Google Wifi (Google’s own unique graphical representation for this product, with uppercase W and lowercase F) is the official name of the company’s mesh-capable wireless system. This article is not a review, since there is a plethora of them, and Google Wifi is deservedly well regarded in many. This article is to clarify how —and why— multiple Google Wifi units can be interconnected via Ethernet. But before that, I’ll clarify the WiFi mission (standard graphical representation, not Google’s).
Clarifying the WiFi mission
In my opinion, any WiFi system of any brand —or combination of brands— should have the following primary and possibly secondary goals:
- Provide adequate coverage throughout the home, office, studio or building (in the case of a hotel or shopping mall) whereby end-users can freely roam within, without the need to be aware s/he is switching between access points, since they all have the same SSID name, password and encryption method, although often are adjusted to be at different frequencies to avoid co-channel interference. This primary network —may or may not— offer dual-band 2.4 and 5 GHz, depending upon whether it is necessary to provide both bands. If offered, those bands can be discretely labeled via the SSID or simply available for a device to choose automatically, in the background, without the user’s intervention or knowledge.
- Provide a secondary “Guest” network.
All of the above has been traditionally accomplished either by patient individuals who know the proper procedure (I have done it dozens of times, and have even been flown to México to do it once so far) or via a semi-automated system. The first of those I ever saw was Apple’s now defunct AirPort system (which managed it rather poorly and never included QoS, an embarrassment for Apple). More recently, it is also semi-automated with several mesh systems which are now on the market, one of which is the Google Wifi referenced in the rest of this article.
Google Wifi: How/why to interconnect units via Ethernet
Apparently, most Google Wifi reviewers don’t interconnect up their Google Wifi units via Ethernet. I say that because it’s not emphasized by Google or by most reviewers. Some people (like me) would like to interconnect their additional access points via Ethernet for purity reasons, i.e. not to have a downstream unit have to depend an an already degenerated signal to be repeated. Others do so by pure necessity. Why by necessity? Because sometimes the home or building is so large that the distance between the initial device (which is being used both as a router and an access point) and the other access points is too great for the signal to reach them.
When my friend Memo Sauceda was considering the purchase of multiple Google Wifi devices for his home, the first thing I researched was whether it was possible to interconnect them via Ethernet, since Google doesn’t mention it in the product presentation. Fortunately, Memo’s house is already wired for Category 6 Ethernet. The other good news is that Google Wifi indeed supports it, although the information is difficult to find and somewhat incomplete. Ahead I am going to share both Google’s documentation and my own comments. That’s because Google wrote the documentation assuming that the WiFi signal would actually reach all of the additional units being used as an access point, and —at least in Memo’s house— they didn’t in all cases.
Google’s instructions, intertwined with my comments
In the following diagrams, “→” means to connect via wired Ethernet. First, Google says what not to do:
Do not connect any devices (via Ethernet) like a computer, switch, or another Wifi point to a Wifi point during setup.
Then Google says what you may do, after the initial setup is successfully completed, i.e. Supported Google Wifi setups:
Using Google Wifi points and/or OnHub devices
(✓) Modem → Primary Wifi point → Mesh Wifi point
1. Modem’s LAN port connects to Primary Wifi point’s WAN port via wired Ethernet
2. Primary Wifi point’s LAN port to any Mesh Wifi point port via wired Ethernet
You can chain multiple Mesh Wifi points via wired Ethernet.
(✓) Modem → Primary Wifi point → Mesh Wifi point → Mesh Wifi point → and so on…
Include a switch downstream of the Primary Wifi point
(✓) Modem → Primary Wifi point→ Switch → Mesh Wifi point
1. Modem’s LAN port connects to Primary Wifi point’s WAN port via wired ethernet
2. Primary Wifi point’s LAN port connects to switch’s WAN / uplink port via wired ethernet
3. Switch’s LAN port connects to any Mesh Wifi point’s WAN port via wired ethernet
Switches and Mesh Wifi points may be connected in any order (as long as they’re downstream of the Primary Wifi point) and you may connect several of these devices via wired ethernet.
(✓) Modem → Primary Wifi point → Switch → Mesh Wifi point
(✓) Modem → Primary Wifi point → Mesh Wifi point → Switch → Mesh Wifi point
All of those listed above are the ones I would have expected, and I was relieved to see that they are supported. Finally, Google includes a method that I wouldn’t recommend (and Google doesn’t either), but it’s there for non-ideal situations:
Include a 3rd party router upstream of the Primary Wifi point
(✓) Modem → 3rd party router → Primary Wifi point → Mesh Wifi point
1. Modem’s LAN port connects to 3rd party router’s WAN port via wired ethernet
2. 3rd party router’s LAN port connects to the Primary Wifi point’s WAN port via wired ethernet
3. Primary Wifi point’s LAN port connects to any Mesh Wifi point’s WAN port via wired ethernet (or via a switch as shown above)
Google gives the same warning (and suggests the same remedy) that I would have done regarding this one:
With this configuration, you may run into Double NAT, which isn’t necessarily a problem. But if it is causing problems, we recommend putting your 3rd party router in bridge mode and/or turning Wi-Fi off on your 3rd party router.
As stated earlier, the additional access points must not be connected via Ethernet until after the initial setup is complete. So how do you handle that when the signal doesn’t reach the intended location? Here’s how:
- Temporarily place the additional Google Wifi devices to be used as access points close enough to be in range within the the house, office, studio or building (i.e. hotel or shopping center) in the relative direction of the final destination.
- During the setup process, name each Google Wifi device with the intended location.
- After setup has been successfully completed, connect any required Ethernet “switches” (more precisely called switching hubs), and move the temporarily located units to their respective intended locations, connect them via Ethernet, and apply power.
After understanding how to interconnect Google Wifi with units via Ethernet, Memo and I are quite pleased with the Google Wifi system and price point, considering that it is dual band 802.11ac and Gigabit Ethernet. It is easily managed (even from a remote location) via an Android or iOS app and allows connection of both wired and wireless devices.
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