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So I have approx 30 devices that can only connect to 2.4ghz bands and about 20 that can connect to either 2.4ghz or 5.2ghz. Keeping in mind that most of the former (only 2.4) are light switches, outlets and light bulbs, they are dormant most times (I would assume). However I am getting consistent connectivity issues from this router since I started setting up the smart devices. I am working with a Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi Router. Any suggestions? Would a mesh network do better? (Such as Google WiFi) I am only asking because I am not sure if each devices increases the total "bands" I can work with.

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  • This whole question basically revolves around the WiFi connection limits imposed by your AC1900 router. It would be interesting to know exactly how many of your dual-band devices are currently using (or trying to use) the 2.4 GHz network and how many are on the 5 GHz network. – Mr Ethernet Aug 19 '19 at 5:31
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All Netgear dual-band home routers, including the Nighthawk AC1900, can accommodate a maximum of 32 devices on each of their two bands, giving you a total of 64 wireless devices.

  • 2.4 GHz = 32 wireless devices
  • 5 GHz = 32 wireless devices

I wouldn't be concerned about running out of bandwidth or saturating your network in this case. You stated that most of your wireless devices are smart devices, such as light switches, which would require extremely small amounts of bandwidth. The challenge here is working around the hard 32-device limit imposed on each band by the router.

You already have around 50 wireless devices, so you are rapidly approaching the 64-maximum number of wireless devices this router could theoretically support. There isn't much room for expanding this network right now and, if you ever have a group of visitors who want to use your WiFi, they may have a poor experience as the router would probably struggle to provide additional connections (particularly on the 2.4 GHz band).

Your 30x 2.4 GHz devices already occupy almost all of the 32 connections the router can support on the 2.4 GHz band, so you definitely want to put the 20x dual-band devices only on the 5 GHz network, to alleviate congestion on the 2.4 GHz band as much as possible.

That would leave you with:

  • 2x remaining 2.4 GHz connections
  • 12x remaining 5 GHz connections

I think you should consider expanding your network. This could be done either by introducing an additional access point or by replacing your dual-band router with a tri-band model. For example, the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 AC3200 Tri-Band WiFi Router would increase the total number of potential WiFi connections from 64 to 96 devices.

It does this by simply adding a second 5 GHz radio:

  • 2.4 GHz = 32 wireless devices
  • 5 GHz = 32 wireless devices
  • 5 GHz = 32 wireless devices

Personally, I would consider adding another dual-band router, instead of replacing your existing one with a tri-band. The reason for this is that you have an extremely high demand for 2.4 GHz connections. This is the bottleneck! Your smart devices are single-band and can't use 5 GHz, so adding another 5 GHz radio wouldn't take any pressure off the congested 2.4 GHz band.

Adding another dual-band router would give you an additional 32x 2.4 GHz + 32x 5 GHz potential wireless connections, which should eliminate all of your current connectivity problems.

Nighthawk AC1900 #1:

  • 2.4 GHz = 32 wireless devices
  • 5 GHz = 32 wireless devices

Nighthawk AC1900 #2:

  • 2.4 GHz = 32 wireless devices
  • 5 GHz = 32 wireless devices

This would give you a total of:

  • 2.4 GHz = 64 wireless devices
  • 5 GHz = 64 wireless devices

Summary:

  • Short term: all of the 2.4 GHz devices have no option but to connect to the 2.4 GHz network but those that have the option of 5 GHz should all be on 5 GHz. This should resolve your immediate problems with what appears to be an excessive demand for 2.4 GHz connections
  • Long term: you should consider expanding your wireless network to allow for more devices to connect. I would do this by buying an additional AC1900 and configuring it as an additional AP, doubling the maximum number of potential connections on each band from 32 -> 64 devices.
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    So I would just chain the routers? I know double NAT is an issue with VOIP, but would it not be a problem aside from that? Thank you for your quick response btw. – Matt Moore Aug 19 '19 at 12:34
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    Also, I am assuming the second router does not have to be the same model. As far as you know, does that logic track? – Matt Moore Aug 19 '19 at 12:40
  • @MattMoore, You can just connect your routers together by running an ethernet cable between LAN ports on each one. One of your routers would need to be configured as a simple access point (AP Mode) and disable NAT, DHCP, etc. For best results, place them on opposite ends of the house so you have better signal coverage. – kicken Aug 19 '19 at 18:17
  • @MattMoore the two wireless routers could certainly be different models but I always prefer to match AP models if possible. That way, you get all the benefits that come from standardization and a consistent experience across both APs. Having the same radio hardware in each AP means you get similar reliability, similar broadcast strength, identical web UIs and identical WiFi connection limits on each band. It's not the cheapest router though, so if you want to use something else, we could still make it work! I'll update my answer with configuration specifics. – Mr Ethernet Aug 19 '19 at 19:20
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    So I added a Google Wifi point (in Bridge mode) in my place and it seems to be working perfect now.. I will update if this stops being the case. – Matt Moore Aug 27 '19 at 15:56
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The 802.11 protocol has a hard limit of 2007 clients per BSS (that's the same as saying "per AP", but be aware that a dual-band AP is really two APs in the same box, and a so-called "tri-band" AP is three APs in the same box). This limit of 2007 has to do with how the dual-use "Duration/ID" field is used, which only allows it to support 2007 separate client IDs.

However, many implementations have lower limits. It can vary from model to model within a single company's product line. Check your documentation or contact the manufacturer.

Also, even if you had an implementation that was only limited by the 2007 client hard limit, if you cut your airtime pie into 2007 slices, you might not like how small the slices turn out to be.

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