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Adding an OnHub router to your Google Wifi network

Google Wifi is a great product. It's easy to setup and easy to make any adjustments or additions to the wireless network in your house. But it's not the first Wi-Fi router from Google. That'd be the OnHub.

Many were worried that the OnHub would be abandoned when news of Google Wifi was revealed. With good reason — the OnHub is a great product, and we've seen great products wither and die before. Thankfully, that didn't happen. We were told during the initial product briefings that an update was coming that would let the OnHub and Google Wifi work seamlessly. Google later made a similar public announcement when the required software updates started rolling out to OnHub users.

I've been using a network with an OnHub and three Google Wifi node for about a week. "Seamlessly" is a great description of how the two different products now work together and act the same.

What changed for the OnHub

Google OnHub

The software. Basically, all of it.

The OnHub now performs exactly like any Google Wifi would, through the same interface in the same Google Wifi app. it is now a bigger Google Wifi mesh node. The unique features are still there: I can still wave my hand over the top of my ASUS OnHub like a Jedi to prioritize a device for an hour. You still have 13 antennas (six for the 5GHz radio, six for the 2.4GHz radio and a signal booster) that aren't designed for a straight line long range signal like many other routers in the price range. But the brains inside are now the same as we see used for Google's mesh network product.

You still have the strong antennas and unique features of your OnHub, but the way they work and how you set them up has changed.

You can use it the same way you would use a Google Wifi node, too. It can be added to an existing network as a Wi-Fi bridge (things worked exactly as expected and setup was easy), added to an existing Google Wifi network as a new node (we'll talk about that in a bit) or as a NAT Gateway router attached to your modem or ethernet service — which is how I recommend using it.

Performance in every configuration was similar to the older software when the OnHub was a stand-alone router. The range seems a little more broad than a Google Wifi unit, but they are very similar and if you're inside the magic bubble (I say the number is 45 feet in any direction) you'll have pain free wireless with any modern wireless interface. Go much further and you'll see things drop off, slowly at first but there is a definite distance where things just quit. That depends on what's between you and the unit, but in general, I've found one OnHub can cover my average-sized home. When added to an existing Google Wifi network, you have one more node that can stretch great wireless to even more corners and crannies in your house. It was shockingly flawless in this configuration and performance was equal to or better than a Google Wifi node would have been.

The setup process

Google Wifi setup

You're basically following the same process as you would for Google Wifi — unbox the product, open the app and follow the simple step by step instructions. After you've read a few hints, though.

The biggest difference is that you'll need a software update. If you've been using your OnHub and have switched to the Google Wifi app, you already have the correct software. If you haven't had it up and running or you just got it, you'll need to take it out of the box and attach it to your modem or ISP gateway and let it download some software. Get it connected and let it sit for about 30 minutes, then open the Google Wifi app and make sure it's showing in the app. You're now good to go.

Once you update the OnHub software, you set it up the same as Google Wifi through the same app.

You can add an OnHub to an existing Google Wifi setup, but I found that the setup process complains about doing it and suggests you try using the OnHub as your NAT Gateway instead of a mesh bridge and sometimes just refuses to start the setup process. Once the setup does commence, the rest is easy and it just works. The good news is that you won't have to be playing with the setup more than once. The bad news is that you might not have any luck the first time. In any case, the setup that it recommends — building your Google Wifi network with the OnHub installed first and as the gateway to the internet — was a breeze and everything worked great the first time. I haven't touched the setup since.

Setting an OnHub up as a bridge on an existing network is similar to adding it to an existing Google Wifi network. You're told that this is not an optimal setup (but not given any real details why) but you can tap your way through anyway. The reason why, by the way, is because it can create what's called a double NAT (Network Address Translation). Most of the time your first router can send data through a bridged router seamlessly, but not all the time. It's something I'm more than happy to discuss in the comments if anyone wants to know more. With that out of the way, once set up and running it works fine. You just have to be careful when changing advanced network settings.

The way I recommend you set things up is to unhook all the things you have on your existing network and build your mesh network around the OnHub. Plug it into the modem and power, let it get its software updated if it needs it, and start the process in the Google Wifi app to build a new wireless network. You won't have the app fussing at you, and you'll have a strong router near the modem that still has a free Ethernet port. That leaves any other Google Wifi nodes as the smaller and easier to place newer units.

An extra Google Wifi unit can be a wonderful thing

Google Wifi

This is the most exciting part. OnHub routers can frequently be found on sale and will end up a good bit cheaper than the single Google Wifi unit. It's a great way to add a fourth node to a network and can give you the freedom to be creative.

Google Wifi units (including the OnHub) are wireless other than the power connection. Plug the first one into your modem, and place the rest anywhere within range. But you can use a wired connection between one or all of your nodes. And Ethernet cables can get long.

Wi-Fi in the kid's (or your) treehouse is an entirely different level of awesome that's easy to do if you have an extra Google Wifi node.

A Google Wifi three pack can make for damn near perfect wireless everywhere in an average home. Even the porch and driveway. But many of us have a workshop or pool or other areas around our house where good wireless would be a great addition. A 100-foot, 200-foot or even longer CAT-6 cable can be attached to two Google Wifi units to stretch them far apart. You can even buy long cables that are designed to be buried directly in the ground. It works great, and you don't lose the wireless speeds you would trying to cover 200 feet of distance — Ethernet is fast, too.

I suggest setting the unit up wirelessly first while it's in the range of everything else. Once finished, unplug it from the power and take it out to the deck or treehouse and connect it to the cable you've run. Power it up, give it a minute or two, and enjoy the fast Wi-Fi for your phone or your Chromecast or TV.

It's late December. It's far too cold for me to be outside scratching away at the frozen dirt with a shovel. But I've tested this with a 200-foot cable and a Chromecast audio setup and it works just grand. I'm looking forward to a nice Springtime project that's easy to do and can make a great home improvement.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

23 Comments
  • Hi Jerry, I'm in the UK. Ordered the 3 pack of Google wi-fi and Amazon just shipped it today. I'm looking forward to getting it with the main need being to support the various nest cams I have in my place. The outdoor cameras are constantly dropping off because the wi-fi isn't strong enough. I use a Sky router (sky is the broadband supplier) - I have to use it as it streams TV around the house to the various boxes locally. Right now I use an airport Extreme but I had the double nat issue as I can't change the sky router to become a bridge. So can you suggest a way to set up wi-fi so it doesnt have that issue but I don't lose any functionality? I also can't connect to my hue bridge in this setup! I can wierdly control them from the hue remote or using homekit off my iPhone but the hue app doesn't work. And neither does Google home or Amazon echo. They just can't connect to the hue bridge. I guess that two questions! Thanks.
  • Let's make sure I understand your existing setup. Broadband comes in to a single box from Sky with a modem and router. That router is wireless with one or more LAN ports. Your Airport is connected to one of those LAN ports. Your TVs connect through the Sky router. Is there only one SSID or are you using one for the Sky equipment and one for the Airport? One box with a modem and router from SKY that's required equipment for your TVs. Is the connection to the "satellite" televisions wireless or wired? Are your televisions controlled with a smartphone app or only through a controller? (If they can use an app, you will have to get everything working on one SSID). Your airport. Where is it attached? I assume to the router on the box from Sky. Does the Sky router have a setting to pass all data through to a specific MAC address? Can you specify a device as in a DMZ based on it's MAC? Or am I not right at all on the way your equipment is set up? Google Wifi will work fine as a bridged wireless setup behind your sky router even though setup can be finicky. The double NAT will exist in this setup unless your Sky router has a method to pass all traffic on all ports through to the first node of your Google Wifi equipment. Your Hue bridge, Echo and Google Home are able to work behind a double NAT if the passthrough is able to be set up correctly. Most of this is going to depend on the tools and settings for your Sky router, which isn't good news.
  • Thanks. The sky router is a single box with a modem built in. The router is wireless a s has 2 LAN ports with one connected to the airport extreme. There are two networks in the home. The sky Q box creates its own mesh network (which isn't great as there are 5 boxes in the house, one main satellite receiver (with 12 tuners) and that can send the TV channels steaming over the sky network to the two mini boxes, a booster and the actual sky router. All of these boxes become wi-fi hotspots in the sky system but it struggles to provide a consistent connection). So the satellite connection for the two mini boxes is wireless. The main box is from the dish. We have 3 TVs. One is a Philips android TV and the others are smart TVs but not android. One LG pre-webos software and one Philips pretty android. The sky router has the airport connected to it. The majority of phones and laptops in the house are connected to the airport and also the nest products just as it was easier than reconnecting them. I have 5 nest cams (2 outdoors), a thermostat, 2 nest protects. As far as attached devices go I have 8 smartphones, 4 tablets, my iMac, a Chromebook and macbook pro. (I love my gadgets and buy all the latest technology!). Plus the hue lights are connected of which there are 4. Only the sky boxes are connected to the sky network. That's it. As far as the DMZ goes, I can set one but it doesn't appear to allow me to do it using a MAC. The sky Q router was not designed to give me all the functions in the world. There is a tick box to use the router as a DHCP server? Would turning that off allow Google wi-fi to serve up those IPs? But then that would effect the sky mini boxes connected and they may drop off if they get double nat. It is a limited router.
  • My suggestion would be to replace the airport router with the google wifi and simply give it a different network name than the sky is using.
  • Got an OnHub on clearance for $60. Best router I've had.
  • Yep. Google really did a great job with their wifi routers. I had to do some adaptation to get more LAN ports, but once I did things work really well here.
  • Really? Please LMK where so I can purchase one?
  • Yeah, I'd love to know where also!!
  • My local Target store had them on clearance for that much. They're gone now, sorry.
  • Since they now with the same as Google wifi pucks... Could I buy 2 of then and use them as google wifi?
  • Yep! Setup might cough and bark, but you can go through anyway and it works just fine
  • That's the plan for me as well. I figure I'd get a stronger signal and range with two OnHubs than one OnHub and a Wifi puck.
  • Jerry, what is the best way to setup an OnHub router and 1 Google WiFi puck with Verizon FiOS quantum gateway router/modem combo. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • Best way — disable the router function of the FiOS gateway and plug the OnHub into LAN 1 on it. Set up the OnHub through the app and add the Google Wifi when it asks if you have more devices to add. If you can't disable the routing, set it to allow a bridge (you'll have to look at the manual or online to see how to do this, but it shouldn't be hard) and plug the OnHub into LAN port 1 and follow the setup. the Setup will work even if it barks at you a little :) If this is done correctly, almost anything you'd have in your home will work just fine.
  • Anyone know if Google OnHub or Wifi allows for setting a private IPv6 DNS address (for pi-hole)? My current Netgear router doesn't allow it and I don't feel like flashing new firmware.
  • IPv6 support is "coming soon". I asked about it at the product briefing and got the PR version — we're working as hard as we can to bring new features without changing existing features ...yada yada. The beta version of the OnHub firmware has it built in and it reportedly works well. I expect it soon — actually soon and not the coming soon we always hear.
  • As always, great write-up Jerry! I have my OnHub (TP-Link) as my primary node and a single Google WiFi as my secondary node. It works great! However, I do have a few questions. Does the OnHub support Wave 2? I know Google WiFi does, but I couldn't find anything on the OnHub; only thing I saw was beamforming for the OnHub.
    Do you think 30 feet is a suitable distance between my OnHub and GW?
    Have you heard anything on Family WiFi having the ability to set time parameters (i.e. 10 pm to 6 am WiFi off for select devices)? Thanks for being clear and concise in your articles! Much love my friend!
  • The review I've been waiting for.
  • I'm having a problem with Chromecast and this setup - my Nexus Player connects to the main OnHub, but my Pixel and Google Home connect to another one - so they don't see each other. Any ideas how to fix this? It's like I'm running two different networks as far as Chromecast is concerned.
  • Thanks Jerry for all your work on On-Hub and Google wifi. I have been struggling with how to spread our satalite service on our farm and nursery. We have three houses, several greenhouses, gardens and outbuildings. And no cell service. I have been making do with an Asus router and several range extenders with major problems on a daily basis. Your reporting lead me to the mesh idea and hence to google wifi. I bought (2) TP-Link On-Hub routers yesterday at best buy ($145 each) with the plan on getting some pucks when they become available. My reasoning was to get them as far apart as possible and then fill in the dead spaces later. The first one set up very easily and the range was much better than my old Asus N900 router. Win #1. The second On-Hub took a bit of setup by hooking to the modem and letting it update using a temporary network name and then resetting and hooking it up to my new network. I moved it to another building where I had had an extender and plugged it in. In a minute or two I was able to tweak it's location using the app so I had a "good" connection. Worked perfectly. Win #2. All my devices and computers hooked up easily and had great connections. This includes my Chromecast and Chromecast audio. Win #3. The app is easy to use and I can see what or who is using data. With a metered satalite this is great. Win #4. I am getting good enough coverage that I may not need to get the pucks. I have one household connected with a Asus range extender, which works well so far, so at least one puck may be in order. Win #5. So far I am very impressed. I am even able to use wifi calling on my phone. My wife just called and I was able to use Verizon message+ to talk to her from my Nexus 9. That has never worked before. We will see over time but for now I have at least 3 fewer people complaining about getting online. So I'm having a beer. Thanks again Jerry.
  • I have a Sonicwall TZ170 firewall appliance in front of my cable modem.It does NAT and DHCP to assign IPs to all wired and wireless...it also limits me to 10 active IPs Am I correct that the Onhub will take over DHCP for all the wireless devices and the Sonicwall will only see 1 IP from the Onhub? I want to build a mesh network around the Onhub. What mode will the Onhub configure itself into? Bridge, Double Nat, ?? Thanks in advance. Jack
  • Forgot to clarify that the Sonicwall tz170 is a wired device only...right now I have an access point without DHCP server so the wireless devices get their IP from the Sonicwall's DHCP server.
  • Any thoughts on which OnHub would be better in this mesh setup & why? TIA