Support Center

Optimal WiFi Coverage

Last Updated: Sep 11, 2016 04:01PM CDT

Mesh Network Products 

We are aware of issues with Plum Lightpads and routers using mesh network technology like Eero & Luma. Our testing has revealed that our product frequently loses wifi connectivity and seems to be related to the number of devices connected to the mesh network. 

We have seen cases where 3 Lightpads seemed to be stable but when adding additional Lightpads, the network becomes more unstable causing Lightpads and other IoT devices to drop off the wifi intermittently.

This issue has been brought to the attention of all parties, but we have not yet identified the root of the problem. We do know that the issue is not isolated to our product but affects IoT devices that rely on peer 2 peer communication across the local area network.

Using these products together will cause undesired behavior resulting in a poor user experience. We will continue to work with these popular brands to resolve these problems and will update this info once we have made progress.

Optimal WiFi Coverage

In this article we're going to describe what the ideal WiFi coverage for Lightpads in a large home should look like (in terms of range extender placement and what happens when coverage is poor). If your home is small or you live in a condo / apartment, this advice may not apply to you with the exception of thick concrete or brick walls that would obstruct a clean radio signal. Also note that microwaves can disrupt the 2.4GHz band, which is the band Plum's Lightpads operate on.

First I'd like to digress a bit on the topic of what kind of router / WiFi Access Point device your Lightpads will work best with.

Consumer Routers & Your IoT Devices



Older and cheaper routers are generally under-powered when it comes to the available RAM and processor speed for handling the management and routing of network traffic. These router / WiFi combo devices often have a very low ceiling for the number of concurrent devices connected to the Access Point (that provides WiFi) and the DHCP server. A router with too many devices connected or too many DHCP reservations will generally tend to perform poorly and / or simply reject the association request made by the Lightpad.

Good router / WiFi Access Point combo devices that early Plum customers and internal employees have used with good anecdotal experiences are:
  • Apple Airport Extreme
    • Apple Airport Express for range extending
  • Most newer Asus models
    • Asus RT-AC87U has provided an excellent experience in a two-story home with many devices
  • Many newer Netgear models
  • Higher-end TPLink models

If you do not have a newer-model router, you will want to ensure that the firmware on the router is the latest - this usually requires logging into the management interface to check and initiate the upgrade (most do not automatically upgrade, it must be initiated by the user).

Another gotcha is that routers and their extenders should not be placed adjacent to each other but spread out in the home. Physical proximity can cause interference from either of the competing radios.
 

Optimizing WiFi Coverage

The Plum Lightpad's WiFi radio antenna is very small and fitted into the bezel alongside the left-hand side of the Touchpad, because of its size and constrained window the antenna's performance isn't as good as other devices that have antennas protruding into the room; this means that the optimal range of channels in the WiFi band that the Lightpad works best on, is limited towards the middle. Channels range from 1 to 11 and the Plum Lightpads work best on channels 4 through 8. Plum highly recommends changing your router from its Auto Channel selection setting and picking a channel in the aforementioned ideal range.

Once the channel configurations have been updated, if certain areas of the home are experiencing dead zones or ragged-edge performance you may want to add an extender; the best performing extenders will be connected to the primary router / WiFi Access Point device using Ethernet but that may not always be feasible (it may require routing ethernet cable through the walls).

The second range extender option is an extender that both connects to the primary Access Point and extends the perceived range of the same SSID by bridging. Most routers can be put into this mode or you can use special purpose devices, like the Apple Airport Express.

Here's an example WiFi topology of a large home with greater than forty Lightpads installed:

A primary Asus router / WiFi Access Point is connected to the broadband modem and is providing the 2.4GHz band (Plum Lightpads only work with 2.4GHz); four additional Asus routers of the same model are connected via Ethernet to the primary, only serving as bridges, and are placed in:
  • Master Bedroom
  • Guest Suite
  • Garage
  • Dining Room

In a large house with many IoT devices (particularly, many Plum Lightpads) this would provide excellent coverage throughout the home on two different floors.
 

Networking Configuration



The Plum Lightpads, once associated with an Access Point, fairly low-maintenance with respect to exotic networking configurations; most of the "defaults" provided by consumer-grade routers are just fine. If you have a non-standard configuration or using custom router firmware - like DD-WRT - it is important to know that the Lightpads must all be on the same broadcast segment and ARP broadcasting must be enabled because the Plum Mobile App and Lightpads auto-discover each-other using UDP broadcast.

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