Mesh range / external antenna?

All my mesh devices seem to be up (looking at Console remotely) including my Argon though it is running Tinker and has no connected nodes.

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Yesterday, outdoors, without antennas, using Marco Polo Mesh Test I was able to get 90% reliability at 150 feet - clear line of sight.

At less than 150 feet it was “seemingly” perfect (I didn’t test to 5 nines or anything). It would be nice to try again with antennas but I don’t have any right now.

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I got my Mesh devices just a few days ago, and finally threw together a quick test between an Argon and a Xenon last night. The Argon has an antenna for WiFi, but neither device had an antenna for Bluetooth. My test sketch uses Mesh.publish() from the Xenon (data from the light sensor, every 5 seconds), with a corresponding Mesh.subscribe() on the Argon, which then turns around and does a Particle.publish() to the Cloud. I could then monitor the events on my phone with the Particle app.

I put the Argon in my kitchen, which is about 5m from the front outer all of our house. Then I took the Xenon outside to see how far I could get before losing signal. It was probably about another 5m from my front door before I started losing events. I was a little disappointed until I remembered that this was without antennae for Mesh. With that in mind, 10m (maybe a tad more than that?) though walls probably isn’t too terrible.

I might try scavenging the antenna from my other Argon kit and trying again, to see how much difference that makes, and maybe moving the antenna on the first one from the WiFI u.fl to Mesh. I’ll also try moving the Argon to other locations, because my eventual goal is to get mail arrival notifications from our mailbox (roughly 30m from the front door). That might require a Xenon acting as a relay located in the corner of my garage closest to the mailbox.

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I wouldn’t do that. You can use any WiFi antenna for the mesh (the suggested one is the Argon WiFi antenna). Mesh does NOT use Bluetooth. It uses 6LowPan on 802.15.4 with Thread. If you have an external antenna for a Photon (pcb, duck), it will most likely work with mesh.

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Does the mesh antenna go on the antenna out labeled “BT”? Why BT?

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Am I correct that any external mesh antenna has to be selected in software, and that the firmware doesn’t yet support doing this?

These are the antennas I ended up purchasing. Hard to beat that price (that’s for 2 of them)

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@rickkas7 can confirm external antennas working or not. Pretty sure he said that does not work now.

Thats what I thought. I’m fine with that, just wanted to know if I should leave 'em on the shelf or start playing with them, and wanted to make sure others were aware as well.

Well, when I said “antenna for Bluetooth”, I meant “for Mesh”. I realize it’s not technically Bluetooth, but aren’t the Mesh protocols related, and using the BT chipset on the Nordic? In any case, I was referring to the 2.4GHz antenna that came with the Argon.

Why should I not move that antenna to the “BT” u.fl connector? Shouldn’t that give me better Mesh connectivity?

Oh, and while we’re talking about those suckers, does anybody have any tips/tricks for getting that tiny u.fl connector to, well, connect? I spent 15 minutes trying to get that Argon WiFi antenna connected last night, and I spent another 10 minutes earlier trying to put one on my Xenon, before something came up and I had to put it down. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

From the docs
"Two U.FL connectors for external antennas (one for Thread/Bluetooth, another for Wi-Fi)"

Probably because “BT” is shorter than anything you could come up with for “Thread/Mesh”, space is limited, and BT is more recognizable.

Just my guesses though. Also, if they named it mesh, the question would become “Why not BT?” :wink:

The BT ufl jack is confusing.

Plus it makes @peekay123 frustrated because he has to tell us MESH does not work on Bluetooth, but Thread Wifi channels :grinning:

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FWIW BLE and Mesh share the same radio. So the external antenna (once it’s enabled) should help with the range of both protocols.

Regarding mounting the antenna – it’s definitely a bit fiddly. It’s important to make sure that the antenna’s connector is perfectly flat and centered against the board connector when you press down.

Another thing to note (which I think has been mentioned elsewhere in the forums) is that the u.FL connectors have (what I consider to be) a very low number of repeated connections. They’re intended for a semi-permanent connection.

Yeah – though I mentioned the idea of moving that antenna on one of my Argons, I was wondering if I would actually be able to make it happen. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

@peekay123 – Okay, nevermind. The Argon simply will not connect to WiFi without an external antenna, even when I moved it to within 2m of my router. So that answers that question.

I was already planning to order more antennas. I meant to add some to my pre-order, but by the time I got around to it, it was too close to shipping time, and they had locked down my order from alterations. How much difference should I expect between using an antenna at 2dBi vs 6dBi, or 8, or 9? If I get an antenna that’s for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz usage, should I expect any problems (interference from the 5GHz WiFi band on my router)?

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If/when you do remove the antenna, I suggest using something like needlenose pliers so that the antenna connector can be lifted perfectly vertically from the board’s. Just don’t squeeze too hard ;^) . I might be suggesting overkill here I guess. I don’t like those connectors much but I guess that’s what has be put up with to make them so small and electrically ‘proper’ for RF.

I did actually get it moved with just a (moderately) gentle lift on metal tail where the wire goes into the circular main part of the u.FL connector. But as I mentioned before, moving the antenna from the WiFI antenna out to BL did me no good, because then my Argon would not connect to my WiFi.

I did, however, get my other antenna connected to my Xenon, so I’m about to do another quick range test.

Here is a Very unscientific range. Argon Gateway with single Xenon. On a 3 mile walk in a hilly subdivision. Coming back towards the house, I activated D6 to High to a relay. I was approximately 1200ft and over a hill. I crested the hill, D6 activated, 400 steps from the house. Going down hill, at 2.5ft per step, 800 to 900ft range!
The Mesh Network is on the far side of the house.

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Is the issue with the number of devices? So far I have 1 Argon as a gateway and 1 Xenon. I’m running the Marco Polo test. I started at 10 feet direct line of sight and had 100% reliability. At 25 feet direct line of sight, it kept the 100% reliability. At 40 feet with 1 residential interior wall in between, it was unable to connect at all. The xenon didn’t get past flashing green and the Marco Polo test dropped to 0.

There doesn’t seem to be a stability issue with the Argon, at least with just one Xenon. But the range seems too short to really be able to do much, I’m going to need extra xenons doing nothing but acting as bridges if I can’t get extra antennae or they don’t help.

I have a few more Xenons I can add and see if the Mesh network remains stable.

Edit: Update, after about 20 minutes, the Argon seems to have messed up. It is still breathing cyain, but it is no longer connected to the cloud (unreachable according to a console ping, as is the attached Xenon) and it is no longer lighting D7 to indicate it’s running the Marco part of the code. After 15 minutes it has not become responsive again. Attempting to reflash the code was also unsuccessful. I had to hard cycle the power to get it running again. A hard crash after 20 minutes.

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The issue now is that the firmware is not stable.

We just have to wait for the new firmware to be released in a few days I hear to see how much it helps out with fixing the multiple issues everybody is experiencing.

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My kit arrived yesterday. I am impressed you get that sort of range - mine are dropping connection even though they are 5m apart line-of-sight. Any brick walls or glass seems to kill it. Waiting for the next release to see if these issues are solved.

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