Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tracking Personal Bandwidth Use With Open-Mesh

As a part of my experiments with open-mesh routers, I've decided to retask some of my units for personal use at home. We were using an off-the-shelf wireless router for our home devices, which also has a public open-mesh router sharing Internet with my neighbors.

I have found that the stats provided are pretty insightful. The downside is that the stats are only for the public SSID. The private SSID use remains a mystery. So, I turned off the radio on the regular router and assigned a couple of mesh routers to run my home SSID on the public side with password protection.

Why would I want data on my home wireless use?

Mainly, I want to know how much bandwidth we are pulling from day to day when we watch Netflix, Youtube, or just browse the web. Having a rough idea of how much data a household of five uses on a day to day basis provides some knowledge about what a typical family might use.

Another use is to know how much bandwidth a typical home can spare on a daily basis. I know for a fact that most of us do not use the full bandwidth of our Internet connections all the time. Data usage spikes and falls rather than run at 100%

So, if my expectation is to set up hotspots around town, it's important to know how much bandwidth can be spared without noticeably affecting the use of the household that pays for the connection.

For a while, I had a neighbor to whom I would provide unthrottled access. It is obvious that one connection is not sufficient to meet the needs of two households. I still have an open access point; but, it's throttled down to prevent reducing my own quality of service.

But, I don't know how much I can safely share, which is where the retasked open-mesh routers come in. Now, I can easily gauge the margin of bandwidth I can safely share without being annoyed with buffering movies.

I've mentioned before that there is a big difference between hotspots in residential areas versus commercial areas. Residential users tend to use all available bandwidth on their laptop or desktop computers. I do see as mobile devices connect to my home hotspot.

Commercial hotspots, my data suggests, mainly draws mobile devices, which tend to have short-lived connections, pulling as much data as possible in a short time. So, by finding the sweet spot for excess bandwidth sharing, I can ensure that mobile devices can do their business in the least amount of time, saving users data use on their mobile plans and battery life.

In short, I just need information so I can make informed decisions on how to configure my hotspots.
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