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I am trying to properly place the Wifi router and AT&T gateway with 'Structured Media Enclosure' (essentially a metal box) and having a heck of a time arranging an otherwise basic setup.

So the WiFi components should NOT go into the metal box, but there are also no power outlets next to 'Structured Media Enclosure,' which leads to adding an outlet next to it and another outlet for the ethernet cables going in/out. So now we have a bunch of wires plastered over the wall.

I am here to ask if there is a better way: requiring fewer modifications and hiding more of the wires into the wall?

Here is a diagram of what I see as required:

enter image description here

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    the router doesn't care how long the ethernet cable is (within a house at least). I wouldn't bother running new outlets just to put a router near the box. You don't say how the signal gets to the modem. You could put hte modem in the box if it fits.
    – Tiger Guy
    Sep 1 at 16:20
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    I have a similar setup...a LV distribution panel. The cable modem is in it and then simple switches to a patch panel which feeds all the Cat-5 runs. It's not in a good location for WIFI given the config of my house, so I simply put a wifi router connected to a wall plate (cat5) jack in the middle of the house, works great. Sep 1 at 17:02
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    @okigan Don't be so sure. :). I have Fiber internet which is sold/billed as AT&T, but actually provided by Frontier using Verizon's last-mile fiber. I also have their "required" gateway/wifi router but it is sitting unplugged in a closet where it has been since I turned up the service. Don't be surprised if you plug your Ubiquiti gateway into the ONT and get an IP address anyway.
    – Chris O
    Sep 1 at 17:09
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    @ChrisO that's a whole different can of worms; I've looked into that as well; for now I have to use AT&T ONT box and the AT&T gateway BGW210
    – okigan
    Sep 1 at 17:13
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    @okigan Ah, OK. That sucks, but within their right I guess. What I would do then is hide the BGW210 inside the enclosure and use the existing cat5 to place the RT2600 somewhere where it's radio coverage will do better for you.
    – Chris O
    Sep 1 at 17:20

4 Answers 4

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If the builder put that structured media enclosure in place, then they obviously provided at least a few runs of inside wire (Cat 5/6/etc). Might as well put it to use.

Because those wiring enclosures are often in places that aren't optimal for WiFi coverage (often shoved in a garage/basement/closet at the corner of the dwelling), I usually locate the WiFi access point somewhere else in the house - usually a bookshelf or other piece of furniture that can be placed in front of an existing Ethernet jack. Then locate the WAN router inside the enclosure.

Doing it that way, you'll be able to choose the location for optimal wireless coverage. Plus, you'll likely be upgrading/replacing your WiFi gear before you want to go back and reconfigure that enclosure anyway.

Of course, that won't work if your WAN gateway and WiFi access point are the same device, but the way you have it drawn, you have them separate so that's the way I structured the answer.

enter image description here

Getting any deeper into network design puts us into another SE, but that's the basics of what I would do.

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    I had a similar idea: if the black box above the "SME" is the actual router, then the Wi-Fi router can be reconfigured as an access point and put anywhere a network cable can be run. I have two such reconfigured routers in my house, and I set up some such at my former workplace. Sep 1 at 16:21
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    Precisely. I even have my WiFi router left as a router because I'm lazy. Stuff behind the WiFi is on a different subnet than the wired LAN and double-NATted to the Internet, which might frustrate some folks trying to run servers and stuff, but for regular use is just fine.
    – Chris O
    Sep 1 at 16:39
  • The router is rather a smart router - think Synology or Ubiquity UDM, so it can do rather sophisticated things. I understand I can reconfigure it to be a just access point, but then I'd loose all the filtering capabilities it has
    – okigan
    Sep 1 at 16:41
  • No problem. That's exactly why I left mine as a router-behind-another-router as well. It doesn't hurt anything to add one more hop between your WiFi network and the rest of the world.
    – Chris O
    Sep 1 at 16:44
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    I have a very similar setup, except I have a mesh AP/router so I had to modify slightly. I actually have 2 wires going to the optimal AP (router) location; one from the modem and one back to the wiring closet. In the wiring closet, it goes to a switch which distributes to the rest of my wired equipment. It's a pretty simple modification to Chris O's wiring diagram above. Sep 1 at 20:22
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if your router has screw in antennas (or a spot to connect one) you can use a wifi antenna extension cable. (or buy an antenna with such a cable attached)

That way the router can remain inside the metal box but the antenna itself can be outside the faraday cage. This is only a single thin wire that could even sneak out a notch in the enclosure's door frame.

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  • This is also a good idea, provided the cables aren't too long. Consumer WiFi gear is running at milliwatt power levels, so adding any additional length to the antenna cable adds up quick.
    – Chris O
    Sep 1 at 16:56
  • The router has 4 antennas (as shown on picture), interesting idea, but four antenna extensions seems kinda tacky
    – okigan
    Sep 1 at 17:04
  • @okigan you don't need all antenna's to be external to the box though. Especially if range isn't an issue with only 1. Though you might want to go into the firmware to disable those other antennas. Sep 2 at 7:11
  • Tacky vs functional. Sometimes, something's gotta give, @okigan.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 2 at 12:17
  • @okigan eh, the antennas come on plugs for a reason! and I suspect, if you put the antennas further apart you might get better MIMO performance. Yes, wi-fi will probably still work with just one antenna but you won't get the MIMO feature. Leave the other antennas plugged in as sometimes radio transmitters can get damaged if you use them without antennas
    – user253751
    Sep 2 at 14:44
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Here are a few options:

  1. Heed Chris O's answer about simply placing the router in a more appropriate place. You'll have to run coax or fiber to that location though.
  2. If the present location is a good one for the wifi router, and if you think structured media enclosure doors look more attractive than wifi routers (sorry to be a little judgmental) then install a second, plastic enclosure in the wall above the existing one. Put the wifi router there, with the ethernet, and low voltage wires passing to the existing enclosure through grommeted breakouts.
  3. Leave the ISP router in the cabinet but turn off its wifi and don't use it. Buy a wifi mesh system. Run ethernet from the cabinet to the location of (at least) one mesh node. Add more nodes if/as necessary. In other words, separate the modem (which perhaps has to be close to this cabinet to avoid running coax/fiber elsewhere) from the wifi, which you can provide on your own terms.
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  • mesh system +1. If you want pretty and it to work, you get three EEROs and plug one of them into a cat5. The other two go wherever you want them, or need them, or not. I got one out in the backyard on top of a upside down bucket, with another bucket on top to keep it rain tight.
    – Mazura
    Sep 2 at 22:15
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Another option is to do away with the metal enclosure and install a plastic one. This should be translucent to radio waves.

enter image description here

This may have code dependencies if your region specifies metal casing for power etc, so be mindful of that.

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  • This may not be the best idea for wireless signal quality. Walls and other obstacles will reduce your signal level. Line of sight between AP and device (no obstructions) is best when possible for wifi, especially for 5gig. This is a better option than a metal box, but it's still not ideal. Sep 6 at 16:43

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