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Configuring a Mesh Network with EnGenius Neutron Controller Switch

In this setup guide, a wireless network topology using the Mesh feature of the EnGenius® Neutron system. The example presented here will have three EWS1205CAMs linked together via mesh, as shown in the figure below. Note, in order for mesh to be available, the Neutron controller switch firmware must be version c1.8.57 or later, or version 0.12.8 or later on ezMasterTM.

In this topology of the mesh domain, the two Remote Nodes are each one hop away from the Root Node. The bandwidth requirment per EWS1025CAM camera (using H.264, 1080P, 30 fps) is approximately 5-6 Mbps. EnGenius® does not recommend having a Remote Node farther than three hops from the RootNode. In the above example, we have the Root Node labeled as,  “root” , and the two Remote Nodes labeled as “nonroot1” and “nonroot2”.

Prior to adding APs and defining AP Groups, designate the band to enable mesh on, and establish the key parameters such as the numerical mesh domain (Mesh ID) and password to join the mesh domain.  Set an appropriate threshold, so that a mesh link to a Remote Node will not be established if the RSSI reading is below the threshold. These settings are found under Controller>Mesh>Mesh Profile.   This setting is global to the Neutron Controller Switch, and will be common amongst all AP Groups that have mesh enabled.

Best Practice:  The network design should cluster the APs into groups consisting of up to four Remote Nodes that are only one hop away from a Root Node.  Thus, at least 20% of your APs, distributed roughly evenly throughout the property, should be Root Nodes.  Each Remote Node is therefore nominally only one hop away from a Root Node. In the event of a failure of a Root Node, the nearby Remote Nodes will then only be 2-3 hops away from another Root Node.  This approach generally requires creating additional Root Nodes, which can be done either by running Ethernet or fiber-optic cable to the remote locations, or by establishing dedicated point-to-(multi)point WDS Bridge links to create “wireless wires” from the root AP back to the wired network.

In mesh environments with multiple Root Nodes, mesh clusters can be established by creating a unique AP Group per mesh cluster.  Thus, each AP Group shall contain one Root Node and the desired Remote Nodes that should nominally be connecting to it.  The settings of each AP Group are identical, except for the channel.  Each AP Group needs to be on an independent channel to ensure that neighboring mesh clusters do not self-interfere.

Creating an AP Group / Mesh ClusterConnect the Root Node to the Neutron Controller Switch, and then add the Root Node in the same manner as any wired Neutron access point. In order for the mesh feature to be enabled, the Root Node must be in a dedicated AP Group with the mesh feature enabled. All APs that are part of the same mesh cluster need to be placed in the same AP Group. 

Add the Root Node to the Neutron Controller Switch (e.g EWS1025CAM), to be managed by the controller, just as is done with any wired Neutron access point.

Add the detected Rood Node, and then assign the unit a static IP address or let the unit get an IP address via DHCP.

After adding the AP to the Neutron Controller Switch, EnGenius® recommends that the device be named by its location with a “root” or similar at the end, to aid in the identification of the AP once all mesh APs are managed by the Neutron Controller Switch. This is done by clicking the current device name under the column device name.

The AP name change should now be reflected under the “Device Name” column.

Once the Root Node is online, create an AP Group to add all the devices that are going to be in the mesh cluster. This will enable all of the mesh APs to be easily managed from the controller.

The AP Group setting is found under Controller→Device Management→AP Groups. Click the “Add” button to create a new group for all the mesh APs that shall be in the mesh cluster.

Name the newly created group and add the Root Node to the group.

Once added to the AP Group, verify the appropriate Radio Settings. Make sure the Country is appropriate for the regulatory domain the wireless system is deployed in.

In order for mesh to be enabled without any errors, especially on the 5GHz band, the following items much match:

  • Channel HT Mode
  • Channel Number
  • Transmit Power
     

We recommend that mesh deployment be in the 5 GHz band when possible, using either 40 MHz or 80 MHz channels.1 For the 2.4 GHz band, it is best practice to use 20 MHz channel HT mode of 20 MHz, lowest transmit power, and a static non-overlapping channel of either 1, 6, or 11 for the 2.4 GHz radio. This should be set individually on each AP to ensure alternating channels.

Best Practice:  Each Root Node should be set on a static independent channel, and each Remote Node should be set to “auto channel”.2  This is done to maximize the airtime capacity of the overall network, so that multiple neighboring Root Nodes do not create self-interference.  The Remote Nodes are set to auto-channel so that they can fail over to a different Root Nodes in the event of the failure of their primary

[1] In the c1.8.57 firmware release, only 20 MHz or 40 MHz channels in the UNII-1 (36-48) and UNII-3 (149-161) portions of the 5 GHz band are supported.  This will be addressed in a future firmware release.

[2] In the c1.8.57 firmware release, auto-channel is not supported for APs in mesh mode.  Accordingly, each AP Group needs to have all APs in that mesh cluster set to a static and non-overlapping channel.   This will be addressed in a future firmware release.

Root Node.  When utilizing point-to-(multi)point WDS Bridge links to establish Root Nodes, these must also be on static independent channels, and thus must be accounted for in the overall channelization plan. 

After setting up the Radio settings in the AP Group and setting up the 2.4 GHz radio with one (or more) SSIDs for client access, the next step is to enable the mesh setting to desginate the AP Group as utilizing mesh.  This is found under the Advanced Setings tab. Enabling the  Mesh option in the group setting will desginate the current device in the group as the Root Node.

Best Practice:  Mesh APs should generally be configured to operate in Mesh Point mode.3 The loss of bandwidth capacity from lacking wireless 5 GHz wireless connectivity is minor compared to the loss of bandwidth capacity from losing 50% of bandwidth per hop.  This also allows for the transmit power of the mesh radios to be set at their maximum value, so as to provide the maximum signal strength between nodes without being imbalanced with the low transmit power capability of most 5 GHz client devices.

Hit “Apply” to save the AP Group settings.

The lights of the Root Node should be as shown below. Only Root Nodes (i.e. nodes with a “wired connection” to the network) will have the LAN light illuminated.

3. In the c1.8.57 firmware release, this option is not available in the AP Group setting, and must be set by logging into the access point directly.  This will be addressed in a future firmware release.

Repeat this process for all other Root Nodes on your network, placing them in separate AP Groups.    For the Root Node(s), click on the AP under the “Access Point” screen and override the settings to set a static and non-overlapping channel for each Root Node.

When configuring a new mesh network, the Remote Nodes should initially be wired into the controller like any wired Neutron AP, added to the controller, and added to the correct AP Group.  The channel for the mesh radio (typically 5 GHz) should be left on “Auto”, though do remember to set the appropriate static channel on the Wi-Fi client access band (typically 2.4 GHz). Once the Remote Node APs are fully provisioned and part of the AP Group, they can be disconnected from the controller and installed in the remote location.  Once the Remote Node APs are powered up at the remote locations, they will automatically attempt to connect via mesh.

Adding a Remote Node to an Existing Mesh Network

If Remote Node APs are already installed before they are configured, or if a Remote Node AP needs to be added to the network but access to the wired network core is not practical, then the following steps can be followed to add a Remote Node to the network. 

Login to the Remote Node directly. The AP by default will be in standalone mode, and can be accessed via the username “admin” and the password “admin. Once logged in, the AP will ask for the login password to be changed as well as to create a guest account. Since this AP will ultimately be added to the same AP Group, group it is recommended to skip this step by pressing the skip button.

After pressing the skip button the device will redirect to the live video feed page (for the Neutron cameras) or to the device status screen (for Neutron APs). Click on the settings icon to be redirected to the settings page.

The only settings that are needed for the Remote Node AP to connect to the Root Node AP is the appropriate band that mesh is enabled on, the proper wireless channel, and specifying the correct Mesh ID and password.

Under Access Point→Mesh→Settings is where the mesh settings are configured for the device. The Remote Node will be configured as a Mesh Point. It is imperative that the Mesh ID and Password match the Root Node, in order for the Remote Node to be properly associated and authenticated within the Root Node’s mesh domain.

Best Practice:  Mesh APs should generally be configured to operate in Mesh Point mode.  The loss of bandwidth capacity from lacking wireless 5 GHz wireless connectivity is minor compared to the loss of bandwidth capacity from losing 50% of bandwidth per hop.  This also allows for the transmit power of the mesh radios to be set at their maximum value, so as to provide the maximum signal strength between nodes without being imbalanced with the low transmit power capability of most 5 GHz client devices.

After applying the settings, the device reminds the installer to ensure that the unit is configured to be operating on the same wireless channel as the Root Node, in order to establish a mesh connection.

The wireless settings of the device can be configured under Access Point>Network>Wireless. Ensure the Remote Node is configured to operate on “auto” so that it will automatically detect and associate to the closet mesh node.4

The name of the device may also be set under the wireless settings page. It is recommended that the name be configured under the wireless settings page, while the device is still in standalone mode so it would be easier to identify once the device is added to the Neutron Controller Switch to place the device in managed mode. The name of the AP should correspond to its location on the network.

The figure below shows the lights on the Remote Node AP. Note that since this unit does not have a wired connection to the network the LAN light is not illuminated like the Root Node would have.

[4] In the c1.8.57 firmware release, auto-channel is not supported for APs in mesh mode.  Accordingly, set the channel to correspond to the static channel of the desired Root Node.

Once the Remote Node has established a mesh connection with a Root Node, the Neutron Controller Switch will detect the Remote Node and display that it has been detected. Notice the name of the AP shall match the name of the Remote Node configured earlier.  Add the Remote Node and configure it to be managed by the Neutron Controller Switch. 

After the newly added unit displays Online status, add the Remote Node to the same AP Group as the Root Node under Controller→Device Management→AP Groups.

Add the Remote Node to the same AP Group as the Root Node.

Once the newly added Remote Node is displaying Online status, change the local non-mesh radio settings.

By clicking on the device name. Under the Wireless Radio Settings, check the box Override group to decouple that particular setting from the AP Group settings. In order to avoid co-channel interference on the 2.4 GHz radio side, set the APs to all have unique static non-overlapping 2.4 GHz channels of either 1, 6, or 11.

The status of the mesh links can be checked under Controller>Mesh>Node List. As seen below, the Remote Node with the name of EWS1025CAM-nonroot2 is two hops away. As a reminder, EnGenius® does not recommend any Remote Node to be greater than three hops from the main Root Node.

In order to see the Mesh topology in a more visual way, use the Mesh view under Controller> Visualization>Mesh View.

The above view shows when both the Remote Nodes can communicate directly with the Root Node.

Here is the topology with two hops, where the second Remote Node does not have a direct mesh connection to the Root Node, and thus must connect to another Remote Node.

Below is when only one Remote Node is able to connect to the Root Node.

Here is the same topology view, if logged into the 1025CAM UI under Mesh Link→Link Status.

It is recommended that the maximum hop count be no more than three hops due to the amount of throughput degradation and latency increase that each hop introduces. As seen in the throughput test found under Controller→Mesh→Mesh Tools→Throughput.

The same test can be done while when logged into the UI of the 1025CAM under Mesh Link→Throughput.