Future proof my network


Bear with me for a second, please.

I had enough of being dependent on external services. I plan on building my own little NAS server (probably TrueNAS) with nextcloud and maybe a VM to do incoming openvpn. Which means I already plan on offloading VPN to that server.

At the same time, I need to upgrade my wifi network. I am with Telus and have the 1GBit pure fibre. It comes in the garage, so the wifi on the router can barely be used. I have the extender but that one is overloaded. I don't really want to run new cables across the house two stories, the lower story is half underground. I am on a hill. Which means I have three options.

  1. Get the Wifi plus from Telus. 10CAD a month and they make sure that there are enough access points in the house to have optimal seed everywhere. However, thats 10 CAD forever. Which means if I spend 300 CAD on my own solution, I would be in the plus after 30 months. Plus I wont be dependent on Telus.
  2. Buy a prebuild mesh
  3. Build my own completely from scratch with openWRT.

What I would like to do is a combination of 2 and 3. Maybe buy an existing prebuild that might not yet be supported by openWRT stable release, but is already in the snapshot. Basically being able to deploy now quickly and down the road switch to openWRT. Would this be an option or do I just create more headache than necessary? Would it be easier and cheaper to just go with hardware that supports openWRT now and already go with it.

Just to list my requirements

  • 1 GBit internet connection
  • Mesh network with two satellites. One upstairs and one downstairs. Downstairs because I also need cable networking for some stuff that doesn't have wifi.
  • The Telus router would be switched to modem only mode
  • The base station that is connected to the modem would have to do firewall, NAT, port forwarding (e.g. to the VPN on the NAS) and DHCP

I cannot really help you with choosing the devices you are going to be using as I have a dedicated low power x86 device for routing my gigabit fiber connection, and MT7621 APs connected with Ethernet, but please note the following:

  • Please don't buy any device with less than 16MB flash storage, and less than 128MB RAM as these will be the minimum requirements for OpenWRT after the upcoming 23.05, and 8MB is not enough right now if you need to add any advanced features.
  • Routing 1Gbps internet connection can be a challenge for devices with MIPS processors: . You really need a device with good single-thread performance. ARM ones
  • Vendor firmware probably uses hardware NAT - something that is implemented in a very limited set of platforms in OpenWRT. So you really, really want a fast CPU.

If you are already going to have a little nas, you will have a good experience virtualizing OpenWRT too. Modern x86 or even fast ARM CPUs (such as the one in Banana PI BPI-R3) have much higher performance than of-the-shelf consumer routers. For WiFi though, you really want an SoC and WiFi chips designed for AP mode, not some USB dongles - there are ones that work, but most are garbage when used as APs.

So, what I would do (but that doesn't mean you need to do the same) is:

  • use a set of APs with good support in OpenWRT. most do mesh networking just fine if all are using OpenWRT
  • an x86 or arm box that does routing (bare metal), preferably with two network interfaces
  • or an x86 box with virtualization and two network interfaces to use as your nas and router in one
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