Name the most important services going into your home. Water? Sure. Electricity? Of course. But there’s a fair bet “WiFi” would be number 3 on the list for a lot of people these days as an Internet connection has quickly become a can’t-live-without utility.
A smart home in particular needs WiFi to be ubiquitous. We peaked at around 50 IP connections in our last house, a mixture of smartphones, tablets, laptops, servers, NAS, smart TVs, cameras, printers, DVRs, NVRs, Sonos zones, Chromecasts, energy monitors, weather stations, air quality monitors, doorbells, bulbs and other IoT devices and sensors.
Ground Up Network Design
So then, with our new build it’s a great opportunity to design and build a best-in-class home LAN from the ground up. Here are some of our requirements and considerations…
Fast – At the heart of the system I’ll need a new Gigabit Switch. I’m putting in another 19″ rack in the new house so it needs to be rack-mountable too. 10gb network equipment is still pretty pricey and I’ve no hardware that supports it yet, so no need for it currently. We are installing CAT6a though (Augmented Category 6), so the wires will be in the walls ready for a 10 gig future when it comes.
Roaming – I need a WiFi network with multiple WAPs (wireless access points) deployed around the house, maximising coverage. The system has to be able to use a single SSID and seamlessly hand off devices from one WAP to another as they roam around the house. There should be scope for other SSIDs for a guest network and perhaps another for IoT devices too. Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) won’t be ratified until sometime in 2020 so we’ll be sticking with 802.11ac (Wave 2 MU-MIMO) for now.
Modular – The WiFi in most homes comes from the ISP provided wireless router. In many cases this box is the only WAP in the house. On top of that it may also be the firewall and perhaps the network switch too. I’m looking for a more modular approach. Something that separates these roles to allow them to be in different locations and have more capacity.
Choice & Expandability – A by-product of that modularity should be easy expandability. I want a system that can scale to any size, growing with our requirements. Additionally there needs to be plenty of choice of WAPs, switches and controllers rather than having to try and fit our install around someone else’s one-box solution. The system should allow for easy upgrades too as technology improves.
Managed – Again, most domestic networking equipment does not provide the controls or statistics that I’m looking for. And I want to be able to easily manage and monitor my network from anywhere. All this points towards an Enterprise Grade solution, one aimed at businesses, or at least prosumers and techies.
Secure – More than ever before, security should be at the heart of a network, whether it’s at your office or your home. So I’m looking for great security and monitoring features for our network.
Cameras – Any network that we install should be ready for powering security cameras and other PoE devices directly, without faffing about with injectors. On top of that the WiFi coverage it provides should also have the range and bandwidth to cope with any additional wireless cameras we want to add at a later date. There should be no subscriptions required, and all our recordings should be stored locally.
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So then it’s no surprise, you already know from the title of this post that I’ve decided to install a Ubiquiti UniFi local area network in the Automated Home 2.0.
It was one of the easiest decisions in the whole build so far and there was only ever going to be one choice for our new home.
I’ve already setup a commercial and several domestic Ubiquiti networks and been thoroughly impressed. The system exceeds all of our requirements and the seamless integration of all the hardware into the SDN (Software Defined Network), plus the brilliant smartphone app means I can administer it from the same screen as those other systems too. I love the combination of value, performance and reliability and the continuous software and firmware updates that bring improvements to existing features as well as adding new ones.
The Next Step
In Part 2 of this networking sub-series I’ll choose the components we require from the vast range of Ubiquiti devices. The ones we will need to build a hard wired network with all that PoE goodness as well as a top quality Wi-Fi signal across all areas of our block constructed home.