Review of IP-Com AC1200 MESH bundle: EW9+EP9x2

With the increasing penetration of IoT devices, the demand for stable coverage from Wi-Fi systems also increases: it is clear that a" smart " light bulb or sensor can not achieve a stable wireless connection, and it is easier to put an additional access point, sometimes even with a margin. IOT penetration into business processes will lead to the fact that integrators will have to provide Wi-Fi coverage where it was not planned due to several sensors or “smart” devices.

You will probably install expensive equipment connected by wire connections to the core switch of your network in sales rooms, meeting rooms, and conference rooms, but will you also bother for the sake of temperature sensors in the basement? All your configuration in such places will most likely be reduced to segmenting the network separately for people and separately for smart devices, and the speed and latency requirements will be minimal.

For such tasks, where you just need a good Wi-Fi coverage, and no one will bother laying cables, we use low-cost Mesh kits, such as IP-Com offers in the EW9 series. This is a set of Mesh access points of the AC1200 11ac Wave 2 standard. As befits such devices, the kit can connect directly to the Internet, bypassing the router or gateway, so that to work on a remote object, it only needs a wire from the provider, and better - two, since Dual WAN technology is supported. The second WAN can be your internal network if you set up static routing.

From the threshold of the IP-Com access point, EW9 pleases with its versatility: well, where else will you find the ability to mount to the ceiling, to the mast, and even to the table in one device? Let’s open one of the nodes and see what kind of antennas allow us to achieve such versatility?

Antenna group

Four planar antennas are placed around the perimeter of the case and directed in three directions from the center of the hot spot, forming 2 spatial streams for the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz band. Keep in mind that the front of the radio wave does not go perpendicular to the plane of the access points, so you do not need to hang these kits on the walls, they are also not suitable for long-range point-to-point communication, and if you want to put them on the mast to cover the courtyard, place them with the power socket on top.

But in general, according to the configuration of antennas, these are purely desktop devices, and the nightstand is the best place for them, no matter what anyone says. The massive radiator also serves as a screen that protects the 5-gigahertz radio circuit from high-frequency interference. The 2.4 GHz module is located on the back of the Board and has its own heat sink and screen.

I want to note that the AC1200 Mesh system kit from IP-Com is built on ew9 and EP9 access points, which differ in appearance only by the presence of RJ45 ports. The EW9 IP-Com has four of them, two of which can be allocated under the WAN, and this device is meant as the root device in your Mesh network. Cheaper EP9 nodes do not have any ports, and are purchased as repeaters to expand your Mesh network, which can total up to 9 nodes. Here we would like to remind you that the topology of Mesh systems uses weighted estimates of the" cost " of broadcasting between nodes, taking into account bandwidth and latency to select the optimal network configuration. Why is this important?

On the object, it is likely that some hotspots will see each other, and the network will have the topology of a triangle or a closed star. The controller will route between them taking into account delays and bandwidth, but over time, the purity of the radio will change, which will cause the controller to lay a new route between nodes, and this may happen several times per hour. Increasing the number of hotspots in a single network does not always lead to better Mesh performance, and very often it is the location of nodes with Internet access that determines the speed of the entire network, but in IP-Com AC1200 you can only have one ew9 root device per network. In practice, this limits the network configuration to 3-4 hops in a straight line from the root device to the farthest one. When you add transit sections, the speed on the far node will drop to such a level that applications may issue network errors. And there’s nothing you can do about it: budget kits are designed to put the root node in the center of the object, and repeaters are placed on the periphery.

Backhaul-channel

With IP-Com AC1200, you can easily provide a wireless network for a restaurant hall, office or car service workshop, but with a long corridor, you will already have problems due to the lack of a dedicated radio module for the internal interconnect (backhaul channel). For this reason, for most customers, one set of three access points will be more than enough, and although the system settings have the option of using only a wired interconnect, in practice it is not applicable due to the lack of network ports on EP9.

I assume that the wireless channel uses a 5 GHz channel with a hidden SSID, a separate VLAN from the shared network space. This is the simplest and cheapest method of building a network, which allows you to use even home routers to combine into a Mesh. The disadvantage of this scheme was discussed in detail above: starting with the third hop, you will begin to feel a strong decrease in speed to the root router and the Internet.

Installation

Connect the IP-Com EW9 WAN1 port to the local network and download the IP-Com program to your smartphone to configure and manage the wireless system. All further actions will be performed only through the smartphone. For cloud network management over the Internet, I recommend registering an account in the program: this useful feature should not be neglected, especially if the desired WLAN network is located far from you.

Almost all settings are familiar to the system administrator, so there is no need to list them. You can create groups of users for whom Internet access is open or closed, create a separate guest network and configure NAT for any web services, there is a high-performance mode switch for placing in places with simultaneous connection of dozens of users.

Adding repeaters to the network is also done from the app: just turn on the power of the hotspot, scan the QR code on the device’s case-and it appears in the list of installed ones. Don’t be confused by the fact that three access points always form a triangle on the smartphone screen: the current topology is not displayed in the app, and the triangle will be displayed even when the network is stretched out in a line.

Additional hardware settings are made in the EW9 web interface, which you can connect to from a LAN network. Among the interesting features we would like to mention the IPSec tunneling configuration, the Dual-Wan policy (load balancing or manual distribution of clients) , and the Captive Portal with a manual mode for configuring authorization via E-Mail or SMS.

Testing and General impressions

We have a set of one EW9 and two EP 9s, which we combine into a straight chain with a distance of approximately 9 meters between the repeaters. In the app settings, make sure that all three nodes are connected at maximum speed.

The main node is connected via the 100-megabit channel of the Rostelecom provider to the Internet, and the Oppo rx17 Neo smartphone is used as a client, connected on a 5 GHz channel with a link of 433 Mbit/s.

5 GHz Mesh speed Connetc to EW9 Connect to EP9#1 Connect to EP9#2
Median download speed 82 78 57,23
Median upload speed 68 61 32,8

In practice, the speed corresponds to what we expect from a three-link set: on the first hop, a slight decrease in speed is within the margin of error, and theoretically it should not be at all. The speed starts to “SAG” already on the second knee of the network, but for IoT devices, the delay is more important than the bandwidth. And as we can see from the pings, it does not change, so that conventional devices, well, except for CCTV cameras with a resolution of 4K, can be installed on the third knee of the Mesh network.

Conclusions

IP-Com turned out to be a pretty good initial segment for those who need a low price threshold for entry, easy setup and maintenance. I think it’s best to use them in a small office with open space for work places or in order terminals where wireless clients are concentrated on one side of a wall or window. In both cases, if you place the repeaters at a height of 0.6 - 1 m above the ground, you will get the fast and reliable Wi-Fi network that you need. When purchasing a set of 3 devices (router + 2 repeaters), each device costs you around 5 thousand rubles, which is comparable in price to a home router or a regular access point, and since IP-Com products are a new phenomenon in our market, I recommend that you buy one or two EP9S in stock, in case you decide to expand coverage, and the devices will disappear from sale.