Home Improvement: Where to Put my Router

A while back I mentioned that we got new wood floors put in our home. The previous home owner, or perhaps the builder for all I know, had allowed the cable guy to drill through the previous wood floor to put the cable line into the two rooms in the home that cable TV; one bedroom and the family room. Both of the rooms are on the first floor of my home.

If you read my posts, you will notice that I am a huge fan of cutting the cord. There may come a time when going back to the cable companies is cheaper than cutting the cord, but that day is not today. I have no particular hatred of cable companies, and I have had no bad experiences. I do have an issue with their annual significant price increases, but even then, some of that is from the content creators. In my area, the NYC area, the local cable companies make it very clear that some of their rate increases are due to the content.

I said some, not all, because they are, in effect, a monopoly. Cord cutting is changing that, but only to some degree. After all, as of today, I can only get high speed internet through them. I will also bash them, as I did Tesla, for their deceptive advertising. I hate the 1 year deals which then become full price in the second year that you have to sign up for to get the good deal for the first year. I hate the arguing and negotiating every year for a better price. I could not cut the cord fast enough.

About once a month we get one of these deal offers from them that I do read, but usually toss. It is a deal, for the first year. The problem is that the second year will be a lot closer to $340 for all of that than $99. This is why we will stay cord cutters. I pay them $75 or so for internet, and then I pay $11 to 3 other providers, and $25 to one. The latter may go, but for now we keep it.

So I started tell you about holes in my floors, and then I started talking about problems with cable companies. So my wife and I are convinced that it’s going to be a while, at least, before we go back to the cable companies, so why bother trying to put a new cable access point into the two rooms where we have televisions. So since everything goes through the router, the question is where to put a single access point.

To test first, I strung a long cable wire from the place the cable line comes into my home to the physical center of my home. The idea was that this would offer me the best signal strength in every area.

This is where the engineer in me kicks in, and where I have things that I can show you. For what I did to test and prove this all, anyone can do easily. Even if you don’t want to do the installation, you can make the decision. Also, you may get a speed improvement in your setup if you do at least one of the things that I did.

The first thing to consider is where your users of the internet are. I have one computer, my main gaming computer, on my second floor. That would be the best place to put the router so I get the best ping times. I am not a pro gamer, so reasonable ping times are good enough for me. Faster internet speeds is also important, so I ran Speedtest from that computer. The performance I found was good enough. Also, you should put an Ethernet cable into your router, or use your router’s speed test option to test it’s speed. I did this often in my experimenting.

I then ran Speedtest from each device in my home. I used a laptop, and my phone as there is an Android/Apple app as well, in both rooms where my Roku devices are. We often use our laptops in those rooms as well. Again, the results were good.

Cable Tap

Putting a new tap here would not be the end of the world as we are on the first level of my home. With a strong router like mine, or one of those mesh network routers like what Google and others sell, there may be no need to put another hole in the wall.

This tap is actually in my first floor bedroom next to my 4K TV and 4K Roku. Before we had the wood floors put in, I had the cable modem and router here giving that Roku a Ethernet connection to the router.

Ethernet connections are faster, free up high bandwidth WiFi streams for other devices, and suffer less loss per foot of cable than a cable wire aka coaxial cable. The loss per 100ft of coaxial cable depends on the channel, but it’s about 3db per 100 feet for the channels people use. It’s about 6db per 100ft for the channels that your cable modem uses to send data. Those db numbers matter as the more loss you have, the slower your internet speed. Ethernet cables can go about 300ft before they become problematic. Connectors will lose on average about 3db per connector. I recall that from engineering school 3db is half the power. You want to minimize that.

To summarize that last part, Ethernet cables can be longer with less issues than coaxial cables. The shorter the cable length with fewer splitters or connectors, the better. This is also true for WiFi. Wired beats WiFi for performance, but not convenience.

Looking up into a hole were a old telephone line was, which I would reuse for cable.

So I started testing my cable modem alone at different points in my home, with different lengths of cable and connectors. I tried it with enough length to go into my first floor bedroom with that 4K TV. Having an unfinished basement is very helpful here. the cable tap in the image above is in that room, and is a re-purposed tap from an old telephone wire. My plan was not to remove the old wire. Who knows, I may use it one day. The plan was to leave it in the wall, and add the cable line in the same holes. This was clearly put in when the house was being built, and that hole turns out to be at an angle. I could see that, but not position my camera well enough to show you. Just take my word for it. I would have had to cut a large hole in the dry wall to then thread the cable wire up through it to then attach it to the tap.

Before I did all that work though, which would require painting the wall, I had some ideas. I think you may see where I am going. The idea was to see about putting the cable modem at the point where the cable line enters my home, and to check the performance there. I was getting less than the 200Mb/s advertised, and doing this could help. The Ethernet cable could be the long one. I was then thinking that I would make a Ethernet tap there, as opposed to the coaxial cable tap. Then I was like um dopey, why not test the whole thing from down here; maybe put the router in the center of the home, but in the basement.

So I started with checking the signal strength. If you have a Arris Cable modem like me, I own my own saving $10 a month rental, you can go to this link (http://192.168.100.1/RgConnect.asp). This is to YOUR modem. Looking at the status tab, you can see the signal strength in the Power column. My numbers were the best with the least cable, just as it should be. My internet connection using a laptop connected directly to the modem was also the best that way.

The cable line enters my home there.

I found a great link that explains in more detail what numbers you want to see, and what they should be. In my case, the power levels are good, and the SNR (Singal to Noise Ratio) is only a few db worse than it should be. It’s good enough, and I am finally getting my 200Mb/s at my router with my modem in this location. This is important to me as for one it was driving me crazy that I was not getting what I was paying for. For another, with multiple laptops going at once when my wife and I are working from home, or when we are all home using multiple devices, every Mb/s matters to support all of those devices.

My router sits in the center of my home, just under my first floor. This is a multi channel high power system, but I have no issue with getting good speed on my second floor computer while gaming. I have no issues with using any of my TVs with our laptops etc. I get the best signal and thus actually the 200Mb/s I am paying for. Best of all, I did not have to do any work. I did string the Ethernet cable through the places where the cable line was strung in my basement. If we ever finish it, then it will all be hidden by the drop ceiling that we would put in.

So some testing and a bit of time SAVED me the hassle of putting in the wrong, coaxial cable tap, the correct Ethernet tap, and I ended up getting the internet speed I am paying for. I call that a win all around.

Do you have any thoughts, questions or comments? I would like to hear them all.

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