Cisco Wireless Mobility Express Home Kettle

How it all began

As usual, such thoughts come when there is nothing to do. So, when I was at sea, I thought: why not make a seamless fast wi-fi at home ... As luck would have it, my father-in-law bought Netgear Orbi, which worked surprisingly well.

What did I have at that moment

Residential building on two owners with a reinforced concrete wall in the middle; 5 different routers (accumulated) connected through a Cisco gigabit switch, one of which - Asus RT-N66U - also served as a router.

Honestly, I would not say that everything worked badly: it was annoying that customers clung their teeth and did not let the network go from point to point; the speed didn’t suit a bit, although, in fact, even the g standard was enough, and n - even less so.

It is clear that the first task could be solved by picking the settings (as I understand it - by setting a threshold at which it is possible to connect to the network) + maybe even dividing the points along the channels and assigning the same ssid would almost roam. But this is not interesting! It was necessary to take something + spend money.

Formulation of the problem

  • fast switching between access points (namely, seamless switching was not included in the task)
  • confident reception at all points of the house, and preferably on the street
  • 802.11ac, and preferably with multi mimo - just to be, for the future ...
  • one of the most important requirements is that all this work stably and without a headache, because it’s interesting to play with it once, but to play constantly (especially when you’re not at home and they call you and say Skype disconnected) - I don’t really want to

The budget was not a determining factor, but, of course, was also taken into account when choosing.

Search for a solution

The mesh option (or the same Orbi Netgear) I did not really like initially. there was a ready-made local gigabit network, and I did not see the point of establishing a connection between points without wires.

Most of all, as it seemed to me, to solve my problem, they recommend Mikrotik and Ubiquiti on the network (I had to look for both names again in the internet, I just can’t remember their correct spelling).

Edimax equipment seemed to me a fairly good option. I honestly did not think about tsiska, because everywhere it was written that it would cost space money and no one needed a priori at all.

At first I was leaning towards Edimax, especially since, as I understand it, only he has implemented most of the protocols to ensure maximum seamlessness (802.11r / k). However, something that scared me was not its strong prevalence (as a result, possible troubles with support) and true Taiwanese origin. Perhaps in vain and everything works there like a clock ... But I began to look more towards Mikrotik / UniFi (Ubiquiti).

Then I began to meet a lot of discussions about why one or the other does not work in these options and how to get around this. Doubts began to creep in.

I decided to talk with those who put this equipment. I found a company that is professionally engaged in the installation of such equipment. On their website, in addition to the above, Zyxel equipment was offered.

The company’s engineer (by the way, I really enjoyed talking with him, and if I would stop on these brands, it’s possible that I would give them all the settings) said that most of all they make such networks on UniFi, which is positioned as more reliable than with Mikrotik, but also a bit more expensive. There was also a variant of some American, no less rare than Edimax and terribly expensive equipment.

At some point, the engineer said the following: You probably read there that the dots hang. But this issue has been resolved since smart switches ping them and overload if they freeze. In general, this thought immediately made me think in the direction of something more serious, so that it would not be necessary to check it for a hang, but which simply would not hang ...
To the question "is it possible to do the same on a tsiska" the engineer replied that it would be too difficult for me to operate and they did not work with a tsiska.

Comparison with Cisco Equipment

The complexity somehow didn’t scare me much. Although I’m a teapot and have nothing to do with ai-ti, I like to dig into something complicated. And even if you had to configure everything
only through the terminal (but once) - that would be normal.

But here's what I didn’t like - a superficial study of the issue led to the fact that for Cisco it is necessary to buy a wireless network controller that will manage all access points. And the price only for it was several tens of thousands of rubles. Of course, I did not see the point in this for 5 access points and 20-30 clients.

For the above brands, controllers cost several times cheaper.

I must say that the price of the access points themselves did not differ fundamentally: in the region of 6 thousand rubles. on UniFi (which was a priority at that time) and less than 11 thousand for the initial version of tsiska. Those. the total difference of 5 access points was no more than 20 thousand, which was not a matter of principle.

But further study of the issue surprised me much more: I realized that, apparently, entry-level access points can simultaneously be Mobility Express controllers.

If this were true, this would greatly change the picture: from the same Unifay I needed to buy smart switches that overload the points, it is still not clear where to put them, and buy a controller. And at tsiska - only access points. In this form, the price tag could even be a little cheaper (only if you did not take native PoE adapters at 5k rubles apiece - in the end, I would take Dlink at 1k rubles per adapter).

I had to make sure that I understood everything correctly. The downside of cisco was that it was quite difficult to figure out that I was right. Even after reading articles on Habr’s confidence that everything will not start at all.

Plus, the sold version of my chosen point - aironet 1815w - is delivered to the Russian Federation without Mobility Express (ME).

I asked the representative of a tsiska on Habré, for which I was politely sent to the tsisko support service.

To my surprise, the support desk was very polite and quick to respond. So I managed to find out that a) everything will work b) the access point I can reflash myself.


Still, for starters, I decided to buy 3 access points per sample. I also decided to change the router to cisco rv320 (I must say that the asus almost never failed, but failed several times at a very inopportune moment - when in China you use the built-in router in VPN to bypass the "great Chinese firewall" - by the way, it works at times better than paid vpn services).

And then the difficulties began

The moment came when I began to think about what I had done. Access points did not want to connect either via ssh or telnet (I’m not talking about the web face - it was immediately clear that it is only in the ME (Mobility Express) version. It was Friday night, there was nobody to ask. I read a bunch of everything on the weekend. I realized that it’s difficult to understand the tsiska precisely because some things are very poorly described, or rather described as if I had taken tsiska courses and already have an answer to half the questions, for

example, how the connection through the console was described as an absolutely obvious thing. , after an hour of study, I realized that the console is a specialist A new adapter, which is impossible to buy just like that in the Russian Federation (and judging by foreign forums, they also have).

It was also not at all obvious when purchasing the AP that I would need a contract for their maintenance just to have access to the firmware. Actually, I don’t see anything wrong with this, but I must somehow warn in advance in a simple, obvious way.

The weekend I thought about how everything worked well without tsiska. I wrote a letter of support to the same kind person, like how can I flash them: there is no firmware, no console adapter (AIR-CONSADPT =). To which, on Monday morning, a responsive Victor proposed to solve both problems (recalling, however, that it would be nice to purchase a service contract). I breathed a sigh of relief.

Firmware and setup

There were no problems with the console: I connected via Putty, flashed one of the points and switched it to Mobility Express mode. After that, it became possible to configure everything through the web interface, which, of course, pleased me.

The remaining 2 points also connected without problems: already through the web interface gave them access to the firmware on tftp.

The question remained unclear: can I connect to a separate access point if I turn off the point that is the ME controller through the same SSH. Based on what I read - it seems that I also can not. Because the management of all access points, as I understand it, is performed via ssh connection to the main access point - the controller.

I must say that the settings in the web interface, you can say, are not many. Of the significant ones, user density. I set it to a minimum, because As I understand it, this allows to increase the reception range.

Points were set one per floor.

What happened as a result

It's too early to talk about reliability: I use it only for a few days. It’s strange if there were already problems.

Switch between access points

  • Fast movement between access points leads to loss of up to 5 packets during ping (sometimes less is lost or not lost at all)
  • Once the Skype call broke off. I managed to talk on whatsapp without disconnecting.
  • Copying a file between local computers when switching between access points does not stop. True, apparently, it should not, because it did not stop even when switching between different networks ...

In general, as I wrote above, true seamlessness was not a task. Subjectively works at 5 (but not at 5 with a plus).


Then I was a little disappointed. Although the maximum speed of more than 800 Mbps was not the goal, I would like it to be at least in theory.

In practice, a laptop with intel ac8260 copies a file on a LAN at a speed of about 60 MB / s if you almost put it on the AP, and if you move the meter 3, then the speed drops to about 35 MB / s.

Connecting 2 laptops on the atheros QCA61x4A to the same task at the same time practically divides the speed in half! (copying over the wire of the same file occurs at a speed of 100+ MB / s).

What is even more surprising - in the web interface of Mobility Express it is written that the channel is almost completely loaded (with a theoretical load of about a quarter at a speed of about 35 MB / s).

In general, I assume that the network card of the laptop simply does not pull (there is no mu mimo), and that I have not configured anything before (which is for sure), but I don’t understand why such a channel load on the point.
In general, I decided to check what speed was on my favorite asus - it turned out that it was about 2 times worse, which was a little comforting (although, in general, this is obvious - there is n standard there).

Confident reception

This part of the question is still not fully understood by me: the feeling that the signal of interest is 30 percent worse (just subjective) than that of the asus. It is clear that there are external antennas, etc.

Somehow, it doesn’t fit in my head what the access point is doing, then to put it every 15 meters. Well, in general, the feeling that the signal somehow “jumps” is either complete at a distance of 10 meters through the walls, then 4 out of 5 divisions at a distance of 3 meters.

While I write off this for under-adjustment ... I’ve already been planning to buy a service contract (as it turned out, it costs less than 2k rubles) and torment support.

Unresolved issue

One unresolved issue is that the switch built into the access point with three gigabit ports does not work.

As I understood from the description, it is impossible to direct traffic from the general connection of the access point there without using more serious controllers (which is already strange), but it seems to at least work as a switch, which would save me at some points - I would connect through this switch the access point itself, and two ports would remain free ...

But it doesn’t work either. Long picking the console did not work. Perhaps it somehow turns on. But a) I’m a kettle b) there are very, very many settings related to the ports. Some I tried to turn on / off. But here is what combination of them to apply in order for the switch to work - it’s not really written anywhere ... I will torment support ...

Subjective findings

In general, I am satisfied. Still, to admit to myself, having spent decently money and time that you could live on the old system - this is a task from the category of impossible.

Definitely satisfied with the choice of tsiska - a small budget + hope for reliability.

What do you like in the end:

  • How does switching between access points
  • Work speed

What I don’t like to the end is the signal level, although, given the speed of work, you can ignore this.

What I don't like at all:

  • Could not turn on the built-in switch
  • A complicated setup, or rather, not even a setup, but a complex, often not obvious description of some things, which, it seems to me, frightens away many when choosing equipment. It seems to me in the initial segment that it would be quite possible not to create the appearance of complexity, professionalism of equipment, but to make everything a little easier and more affordable.

Upd: fly in the ointment (although not, perhaps, not even a glass of tar)

I did not turn on the built-in switch. But this is not upsetting: I bought support for the access point - it turned out to be cheap - in the region of 1700 rubles. But here's an ambush - it works terribly :( (IMHO, of course), which I did not expect. For some reason I was sure that support for money should work like clockwork.
Maybe this is some kind of "cheap" support, which works accordingly :), but there is a “good” one, but I can’t figure it out.

More specifically, as soon as I created a support request, the engineer immediately answered that he would work with me and help me.

Then silence :). I wrote him 2! letters, like - well, what’s there? Where is the support :) In the second letter I put another cisco address in the copy, after which the engineer started to fuss and began a rough correspondence (which was that he could not help me - the internal switch would not work without an external controller). I told him that based on the datasheet (as I understand it), tunneling traffic from the controller does not work in swith, but it should work as a separate switch. After which the engineer said that he would definitely find out so that I would send him a link and it would take him several days. More than a week passed ... I wrote to him again - how are you? And again the next day - now I put the other addresses again in a copy.

Well, so far, silence ...
In general, it’s good that all the equipment works well and I didn’t climb there anymore: I use it and enjoy it.
And Russian support for free worked just super (as I wrote in the article - thanks to her). Maybe I just had no luck with the engineer ... Or maybe that’s how it works - paid support :)) ??

Upd2: Happy end

A few days after writing the article, the engineer nevertheless answered me. His answer was joyful - the product team released a new firmware in which my problem was solved (and even more - the internal lan ports in mobility express now not only work as a separate switch, but also direct all traffic through the controller.

In general, the problem is really I decided, but I couldn’t immediately configure it right away. I wrote in support, didn’t wait for an answer within 24 hours and figured it out myself.

As a result, I’m glad, of course, that this problem was solved in the firmware, well, quite quickly, but the speed of the answers themselves paid support not pleased.

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