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How to Build a Multi-Gig Wired Backhaul AiMesh Combo that Works Today

This post will work you through the steps to set up a Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh system using a few supported broadcasters. It’s a supplement to the post on Asus’s AiMesh combos as a whole.

If you’re new to AiMesh, make sure you read this detailed piece on this now well-known mesh feature first.

Also, keep in mind that Multi-Gig is still a luxury right now — you’re getting into the territory that can be more expensive than necessary. You can feel that from the cost of the latest Orbi RBK960 series from Netgear. Going the AiMesh route won’t dig as big of a hole in your wallet but still doesn’t apply to the budget-minded.

In any case, make sure you have gotten your home wired — we’re talking about wired networking here. Also, as a rule, please read the post in its entirety (before posting any questions, that is).

The Asus RT AX89X Router Entennas Folded
The Asus RT-AX89X is, for now, the best router to host a Multi-Gig AiMesh system.

Asus Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combos: Still limited options

Generally, we don’t have a lot of viable options of using a Multi-Gig connection as the wired backhaul in an AiMesh setup. For a few reasons.

First, there aren’t many Asus routers that come with multiple Multi-Gig ports. There’s just one which is the RT-AX89X, and it’s expensive. But this is Asus’s only suitable option for the primary router since it will give you Multi-Gig on both the WAN and LAN sides.

Secondly, the way AiMesh works, we generally need to use the WAN port on the satellite unit to connect to the primary router. So, to be safe, you need satellite units with a Multi-Gig WAN port. There are just two:

  • ZenWiFi XT8: A traditional tri-band router with a 2.5Gbps WAN port.
  • ZenWiFi ET8: A Wi-Fi 6E tri-band router with with a 2.5Gbps WAN port.

Neither of the two has a Multi-Gig LAN port, so, again, you can only use them as satellites in a Multi-Gig wired backhaul configuration.

Of the two, the XT8 is a traditional tri-band system designed primarily to work in a wireless setup. So it’s not a good candidate for a wired environment in the first place.

Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: ZenWiFi ET8 AiMesh Node
Here’s the ZenWiFi ET8 working as a Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh satellite node for the RT-AX89X. Note how its 6GHz band is not available to clients. Similarly, if you use the XT8 as a satellite, you would’ve not able to put its 5GHz-2 band into use.

In any case, both the XT8 and ET8 are tri-band hardware, and when working with the dual-band RT-AX89X as satellite AiMesh nodes, their 3rd band (5GHz-2 the former and 6GHz of the latter) is not available — there’s no way for you to configure it for the front haul.

But if you insist on using these broadcasters, there’s a way to make their 3rd band work — more below.

Other than that, we also have three more Multi-Gig routers, including the RT-AX86U, GT-AX11000, and GT-AXE11000. Of them, only the RT-AX86U makes sense considering the physical sizes as well as other factors. The other two were way too big, and the Wi-Fi 6E one was buggy both as a primary AiMesh router and as a satellite.

Most importantly, with the latest firmware, you can use the RT-AX86U’s 2.5Gbps LAN port for the wired backhaul.

With that let’s move on to which combo you should use and what you can expect from them.

Asus Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combos: The best option

As you might have guessed, the best option for a Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo right now is the RT-AX89X (router) and the RT-AX86U (satellite).

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You can have a Multi-Gig wired backhaul mesh system right away when using one of each — assuming you can use the RT-AX89X’s SFP+ port for the WAN, or if you don’t need Multi-Gig WAN.

If you want more extensive coverage, you can get additional RT-AX86U units and an unmanaged Multi-Gig switch. Considering the RT-AX89X has an SFP+ port, the Zyxel XGS1250-12 is the best option for now. You can host up to three Multi-Gig wired backhauls with it.

(You can also consider the TP-Link TL-SX1008 or the Zyxel MG-108 if you don’t have Multi-Gig broadband or can use the router’s SFP+ for the WAN side.)

Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: RT-AX89X and RT-AX86U Multi Gig Backhaul Setting
To use the Multi-Gig wired backhaul, you must manually pick that via the RT-AX89X’s web interface.

Here are the steps to build this Multi-Gig AiMesh system:

  1. Setup the RT-AX89X as single router. Update it to the latest firmware.
  2. Add the RT-AX86U as a wireless node. (Detailed steps in this post on AiMesh.) Update it to the latest firmware.
  3. Open the AiMesh section of the RT-AX89X and select the node, and change the Backhaul Connection Priority to 2.5Gbps first.
  4. Plug the RT-AX86U’s 2.5Gbps port into the the 10Gbps LAN port of the RT-AX89X or the Multi-Gig switch connected to that port.
  5. Repeat from step #2 to add more satellite nodes. Mission accomplished.
Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: RT-AX89X and RT-AX86U Multi Gig Backhaul
Here’s my Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combo running happily for almost a month.

I’ve used this combo for more than a month and have been happy with it. So far, so good.

Asus Multi-Gig wired backhaul AiMesh combos: The dual-band + tri-band mixed options

Asus ZenWiFi ET8 Tri band Wi Fi 6E Mesh System
For the most part, you can consider the tri-band Asus ZenWiFi ET8 as “dual-band” hardware.

As mentioned above, if you use a tri-band satellite node with a dual-band primary router, AiMesh doesn’t have a way (yet) for users to control the node’s 3rd band. As a result, this band is not used at all, and that’s not acceptable.

There’s a way to overcome that: You set up the tri-band hardware in the AP mode. This trick works even when you use multiple satellite nodes.

Specifically, I’ll walk you through the step to add the 2-pack ZenWiFi ET8 as a satellite mesh on top of the RT-AX89X. In this case, you will need an unmanaged Multi-Gig switch.

Here are the steps

  • Set up the RT-AX89X as a router.
  • Connect the Multi-Gig switch to the router’s 10Gbps port.
  • Set up the ET8s set as APs to the RT-AX89X. Two possibilities:
    1. If you get a 2-pack (two units in one set — pre-synced hardware):
      • Connect the first ET8’s WAN port to the Multi-Gig switch.
      • Open its web interface and choose the AP mode.
      • Set up its Wi-Fi with the same SSID and password as that of the RT-AX89X. (You can use a different SSID for each band, especially for the ET8’s 6GHz band.)
      • Connect the 2nd ET8’s WAN port to the Multi-Gig switch. Mission accomplished. The 2-pack ET8 now automatically works as an AP-mode AiMesh system.
    2. If you get two ET8 units separately (they are not pre-synced):
      • Set up the first ET8 as a router — use the same SSDs and password as those of the router — then add the 2nd unit as a wireless node.
      • Use the first ET8’s web interface to switch the mode of the mesh into AP mode.
      • Connect both ET8 units’ WAN port to the Multi-Gig switch. Mission accomplished.
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And now you get a standalone router (the RT-AX89X) and an AiMesh running in the AP mode (the ET8).

In this case, you can’t control the ET8 via the web interface (or mobile app) of the RT-AX89X. But in return, you can use all of the ET8’s bands and get all hardware connected using Multi-Gig wired connections.

Multi-Gig Backhaul AiMesh Combo: Asus ZenWi Fi ET8 Multi-Gig Backhaul Satellite
My Asus ZenWi-Fi ET8 set is working in AP mode via a Multi-Gig wired backhaul connection.

Hopefully, Asus will release firmware at some point that allows for better controlling of tri-band satellites via a dual-band router — which has been the case in Synology Mesh from the get-go. Until then, if you intend to use a dual-band router with tri-band satellites, this is the only way.

I’ve tried this setup for more than a week, and it works well. I haven’t tried the XT8 yet, but it will likely work well, too.

The takeaway

Again, Multi-Gig wired backhaul is still a bit early in the game. Soon, though, there will be more hardware options, and hopefully, Asus will have firmware with better flexibility on this front.

For now, the RT-AX89X + RT-AX86U combo is your best bet. And if you want to use the 6GHz, you can substitute the RT-AX86U with the ZenWiFi ET8 in AP mode.

By the way, both options only give you 2.5Gbps wired backhaul. While that’s plenty fast, you might want 10Gbps backhaul, and I don’t blame you.

But if you think you can get 10Gbps wired backhaul via getting multiple RT-AX89X units, keep in mind that, for some reason, that combo hasn’t worked out well (yet) in my trial — likely because you still must use its default Gigabit WAN port for the backhaul.

Chances are the RT-AX89X’s Multi-Gig ports will get the flexibility like the case of the RT-AX86U, but for that, we’ll need to wait a while longer for newer firmware. Let’s keep our fingers crossed till then. In the meantime, again, 2.5Gbps is indeed plenty fast.

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12 thoughts on “How to Build a Multi-Gig Wired Backhaul AiMesh Combo that Works Today”

  1. Hi, Dong. As always, thanks for your website and knowledge. I may have missed it in the write-up, but do you have a preference on how these devices are mounted? Should they be in the ceiling or wall, or is having them on a table sufficient? Thank you.

    Reply
    • They are all omnidirectional broadcasters, Brad, so, however, you mount them is fine. Just make sure you put them out in the open.

      Reply
  2. Hi Dong, You usually refer to an *unmanaged* multi-gig switch. Apart from cost and updating the firmware, are there significant problems with using a managed multi-gig switch as if it were unmanaged (if one happens to have one available)? Thank you! Nick

    Reply
    • Generally no, but some managed switches will never really work as an unmanaged one, so when you use a mesh system with one in between, your satellite might not see the main router.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for this timely article Dong, I was just thinking of getting another RT-AX89X to try out 10Gbps wired backhaul. My current RT-AX89X is already hooked up to a 10Gbe unmanaged switch via the 10Base-T RJ45 port. Was also considering the 2.5Gbps backhaul through the switch to my pair of AXE11000’s. I’m currently using them both in an AiMesh combo on a separate 1Gbps network. Will hold off any purchases until firmware updates fix the issues or when Asus finally decides to release a Wifi 6E tri/quad band version of the RT-AX89X next year. Fingers crossed.

    Reply
      • For what it’s worth, Asus launched a ‘new’ Wifi 6 router in mainland China, the ROG GT-AX6000. https://rog.asus.com/us/networking/rog-rapture-gt-ax6000-model/ The router features two 2.5Gbps WAN/LAN ports as well as four 1Gbps ports. So multigig backhaul for AiMesh is possible. It’s also got most of the gaming features from the ROG GT-AX11000 and ROG GT-AXE11000. The CPU appears to be a Broadcom 16nm Quad-core 2.0GHz SoC. A post on SNB Forums indicates it’s a BCM4912 chip and this router originally shared the same specs as the RT-AX89X but with a different design. If it follows a similar launch schedule to the RT-AX89X from 2019, it should be available in North America by 1Q22.

        Reply
        • Thanks for sharing, Richard. Yeap, different regions tend to have different timelines in terms of chipset approval, and the US is often the slowest in this regard (for good reasons.)

          Reply
  4. Is there any serious use case of a multi gig network for a normal home?

    I mean how often does one download very large files and even then we are talking about 5 min vs 1 min wait time under ideal conditions.

    The only country I know of which has affordable 10 Gb internet is Switzerland where this is the standard plan by Salt Fibre(World’s fastest ISP as per Ookla) and even there I know of no one who has any idea of what to do with this bandwidth except very few who buy 10 gbps nic card for one desktop run speedtests and show off.

    Reply
  5. Hi Dong,
    Since the satellites in these setups are limited to 2.5Gbps, a less expensive alternative for the switch would be the TL-SG105-M2 (or TL-SG108-M2). This would limit the total bandwidth to the main router to 2.5Gbps, rather than allow an aggregate, however the price difference is significant.

    Reply
    • Yes, I mentioned them in the post, Dror. Those you mentioned only work for those not needing Multi-Gig WAN or can use the RT-AX89X’s SFP+ for the WAN connection.

      Reply

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