless networks. This vulnerability, known as KRACK, compromises the authentication process associated with the WPA2 security protocols that most Wi-Fi home and business networks implement.

What is affected

But it mainly affects client devices like laptops, smartphones and the Internet of Things which connect to Wi-Fi networks using WPA2 facilitated through software that isn’t patched against this risk.

It also can affect Wi-Fi infrastructure devices that serve as a repeater or client-side bridge in a Wi-Fi wireless network segment – this encompasses Wi-Fi client bridges used to connect desktop computers or smart TVs equipped with Ethernet connectivity to a Wi-Fi network, Wi-Fi repeaters, distributed-Wi-Fi setups and mobile devices implementing “bridge-to-Wi-Fi” functionality.

Data security risks

The security and privacy risk occurs at the media level of your network connection which would represent the Wi-Fi wireless link to the access point / router.

If you use higher-level encryption protocols like gaining access to Internet resources through SSL / TLS encryption which includes “https” Webpages, implementing a client-based VPN or using IP telecommunications apps that implement end-to-end encryption, you have reduced the risk factor for your data security that the KRACK vulnerability poses. Access to LAN-based resources like your NAS or printer from within your network can be a risk with Wi-Fi clients that aren’t patched to mitigate this risk as with unencrypted Internet resources.

Current remediation efforts

This situation has been rectified for regular computers running Windows 7 onwards through a patch that Microsoft rolled out as part of the October 10 security update. Here Microsoft didn’t disclose this vulnerability until there was a chance for all of industry to have patches in beta testing or “ready to roll”.

Just lately (1 November 2017 AEDT) Apple released patches for MacOS High Sierra, Sierra and El Capitan versions; and iOS 11.1 (iPhone 7 onwards, iPad Pro 9.7″ (2016) onwards); tvOS 11.1 (4K Apple TV onwards) and watchOS 11.1 to address this issue.  The Intego Mac Security Blog post that I culled these details from was miffed about the fact that the large number of iPhone 6 and earlier devices that are still in operation have not been addressed. I would also extend this concern to the older iPad and iPod Touch devices that are also in operation such as those iPod Touches the kids use or the iPad in your living room.

Other regular-computer and mobile operating systems are being updated with security patches that are coming online through the next two months or are already online.

There will also be various pieces of client-side security software that will be updated with extra code that provides extra defence against the KRACK Wi-Fi vulnerability for both the software and the host computer.

The devices you will find as having a strong risk factor for your network are “dedicated-purpose” network devices like Internet AV devices, “smart-home” devices, videosurveillance cameras and the like that don’t benefit from regular firmware updates. This will mainly affect those devices that manufacturers are declaring “end-of-support” on or a lot of “white-box” devices sold by multiple vendors. But check your devices’ manufacturers’ Websites for new firmware that will patch the device against this vulnerability.

This will not affect the typical home or other small network that is based around a wireless router. Nor will it affect networks that implement multiple Wi-Fi access points connected to a wired (Ethernet or HomePlug) backbone. This is because you are dealing with devices that serve as a Wi-Fi base station for that particular wireless network segment.

But if you have Wi-Fi infrastructure devices using some sort of repeater or bridge functionality, check with the vendor for a firmware update for your device.

As well wireless router and access-point manufacturers, especially those courting the business and allied markets, will offer newer firmware to harden their devices against the KRACK vulnerability.

Remember that well-designed devices will implement at best an automatic software-update process or you may have to visit your device’s Settings, Setup or Configuration menu to download new firmware.

As well, the Wi-Fi Alliance have updated their certification tests for network hardware to be sure that such hardware isn’t vulnerable to this risk. These certification tests will be required before a product can show the Wi-Fi Certified logos and will affect products being introduced from this month onwards.

Keeping your network secure until new software is available

If you run Wi-Fi network infrastructure hardware that implements repeater or bridge functionality, disable the Wi-Fi client mode or repeater mode on these devices until your device is running firmware hardened against this vulnerability.

HomePlug AV adaptor

The HomePlug powerline adaptor can help with mitigating risks associated with the KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi network vulnerability

You may also have to set up your home network with multiple access points linked to a wired backbone as the preferred way to extend the network’s coverage or reach to another building as has been done with this man-cave. A good example of this is to use a HomePlug wireless access point kit which uses your home’s AC wiring for this purpose. If you use a “Mi-Fi” mobile router that supports Wi-Fi data offload, disable this functionality until it is loaded with the latest secure firmware.

Similarly, use a wired network connection such as Ethernet or HomePlug to connect sessile devices like desktop computers, Smart TVs, printers and the like to your home network. This may not be feasible with those devices that only support Wi-Fi connectivity as their network-connection option.

Conclusion

You can mitigate the risk of the KRACK WPA2 Wi-Fi network vulnerability as long as you keep your computer equipment running software that is patched with the latest security updates.

If you use Wi-Fi infrastructure devices that work as a Wi-Fi client like repeaters or client bridges, these have to be updated with the latest firmware from their vendor. As well, use of wired backbones and access points for expanding your home network’s coverage will achieve the proper level of security against this risk if you are dealing with client-capable Wi-Fi infrastructure devices that aren’t updated with the latest software.

Let’s not forget that higher-level encryption protocols like SSL or client-side VPNs do mitigate the risk of data theft through this vulnerability.

Updated (1 November 2017 AEDT) to reflect the latest concerning what is happening with the Apple platforms.

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AVM adds mesh functionality to more of their network infrastructure devices

Article (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

Newer AVM Fritzboxes, FritzWLAN and FritzPowerline part of a mesh network

Neues FritzOS mit Mesh-Funktionen für mehr AVM-Repeater | ZDNet.de

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

IFA 2017 Press Release (Vergrößern Sie Ihr WLAN – mit Mesh).

Product Page

My Comments

Previously, I have covered how AVM, a German home-network infrastructure company, have approached the idea of a distributed home network. This is through a firmware update to some of their newer Fritz!Box routers and network-infrastructure hardware (Wi-Fi repeaters and HomePlug AV access points) such as the Fritz!WLAN 1750E repeater and Fritz!Powerline 1240E HomePlug access point.

What also impressed me about their approach is the use of a wired or wireless backhaul rather than just sticking to a wireless backhaul. Here, it can be about serving areas which are out of the router’s radio range, including providing support for multiple-building home networks. This is while providing a simplified setup and operating process for your home network.

Initially this was a beta firmware update that may not be considered stable and only applied to a few devices. But AVM have got the firmware to a stable condition and have written it to work with more devices. This includes the Fritz!Powerline 540 and 546E HomePlug AV500 802.11n single-band dual-stream access points and the Fritz!WLAN 1160 802.11ac dual-band and Fritz!WLAN 310 and 450E single-band 802.11n repeaters.

Of course they have underscored a simplified setup experience with firmware delivery and network configuration. This includes a Web-based configuration dashboard which shows how the network is set up as well as the condition of the wired and wireless backbones. The support for a HomePlug wired backbone will please those of us who live in stone or double-brick houses where HomePlug is more surefire as a backbone or who have multiple buildings on that large property.

Like with other distributed Wi-Fi setups, there is an emphasis on bandwidth optimisation such as steering high-throughput Wi-Fi devices to the sparsely-occupied 5GHz band if they can support it. Let’s not forget the fact that these systems set each access point on a Wi-Fi channel that they determine works best.

But why should AVM support single-band access points and repeaters that work the 2.4GHz band as part of their mesh? This may work out by allowing these devices to, perhaps, provide infill coverage on that band using a different channel. For example, other devices that work on that band like Bluetooth or 2.4GHz DECT devices, or the microwave oven may cause interference for Wi-Fi devices and a properly-designed mesh system could re-optimise the channels to avoid the interference.

What I still like of AVM’s approach to distributed Wi-Fi wireless setups is that they are enabling this functionality simply through deploying newer firmware to existing products rather than requiring users to buy a new system. This saves the users money when it comes to hardware costs as well as seeing newer hardware in to the long term.

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AVM adds distributed Wi-Fi functionality to the Fritz!Box

Article – German language / Deutsche Sprache

Fritz!Box: Auch AVM setzt auf Mesh-WLAN | Netzwelt.de

From the horse’s mouth

AVM

AVM FRITZ!Box 3490 - Press photo courtesy AVM

AVM Fritz!Box – the first Wi-Fi device range to implement distributed Wi-Fi through a software upgrade

FRITZ! Labor für WLAN Mesh (Product Details)

My Comments

A major trend affecting the home network is the rise of distributed Wi-Fi systems which are simple-to-setup Wi-Fi networks that use a mesh-based or “repeater-extender” Wi-Fi wireless backbone. Some ISPs are even offering these kind of systems as an added-value option that customers can “buy on” or product differentiator for their top-shelf packages.

But AVM, a network-technology company based in Berlin, Germany, and known for its Fritz!Box routers have taken a different approach to this situation. This is in addition to being the first home-network hardware  Here, they are offering this functionality in the form of a user-deployed software upgrade just released in Germany for some of their devices, namely the Fritz!Box 7490, 7580 and 7590 modem routers and the Fritz!WLAN Repeater 1750E Wi-Fi repeater and Fritz!Powerline 1240E HomePlug access point.

Here, AVM has done away with the need for households to replace their equipment to head towards the mesh-driven Wi-Fi home network.They just have to download the newer firmware updates from AVM’s Website and apply them to the Fritz!Box modem router. Then they take advantage of a firmware-hosted “Home Network Overview” (Heimnetzübersicht) dashboard to roll out the “over-the-air” firmware updates to any compatible Fritz!WLAN repeater or Fritz!Powerline access point to have them part of the mesh. Of course, it also facilitates one-touch configuration of the network with each wireless node in the meh being part of the proper “extended service set” with the same ESSID and security parameters.

The question here is whether AVM will implement just the wireless backbone for their mesh or have it support a wired (Ethernet or HomePlug AV2) backbone as well. Here, supporting a wired backbone as well as the wireless backbone can cater towards difficult network setups like stone buildings or multiple-building properties.

What do I see of this? Personally I would see the European network-hardware vendors implement a fully software-driven approach towards the advanced Wi-Fi setup. It would then lead to ISPs in highly-competitive markets like France rolling out this kind of functionality simply through a software functionality update for their customer-premises equipment.

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What is G.Fast all about?

Telstra Gateway Frontier modem router press picture courtesy of Telstra

G.Fast could be the next step for DSL-based fibre-copper broadband setups

There is a newer iteration of the DSL physical-loop network connection standards that has shown up on the scene lately. It is known as G.Fast and is intended for fibre-copper layouts that encompass a longer fibre run from the exchange or central office.

This is an improvement over the VDSL2 family of standards currently used for fibre-copper setups where there is a longer copper run, such as “fibre-to-the-node” or “fibre-to-the-cabinet” setups. What it is capable of is a bandwidth up to a Gigabit / second over a 500 metre copper run.

House

It could be about fibre to the front yard here

What has happened lately is that a compatibility-testing regime for this standard has been launched thanks to a number of laboratories who are undertaking these tests. As well, it is being put on the map as far as a copper-based last-mile communications standard goes.

Yarra's Edge apartment blocks

or high-speed fibre to the basement in these apartment blocks

There is interest in this technology for use as part of next-generation broadband setups where fibre and copper are used in the link, but it is targeted towards relatively-short copper runs.

Examples of these are:

  • fibre-to-the-distribution-point / fibre-to-the-curb – where the DSLAM modem is installed in a distribution point or frame that serves a street and, perhaps, some cul-de-sac courts
  • fibre-to-the-front-yard / fibre-to-the-frontage – where the DSLAM modem is located outside a single-occupancy property and just serves that property, or a DSLAM is set up to serve a small group of terrace houses or a small strip of shops.
  • fibre-to-the-building / fibre-to-the-basement – a setup used with multiple-occupancy buildings with the DSLAM equipment installed in a wiring closet or equipment room within the building and telephone cabling used between the equipment room and the individual premises.

Some of these deployments that serve few premises permit the use of a single-premises DSLAM box that is the size of a shoehox or, more realistically, one of those “shoebox-form” cassette recorders prevalent through the 1970s as an entry-level cassette recorder. This can be installed in an access pit or attached to a telegraph pole and could be “reverse powered” by the subscriber’s modem or a power injector installed on the subscriber’s premises.

The advantage being pitched is that a subscriber can head to “next-generation” Internet even if they are in a predicament that restricts or prohibits the deployment of new street-premises wiring infrastructure. This could range from brick or stone houses where it is costly in time and money to pull new wiring, through the desire to preserve a carefully-landscaped garden, to tenants who have to seek their landlord’s permission to install infrastructure, along with being sure someone is home to supervise the technicians installing the infrastructure.

Let’s not forget that a fibre-to-the-distribution-point setup or a fibre-to-the-building setup can also be ready for Gigabit broadband once G.Fast is implemented. There may also be the idea of using these DSLAMs as part of level-based telecommunications infrastructure in the high-rise buildings to assure high bandwidth across the development.

At the moment, G.Fast service customers will need to be supplied with a G.Fast DSL modem which they connect to their broadband router’s Ethernet WAN socket and the telephone line. This will happen as part of signing up to these next-generation Internet services that use that technology. But very soon it will lead towards the arrival of a subsequent generation of DSL modem routers that are equipped with a G.Fast / VDSL2+ / ADSL2+ modem as a WAN (Internet) connection option.

G.Fast will end up being suitable for population-dense urban areas being served by a fibre-optic next-generation broadband service as long as the copper cable run goes as far as the street.

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Understanding the new distributed-Wi-Fi systems

NETGEAR Orbi distributed WiFi system press image courtesy of NETGEAR

NETGEAR Orbi distributed WiFi system – understanding these devices and whether to purchase them or not

A new class of home-network device has been appearing over the last year or so in the form of the “distributed Wi-Fi system”, sometimes known as the “mesh Wi-Fi system”.

These systems consist of two or three modules, one working as your home network’s router and the other modules working as access points. But they have features that are different to setups where you use an ordinary access point and wired-network backbone or a range extender to extend your Wi-Fi wireless network’s coverage.

Some ISPs are even offering distributed-Wi-Fi systems as a product differentiator for their premium packages or as an add-on that customers can buy. They are offering these devices in response to their customer base complaining to their support desks and “bricks-and-mortar” storefronts regarding poor Wi-Fi coverage.

Core features

Simplified setup and self-tuning

When you set up these devices, you don’t have to determine the operating frequency for each of the modules nor do you have to deal with multiple devices for your network to run properly.

Typically the only hands-on requirement is to work with one management interface when adjusting your network’s settings. You may even find that this interface is where you set up things like your Internet connection parameters or your network’s ESSID and enable / disable any particular features the system has.

You may find that the procedure involved with enrolling additional node devices to an existing distributed-Wi-Fi system may be as simple as pairing a network client device to a Wi-Fi network using WPS push-button pairing. This would simply be about pressing a button on the new device then pressing a button on one of the existing devices or the main node.

These systems continually re-adjust the operating frequency and other parameters so as to cope with changes in operating circumstances.

For example, if one or more of your neighbours set up new home networks or add access points and range extenders to these networks, you may find that your network underperforms due to the neighbouring networks operating on the same frequency. Even someone running a “Mi-Fi” mobile router or using their smartphone’s “Internet-share” mode could affect the network’s performance.

But the typical distributed-Wi-Fi system will automatically tune itself to different frequencies when these situations do occur. As well, it may implement other tactics to provide the best signal strength for your client devices.

Automatic creation of a single Wi-Fi network

A problem that users will have especially with wireless range extenders is that your network is split up in to multiple extended service sets or Wi-Fi networks. This can cause problems with users having to switch between different network names to gain the best coverage, something that can daunt a lot of users.

If you set up a traditional access-point setup with a wired (HomePlug or Ethernet) backbone, you have to “copy” the SSID and security parameters to each access point’s setup interface. A few HomePlug access points simplify this task using a WPS-based “Wi-Fi Clone” function where you activate this function then press the WPS button on your router to “copy over” the network parameters to the access point.

But these systems allow you to create your network’s SSID and security parameters with these being reflected across all of the modules that are part of the system. This includes implementing these parameters across all wavebands that these distributed Wi-Fi systems support.

This leads to a network that has the same kind of “roam-ability” as what would be expected for larger Wi-Fi networks with multiple access points. It is similar to what you would have expected with a properly-set-up traditional access-point network.

System types

Mesh-based distributed Wi-Fi system

Mesh-based distributed Wi-Fi system – each device links with each other

There are two different approaches being implemented with distributed Wi-Fi systems. These affect how the wireless backhaul signal is provided between each of the system’s modules.

Mesh system

The mesh method, implemented by Linksys Velop, Google WiFi, and eero require the use of three or more modules with one of these serving as the “edge” router for the network.

Here, the wireless backhaul works on a mesh approach where each module effectively receives signals from and transmits signals to the other modules that are in range. There is some fault-tolerance in these setups where the receiving module (node) can rely on other transmitting nodes if one of them fails. On the other hand, the receiving node aggregates the bandwidth it receives from two or more nodes of the network for higher throughput.

Router-extender / hub-satellite system

Hub-satellite distributed-Wi-Fi system

Hub-satellite distributed Wi-Fi system – uses extender devices connected to a router

The other approach, followed by the DLink Covr and the Netgear Orbi works in a similar vein to a traditional router and range-extender setup or traditional multiple-access-point setup.

Here, the satellite nodes in this system provide a single backhaul link to the hub node which typically is the router. The better designed systems like the NETGEAR Orbi use a dedicated wireless link for their wireless backhaul. This avoids competition for bandwidth by the portable client devices and the satellite nodes wanting to repeat the signal.

Features and limitations regarding these systems

Router-only or access-point functionality

Most of the distributed wireless setups are connected to the Internet in the same vein as a router where they create their own logical network. This setup appeals to users who have a modem that provides a media-level connection to their Internet service like a cable modem, optical-network terminator or a wireless-broadband modem.

This will be a limitation for users who have a modem router like most xDSL connections or users that implement a router that offers very advanced functionality like a VPN endpoint or VoIP gateway.

If you have one of these setups and want to use a distributed wireless system, look for one that offers access-point functionality or network-level bridging functionality. Here, these systems just connect to an Ethernet LAN socket on the existing router but you would have to disable the Wi-Fi functionality on the router if you use one of these systems if the node is closely located to the router.

Dedicated wireless backbone

Better-designed systems will implement a separate wireless backbone that isn’t used by any of the client devices. These systems will use specific radio front-ends and create a separate wireless network specifically for this backbone while each node has other radio front-ends that simply serve as the Wi-Fi access point for that area.

The benefit that is provided here is that the backhaul isn’t being shared with client devices that in the node’s good-reception area. That allows for optimum bandwidth for your distributed-Wi-Fi setup.

Alternative wired backbone

A handful of these systems are offering a wired backbone as an alternative setup for the network that they establish. This is provided through either an Ethernet LAN connection on the nodes or a setup may implement HomePlug AV500 or AV2 powerline networking as the wired backbone.

This feature may be of value for environments where the wireless backhaul just won’t perform as expected such as houses with interior walls made of highly-dense materials. Or these setups can come in to their own with multi-building home networks, where a wired link like HomePlug AV2 powerline networking for existing setups or Ethernet for new setups could link the buildings. On the other hand, if you wired your home for Ethernet, a distributed wireless system that implements support for an Ethernet wired backbone can exploit this infrastructure by allowing you to push out the network coverage further.

These systems should be able to treat the wired backbone as though it is another wireless backbone or part of the mesh. With some of these systems, you could push out a wireless backbone that refers to one of the nodes connected to the wired backbone as its “master” node rather than the main router.

Internet-dependent operation

There are some distributed-wireless systems that are dependent on an Internet connection for them to operate and for you to manage them. Most likely this is evident if the user interface is through a mobile-platform app that links to an Internet resource; along with heavy talk of “cloud operation” in the product documentation. This kind of setup is one that some new Silicon-Valley outfits are heading down the road towards as they want us to join the Internet-dependent “cloud bus”.

On the other hand, a system that isn’t dependent on an Internet connection for you to manage the network will allow you to visit a Web-page dashboard through a local network address or resource name and fully manage your network via that dashboard created by the router or node. Some of these systems that have UPnP IGD or management functionality enabled may make themselves discoverable using a Windows computer on the same network if you open Windows Explorer / File Explorer and see it listed as a Network device.

This is the traditional practice for most home and small-business network hardware and such a setup may offer the ability to be managed within your network using a mobile-platform app that points to the local resource. But this setup allows you to manage or troubleshoot your network even if the Internet connection is down. You also benefit from the ability to get your network ready before your Internet service is provisioned or deal with service-provisioning scenarios like changing your service provider or connection technology, or dealing with Internet services that authenticate with usernames and passwords.

What should I buy?

Not every distributed-Wi-Fi setup suits every house. This is because different houses come in differing sizes and compositions.

I would pay attention to those distributed-wireless systems like the NETGEAR Orbi that offer a choice of different nodes that have differing signal strengths at different price points. The benefit with these systems is that you can effectively shape your Wi-Fi network’s coverage to your premises size and shape.

For example, an entry-level package with a low-output satellite node could earn its keep with providing coverage to an area at the edge of your small house or apartment where you sometimes have good reception but could do with “pushing out” the coverage a bit further for better response from smartphones and mobile-platform tablets used in that area. But you would find that a standard distributed-wireless package may be overkill for this situation. Here, it is similar to creating a HomePlug powerline segment to serve a baseline HomePlug wireless access point to fill in that dark spot and achieve that same goal.

But for most homes, you could get by with running a standard distributed-Wi-Fi system that just has two nodes. Here, you install one where your Internet connection would customarily be while the other one either is at the centre of the house or towards the opposite side. A two-storey or split-level building may simply require one of the nodes to be placed upstairs while the other one is downstairs. You may find that houses with a large floor plan may require three or more nodes and/or a mesh-based system for optimum coverage.

Systems that support an Ethernet or HomePlug AV wired backhaul in addition to the wireless backhaul earn their keep with those houses that use dense building materials for one or more of their interior walls. If a system only supports an Ethernet wired backhaul, you can team it with a pair of “homeplugs” to gain the benefit of the powerline-network technology which may answer your need with that old house that has a thick brick or sandstone interior wall.

As for system management, I would prefer to use a distributed-Wi-Fi system that implements Internet-independent setup and management. This means that if the Internet connection should go down and you had to re-configure your system or you chance service providers, you can do so.

Personally- I would like to see these systems be able to support the ability for one to determine the SSID and security parameters for the wireless network that they are creating. This is important for those of us who are using one of these systems to improve our existing network, whether to supplant our existing router or its Wi-Fi functionality. In this situation, you may want to convey your existing network’s parameters to the new network so you don’t have to go around to each client device that uses Wi-Fi to set it up for the network. It is although the procedure is simplified with most of these systems implementing WPS-based “push-to-connect” client-device setup on each module.

Use an access point and a wired backbone or one of these kits?

The distributed-Wi-Fi systems do appeal to people who don’t go for a “hands-on” approach in optimising their home network’s Wi-Fi performance. They are also useful for those of us who live in a high-turnover neighbourhood where people are moving in and out frequently. You will also have to be sure that you are not dealing with radio obstacles like interior walls made out of dense materials like that double-brick home that has am extension.

On the other hand, a traditional access point linked to an Ethernet or HomePlug wired backbone can work well for those of us who don’t mind a hands-on approach to set up the system and don’t face a situation where they have to readjust their home network regularly.

It is also important if we want to use a mix of equipment from different vendors or place high importance on a wired backhaul for reliability. To the same extent, the traditional access point with the wired backhaul is infact the surefire path for dealing with a multiple-building situation such as reaching the granny flat or man-cave garage.

Conclusion

At the moment, the distributed-Wi-Fi system, especially the mesh-based variant, is a technology still in its infancy. What needs to happen for this technology to become more accepted is that it can work in a purely heterogeneous vendor-independent manner, something that has to be facilitated through the implementation of standards that cover mesh networking and simplified setup / configuration requirements.

But the fact that major home-network vendors are coming in on the act rather than it being owned by Silicon-Valley startups means that the product class is becoming increasingly viable as a solution for poor Wi-Fi network coverage.

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Netgear offers more of the Orbi extenders

Articles

NETGEAR Orbi distributed WiFi system press image courtesy of NETGEAR

NETGEAR Orbi distributed WiFi system

Netgear releases two (slightly) cheaper Orbi routers | Engadget

Netgear announces two new Orbi routers | TechCrunch

From the horse’s mouth

NETGEAR

Orbi Wi-Fi System

Press Release

Product Page

My Comments

Most of the recently-issued distributed-wireless systems that consist of modules that extend Wi-Fi coverage across a larger area are typically architected for a large suburban home. But you may want to get the coverage right for a smaller or larger area such as a New-York-style apartment or a larger country house.

NETGEAR have revised their Orbi distributed-wireless system which is based on a “router + extender” setup. This consists of a three-band router serving as a hub device while the satellite devices work in a similar vein to the range extender although there is a separate waveband implemented for backhaul purposes as well as providing for a simplified setup and roaming routine. In this system, one of the bands is kept as a backhaul between the extender devices and the router.

But they have released a few more “right-sized” output extenders for the Orbi distributed-wireless system. The original system, known as the RBK50, was capable of working an AC3000 network with a 5000 square-foot coverage. On the other hand, the RBK40 works an AC2200 network capable of covering 4000 square feet of space. There is a third system, known as the RBK30 which uses a satellite unite that plugs directly in to the power outlet like most range extenders or HomePlug devices. This also uses AC2200 network technology and can cover 3500 square feet.

For example, I would recommend for a small single-storey house or apartment the RBK30 if you are answering the typical setup where your router is located at the front or back of the house. Here, you are nudging the coverage out to an area that is not fully covered because of the equipment being up the front. The RBK40 or RBK50 could answer needs like multi-storey or split-level houses, or larger single-storey houses. In this situation, you want to, for example, make sure that there is equal Wi-Fi coverage upstairs and downstairs or, again, “nudge” the coverage out towards the back of your house.

NETGEAR are also selling these repeaters as accessories rather than as part of an Orbi system. This is important for those of you who are wanting to provide infill coverage for an existing Orbi system such as to deal with a larger house.

The NETGEAR Orbi and its peers would work well for buildings where the interior walls aren’t constructed of highly-dense building materials. You would run in to problems with, for example, the brick or sandstone home where you built on an extension, or one of the English cottages where there was an emphasis on brick or masonry construction for the inside walls. The reason I am calling this out is because the Orbi system implements a dedicated 5GHz band for the backhaul while your network devices connect to the router or extender devices using another 5GHz and 2.4GHz band created for the network.

Personally, I would like to see the NETGEAR Orbi systems available as a variant that uses a HomePlug AV500 or HomePlug AV2 powerline backbone or can exploit an Ethernet backbone as an alternative to the wireless backbone for those environments where that backbone can’t cut it.

A question that needs to be raised in the use cases that NETGEAR demonstrates in their online marketing collateral is whether an Orbi Satellite extender can be “daisy-chained” to an extant Orbi Satellite extender. This may be of concern to those of us who decide we want to extend the Orbi System from the extender such as to “push out” the range further.

What I like about the latest NETGEAR Orbi additions is that NETGEAR are “right-sizing” this distributed-wireless system to suit different coverage areas like apartments, small homes and larger homes as well as providing a way to “fill-in” coverage dark spots.

New firmware available for original Orbi system (1.8.0.6)

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What will 802.11ax Wi-Fi wireless networking be about?

ASUS RT-AC5300 router press picture courtesy of ASUS

802.11ax will be the next Wi-Fi standard that will grace our routers, but this will require newer hardware

There is the impending plan to define the IEEE 802.11ax Wi-Fi wireless local-area-network standard which is intended to supplant the 802.11ac standard used for general-purpose Wi-Fi networks. Qualcomm are even offering an initial lot of silicon for this standard in order to have something that can be proven.

But what is it about?

One of the man benefits is wider bandwidth which allows for five times more bandwidth than what 802.11ac offers. But there is also the idea that we will see Gigabit throughput levels being offered for real rather than as headline speeds which are based on a “link-level” speed without any error correction.

This is brought about with increased MIMO multiple-antenna / multiple-front-end abilities such as MIMO-OFDM, which is expected to improve Wi-Fi’s robustness. The MU-MIMO functionality which effectively provides optimum bandwidth to each client device will work for downstream and upstream data.

Yarra's Edge apartment blocks

802.11ax Wi-Fi wireless will benefit apartments, hotels and trade shows where many Wi-Fi networks do co-exist

802.11ax Wi-Fi implements spatial frequency reuse to improve network reliability in high-density setups. Current Wi-Fi setups don’t really perform reliably when they are faced with a high-density setup like a trade show with connections dropping off too easily. But there is the ability to reuse frequencies and co-exist to assure improved reliability in these situations. It also answers a reality with Wi-Fi and high-density urban living where you will come across with each small apartment, office or shop in a large building ends up being equipped with its own Wi-Fi network, something that will be more so with next-generation broadband service being delivered to the premises.

Something more real that will underscore the robustness that 802.11ax provides

To the same extent, this level of robustness in dense Wi-Fi environments also applies to situations where Wi-Fi networks that have multiple access points including range extenders are being implemented by most people to assure optimum network coverage for their portable devices. It is a practice underscored by the reality that a Wi-Fi router is typically installed at one end of the premises because it has to be colocated with the connection that facilitates a wired broadband connection like a telephone or cable-TV socket.

Let’s not forget that the Wi-Fi WMM and WMM Power Save standards will be improved under this specification to assure continual throughput for streamed multimedia content; along with power-efficiency for battery operated devices. These standards will be improved to cater towards an increased volume of data.

The 802.11ax Wi-Fi standard is not intended to be set in stone before 2019 although there will be equipment being released to earlier drafts through the next few years. This is a practice that has happened with 802.11n and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with the Wi-Fi Alliance even calling the standards before IEEE had the chance to call them. But it could be seen more or less as the wireless local network standard to complement next-generation fibre-optic or 5G wireless broadband Internet services that offer Gigabit or more bandwidth.

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Wi-Fi TimeSync–to make multichannel Wi-Fi wireless audio real

Article

Wi-Fi might fix wireless speakers this year | The Verge

Wi-Fi for audiophiles: Alliance preps TimeSync certification program | The Register

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance – TimeSync

Product Page

Whitepaper (PDF)

My Comments

Denon HEOS wireless speakers

Speakers like the Denon HEOS family will benefit from WiFi TimeSync so that they can be used with different manufacturers’ systems

The Wi-Fi Alliance have worked towards a standard for keeping time-sensitive data synchronous on a Wi-Fi network segment. This has become a very difficult situation with networks that rely on packet-based data-transfer technology because you are never sure whether data packets are leaving or arriving at the same time.

The key application case being put forward for Wi-Fi TimeSync is to use Wi-Fi technology to provide multiple-channel audio and video with an open-frame wireless approach for home-entertainment setups.

One implementations seen in this context would be a household starting with the TV’s internal speakers for video sound but moving towards a sound bar and / or external speakers plus a subwoofer located up the front beside the screen. Then they move towards a fully-fledged home theatre setup with rear speakers, using speaker systems from manufacturers they prefer at prices they prefer.

Another implementation would be a single-piece multiroom speaker or single-piece music system. The user then adds one or two extra speakers as their budget allows so they benefit from improved stereo separation. This also comes in to play for a multiple-speaker setup for environments where they want to “spread the sound” such as during a party.

But there are other use cases. One would be to use Wi-Fi in the context of connecting wireless microphones, instrument connections (guitars and electric basses) and wireless monitor setups for recording, broadcast and PA applications. Similarly, video field production would benefit in supporting a wireless link from one or more cameras and audio devices to the one video-production desk or video recording transport; or SMPTE time-synchronisation data can be wirelessly sent amongst multiple AV devices which have their own recording transports like camcorders or audio recorders.

Another use case being put up is showing the same video across multiple displays with a wireless link between the source and the displays. This could benefit automotive, coach and airline applications where the same video content held on a mobile device may be shown on seatback or dropdown screens to the passengers. Similarly, it could be about the use of temporarily-installed displays showing content from one main video system but allowing for “quick setup quick teardown” installation.

They also see this same technology for control and instrumentation applications such as patient monitoring in healthcare applications, industrial automation on the factory floor and, most likely, smart buildings and smart cities. For the smart home, it could be about using multiple temperature sensors to measure indoor room temperature so as to control the HVAC system efficiently.

In these applications, there is a goal to be manufacturer-independent, something that will break a curse associated with current Wi-Fi-based multiroom-audio applications. This is where the multiroom or multichannel functionality will only work with equipment supplied by the vendor or equipped with silicon from the same chipset family.

The Wi-Fi TimeSync standard will be based on the 802.11 Time Measurement standard and will support millisecond-level synchronisation. It will be independent of the baseband (physical-layer) Wi-Fi technology so as to support Wi-Fi segments implementing 802.11n or the newer 802.11ac standards.

A question worth raising is whether access points and routers need to support the Wi-Fi TimeSync standard themselves or if this can be facilitated on existing home or business-grade equipment. Another question that will also be raised is whether the same level of synchronisation can be achieved across a Wi-Fi segment involving multiple access points whatever the backbone. This can also include the common wireless-range-extender scenario that works from an extant wireless-network segment and creates its own wireless-network segment.

Here, it may also be about standards bodies representing the Cat5 Ethernet, HomePlug powerline, MoCA TV-coax and similar wired-network technologies considering higher-level support for packet synchronisation on the media types.

The initial call is that chipset vendors will offer the necessary silicon by end of 2017 for manufacturers to integrate in to their device designs. Then it will take some time for these designs to materialise as equipment like Wi-Fi-based wireless speakers or amplifiers.

What this could lead to an open platform for AV applications which can lead to a breeding ground for innovation and a reduced price point for these devices. Other areas will benefit from using a Wi-Fi wireless network for synchronising real-time data accurately.

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Improved Wi-Fi technologies as the deluxe option for your Internet service

Article

Waoo Smart WiFi kit press picture courtesy of Waoo.dk

Waoo Smart WiFi kit offered in Denmark

Premium Wi-Fi is a growing opportunity for service providers, both to differentiate and to increase ARPU | Videonet.TV

From the horse’s mouth

Waoo (Danish ISP) – (Danish Language / Dansk Sprog)

Smart WiFi – Product Page

Promotional Video –  Click or tap here to play / Klik eller tryk her for at spille

My Comments

Recently, at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, some of the major home-network hardware providers offered distributed Wi-Fi network setups which provide a simplified method to improve your home network’s Wi-Fi wireless coverage.

D-Link Covr router and wireless extender package press image courtesy of D-Link

D-Link Covr router and wireless extender package – could be offered by your ISP or telco

These have been offered either in a mesh-based setup or as a “router and extender” setup with simplified setup and operation procedures. The mesh setup creates a wireless backbone mesh between each of the “nodes” in such a way that any node can obtain a strong high-throughput signal from two other nodes and there is a failover process where if one node is out-of-action, other nodes can keep the coverage going. On the other hand, a “router and extender” setup works like most of the wireless extenders on the market but implements a simplified setup and roaming experience between the router and extenders.

Some of the distributed Wi-Fi network setups also allow for the use of a wired backbone which can cater for difficult wireless-network situations, multiple building setups or even as a robust high-throughput option.

There has been a need for these setups thanks to increased streaming of video content like Netflix along with heavy use of highly-portable computer devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones. But the typical Wi-Fi setup ends up being compromised by many different situations such as routers being installed at one end of the premises, the use of dense or metallic building materials in our houses and apartments or even “white goods” or metallic furniture like filing cabinets installed in a cluster against interior walls. As well, the existence of multiple Wi-Fi networks in a neighbourhood can make things works.

But there are some telcos, cable-TV providers and Internet service providers are offering distributed wireless setups as an extra-cost option for all of their customers, and / or as “part of the package” for their top-shelf packages. This kind of service is also of interest to other ISPs who are wanting to offer that more value to their customers, and is in response to complaints that customers aren’t benefiting from the headline or contracted bandwidth at their devices especially when they are using the Wi-Fi wireless network.

Examples of this are Singtel in Singapore, and Midco (Midcontinent Communications) in the USA are offering a distributed Wi-FI system as their “premium Wi-Fi” option offered as an extra-cost option while Waoo in Denmark are offering it at no extra cost to subscribers who take up their premium Internet packages that they offer with it available for extra cost for people who subscribe to the cheaper packages.

Here, the distributed Wi-Fi setup would be part of the modem-router normally offered as customer-premises equipment with it being managed and serviced by the ISP.  Some of these setups also have TV set-top boxes that also work as access points or as part of the mesh ecosystem, typically using a wired (MoCA, HomePlug AV500) or wireless backhaul. There may also be the use of dedicated access-point nodes around the premises to provide the extra reach to the other areas.

The ISPs are, at the moment, seeing this as leading towards increased customer satisfaction due to the increased stability and throughput realised at the end devices. It is also seen as being equivalent to cable-TV services where customers rent a PVR-based set-top box, because such customers see this as being better value for money therefore less likely to walk away from the service.

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NETGEAR keeps the tradition coming with their network infrastructure

For a long time, NETGEAR have been known for offering cost-effective hubs and switches for use with twisted-pair wired Ethernet segments in homes and small businesses. In the early days, this meant very small five-port unmanaged 10/100Mbps hubs and switches that didn’t cost much and could allow you to easily consider wiring for Ethernet.

To the same extent, they released a 56k dial-up modem router with an integrated four-port hub which was the first product of its kind to offer dial-up Internet across a network without the need for a computer to be running. But it was considered a product ahead of its time thanks to ADSL or cable broadband Internet not being available in many areas and not many home networks being set up for the Internet. But it led on to some of the most capable NETGEAR modem routers to surface like the DG834G which had won a significant amount of accolades in its day.

NETGEAR GS-110TP Gigabit PoE-supply Smart Switch

NETGEAR GS-110TP Gigabit PoE 8 Port Smart Switch

Subsequently they were one of the first companies to offer some affordable unmanaged Gigabit switches that can be a Power-Over-Ethernet power-source device. This was offered on half of the ports on these devices but they gradually offered some Web-managed models that had all of the ports covered.

Another approach was to offer Web-managed Ethernet switches that had a focus on eas-of-use. This was about a “big-business” feature where an Ethernet network can be managed to do things like manage quality-of-service or segment a LAN for further control. But NETGEAR’s approach not just provided the Web-based dashboard on each of these switches but provided an “automatic-transmission” approach to quality-of-service management in a manner to make this concept appeal to the small network. One of these switches that NETGEAR offered was even designed to be able to be powered using Power-Over-Ethernet, something that could appeal to “regional” switches or those devices serving a cluster of network equipment at a table or desk.

NETGEAR Nighthawk S8000 Gaming And Media Switch press picture courtesy of NETGEAR

NETGEAR Nighthawk S8000 Gaming And Media Switch – for the home network or home entertainment unit

But NETGEAR took this concept further with a gaming-grade network switch that has the features of a business-grade network switch but is pitched towards gamers and multimedia enthusiasts. The Nighthawk S8000 Web-managed switch has the ability to be managed like the typical business-grade managed switch but invokes the “automatic transmission” approach like some other NETGEAR switches for QoS management. It is presented in a style that makes it attractive to use in the home entertainment centre where a 4K UHDTV, XBox One or PS4, and similar devices are installed and you want something better than Wi-Fi for online gaming or video streaming at Full HD or 4K UHD.

This unit even implements link aggregation / port-trunking for up to four Ethernet ports so that the Nighthawk S8000 switch can be purposed as an “off-ramp” for a high-speed link to a gaming rig, router or NAS with this kind of connectivity. In this case, the bandwidth offered by the aggregated ports is treated as one high-speed link. Let’s not forget that this unit can be integrated into a sophisticated VLAN-driven network and NETGEAR put a tentative price of US$99.99 for this unit intended to be released around March 2017.

The goal with all of these products is to offer something that could be considered only fit for big business but at a cost-effective price and with an approach that reduces operational complexity.

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