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minimoose

Multiple WIFI access points

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Posted · Original PosterOP

So I've noticed that the new thing in WiFi is having a couple of WiFi access points instead of one big router. Products like Eero and Ubiquiti Amplifi are examples of this. What I'm wondering is, could I use various wireless gear I already own, (access points and routers) and give them all the same SSID and password and get the same effect? My main concern is that the devices won't switch from access point to access point seamlessly.I know that high end gear like Ubiquiti's Unifi gear has the zero handoff feature, but do these other products do smart managing of the devices? 

 

Any advice on how to set this up?

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I use some kind od wifi extender. Just plugged it in and my pc found it. Then some simple step by step tutorial thing. Now I basically have main wifi and the extended one. I use same name and password. 

 

And basically, if you connect some thing to one of your "wifis" it will stay in it. It works like two separate things. 

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3 hours ago, minimoose said:

So I've noticed that the new thing in WiFi is having a couple of WiFi access points instead of one big router. Products like Eero and Ubiquiti Amplifi are examples of this. What I'm wondering is, could I use various wireless gear I already own, (access points and routers) and give them all the same SSID and password and get the same effect? My main concern is that the devices won't switch from access point to access point seamlessly.I know that high end gear like Ubiquiti's Unifi gear has the zero handoff feature, but do these other products do smart managing of the devices? 

Any advice on how to set this up?

It's possible to do that using say two routers but as you mentioned managing signals and the zero handoff isn't as smooth as proper AP's. Personally I tried this before and sometimes it would stick to one router which had the slightly stronger signal but wouldn't let go of the signal even when it got lower until much too late for my liking. To get around it you can setup two AP's with different names to let you manually select which one you want.

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You can do this with multiple AP's throughout the house, and for the most part, it will work.   You will NOT, however, get seamless handovers between AP's.  WiFi generally is a a "break before make" technology (ie, you have to drop one connection before you can establish the second connection).    Controller based systems like the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD and several enterprise class systems work by having the user authentication happen at the controller, rather than the AP.

 

That being said, all you'll lose out on by using multiple WiFi AP's is the ability to seamlessly have VoIP calls (and if the VoIP technology is good enough, such as Skype, it will survive the drop and reconnection).

 

The biggest thing to note is this:  WiFi AP's and clients will tend to "hold on" to their connection as long as possible, especially if traffic is running across it, even if a better WiFi signal is available.  So your laptop / iPad / smartphone etc will stay connected to the first WiFI AP they connect to, as long as they can still get a signal from that AP, even if you move into a room that is better served by a different WiFi AP.

 

Once you shut off / sleep etc your device and later turn it on again, it will connect to the strongest WiFi AP it can see at that time.

 

Your idea will work, it just won't be as elegant of a solution as you'd like (ie, as a commercial system).   If you have clear dead spots in your house, then your solution will work, as once the connection drops, it will reconnect to the stronger WiFi AP.

 

 

 

Patrick


We specialize in work which few understand

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1 hour ago, W-L said:

Personally I tried this before and sometimes it would stick to one router which had the slightly stronger signal but wouldn't let go of the signal even when it got lower until much too late for my liking. To get around it you can setup two AP's with different names to let you manually select which one you want.

The thing is I know that this should work, it's in the WiFi spec. Devices should take maybe 1sec to roam from one AP to another if they have the same SSID/PW. They should do this automatically when there is a huge gap in signal strength. And if you get higher end gear or get lucky with some consumer stuff that's how it works. It shouldn't hold on to the weaker signal. That's behaviour that should only happen if the SSID is different. So in theory at least, what you're suggesting is counter-productive. In theory.

 

The issue is that most consumer grade wireless is kinda garbage. And even if you get lucky on one odds are that you won't have the same luck if you get two. You're even less likely to have luck if you're using old gear that you've upgraded from. Not much of an issue if you have only one AP. But with more than one? You're going to be re-connecting to that dodgy old AP a lot. That's where you run into issues.And they're usually weird, hard to diagnose issues.

 

From experience. I've always had issues with coverage so when I put in some Network points? I pulled out one of my old Netgear routers and set it up as a second AP. Same SSID/PW. I had a lot of trouble with that setup so I then got a D-Link AP as an upgrade to wireless AC for one area. That improved performance but didn't help with roaming. So I got a second D-Link AP which was fantastic... until one of them started playing up. At that point I said "screw this", gave the non-broken DLink to my sister and got two Ubiquiti AC Lites. Haven't looked back.


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7 hours ago, skywake said:

The thing is I know that this should work, it's in the WiFi spec. Devices should take maybe 1sec to roam from one AP to another if they have the same SSID/PW. They should do this automatically when there is a huge gap in signal strength. And if you get higher end gear or get lucky with some consumer stuff that's how it works. It shouldn't hold on to the weaker signal. That's behaviour that should only happen if the SSID is different. So in theory at least, what you're suggesting is counter-productive. In theory.

If access points support 802.11k, 802.11r or 802.11v, then you might have some hope of roaming between APs based upon signal quality and fast re-authentication.

 

Most consumer grade access points don't support any of the above, because there is little reason for them to do so, at the price points that consumers tend to spend.

 

Consumer grade APs are effectively dumb devices....they're not aware of the network around them.   I have two active APs in my house, and neither of them 'knows' that the other is on the same network from an RF perspective.   There is no centralized RRM, no centralized authentication (all done on an AP by AP basis), and no link optimization.

 

The capabilities exist within the WiFi (802.11) spec.   The capabilities don't exist within the vast majority of consumer grade gear.

 

 

Patrick


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@GR8-Ride

Sure, but unless you're doing something time sensitive it doesn't really matter. For me at least it was a question of whether or not they roam at all. That I don't have something like 30% signal strength to an AP on the other side of the house when I'm standing next to the second AP. If that process takes ~1sec? That's not ideal but it's not really something I've noticed. If it doesn't happen at all or it constantly jumps between two APs? That's a problem.

 

If you set two or more APs to the same SSID/PW? Devices will roam from one to another. It'll just have a ~1sec delay. If you have a different SSID they won't roam. They'll connect to the best signal they can at the start and just hold onto it.


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10 hours ago, skywake said:

-SNIP-

Yes that usually is the case with consumer hardware, most enterprise or commercial stuff fairs much better with zero handoff and properly roaming between access points. There isn't that much that can be done with consumer stuff while it is suppose to support roaming and doesn't do it very well. 

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I'm curious as to what consumer grade equipment you're using that supports roaming.   Because all of the devices I've used have never supported roaming and hand-overs.   None of the latest units based upon Broadcoms 4x4 MIMO chipset have supported it.

 

I have two APs in my house, and no roaming occurs between AP's, regardless of what the SSID is set to (single SSID or multiple for the house).

 

I've used the Linksys EA9500, the Netgear R8500, Apple's AirPort Extreme, and the ASUS RT-5300.   No combination allowed roaming, across multiple config changes.

 

Again, if the client disconnects due to a sleep mechanism, then it will reauthenticate to the stronger AP.   But handoffs never actually happened, unless the established connection is broken.  

 

I don't actually know of any consumer grade equipment that actually has support for 802.11r, and the IEEE 802.11 working group has never established a standard for Inter AP protocol, so that roaming and RRM can be communicated between multi-vendor networks across the wired backbone.

 

 

Patrick


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Posted · Original PosterOP

This is all very interesting! I decided to spend my Saturday morning setting this up, and so far it's been pretty good but a little inconsistent. 

 

Before today I was using an RT-N66U as the router with WiFI off and a Ubiquiti AC Lite as the wireless access point. Do to the old nature of my house it has some walls that totally destroy a wireless signal, even 15 away from the access point, hence why I need WiFi coming from different points in the house.

 

With the use of minimum RSSI and turning down the TX power of the radios it seems to switch quickly enough for buffered video or web browsing not to be interrupted. I did walk around on a VOIP call and the first time I switched access points the call broke up for 30 seconds but after that it switched very smoothly. These are both pretty nice pieces of equipment, so maybe that's why?

 

Ideally I'll get another Unify AC Lite soon and make this a non issue. But I wanted to do this for $0.

 

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1 hour ago, GR8-Ride said:

-SNIP-

I used Linksys routers with a secondary on bridge mode, it does work with roaming but as you would expect not reliably. It was the main reason why I decided to setup two separate SSID's to manually choose between them, if I had a few AP's however I would for sure go for something that had better designed handoff and roaming to make it seamless. 

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16 hours ago, W-L said:

... zero handoff isn't as smooth as proper AP's. Personally I tried this before and sometimes it would stick to one router which had the slightly stronger signal but wouldn't let go of the signal even when it got lower until much too late for my liking. To get around it you can setup two AP's with different names to let you manually select which one you want.

2

As far as I remember, I read an article stating that seamless AP handoff also depends on the devices connected. For instance, my Note 3 running Android 4.4.2 doesn't know how to handoff at all between a 2.4 and 5 GHz network with the same SSID - If either network is within any kind of range of the other, it locks and holds to that network unless I manually switch it. Just bringing it up so that @minimoose knows.

 

On another note, you definitely can use routers you have lying around to run multiple APs, but as @W-L said, it's not the best solution. I've got an abundant supply of DD-WRT compatible routers (and might be a little cheap too :P) so I used those configured as a Wired Switch and AP. It's not perfect, but it beats buying a dedicated media bridge for our game consoles and TV media area.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
15 minutes ago, kirashi said:

As far as I remember, I read an article stating that seamless AP handoff also depends on the devices connected. For instance, my Note 3 running Android 4.4.2 doesn't know how to handoff at all between a 2.4 and 5 GHz network with the same SSID - If either network is within any kind of range of the other, it locks and holds to that network unless I manually switch it. Just bringing it up so that @minimoose knows.

 

On another note, you definitely can use routers you have lying around to run multiple APs, but as @W-L said, it's not the best solution. I've got an abundant supply of DD-WRT compatible routers (and might be a little cheap too :P) so I used those configured as a Wired Switch and AP. It's not perfect, but it beats buying a dedicated media bridge for our game consoles and TV media area.

Yeah, so it seems like iPhones do this pretty well, my mom's Surface also does it pretty well. MacBooks need the WiFi turned off and then back on when switching access points unless the connection is totally lost. Not sure if this is going to be viable. I might just need to get another Unifi. Both of the networks are 5Ghz and it seems like making the settings as similar as possible (other than channel) seems to help with more seamless switching. 

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10 hours ago, GR8-Ride said:

I'm curious as to what consumer grade equipment you're using that supports roaming.   Because all of the devices I've used have never supported roaming and hand-overs.   None of the latest units based upon Broadcoms 4x4 MIMO chipset have supported it.

None of the stuff I've used supports zero handoff. But roaming in general is a different story. Here are the combinations I've tried and the results. Note that in all of these setups I had the same SSID/PW across all bands. A perfect result is every device connecting at the fastest speed without the user noticing:

 

Single AP setups. All of them: Constant "why is the internet shit?" when people sat out of range

Netgear N300 & Netgear N600: I reused old gear. It wasn't great. Devices would stick to one AP or another and sometimes flat out refuse to connect

Netgear N300/N600 & Dlink AC1200: Roaming worked better and I got better coverage. But there were still some weird connectivity issues

DLink AC1200 x2: Worked very well but at some point one of them crapped out entirely. Took me a while to notice I had issues on just one AP

DLink N300 & I don't know what: My brother was having coverage issues at the back of his house. Got a powerline/WiFi combo thing. It works well

DLink AC1200 & Ubiquiti AC1200: DLink AP swapped with an ACLite. This setup was the first to remove the "what have you done to the internet"

Ubiquiti AC1200 x2: I got a second because of how happy I was with the first. Unnecessary but I like the amount of information/control it gave me.


Fools think they know everything, experts know they know nothing

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2 hours ago, skywake said:

None of the stuff I've used supports zero handoff. But roaming in general is a different story. Here are the combinations I've tried and the results. Note that in all of these setups I had the same SSID/PW across all bands. A perfect result is every device connecting at the fastest speed without the user noticing:

 

Single AP setups. All of them: Constant "why is the internet shit?" when people sat out of range

Netgear N300 & Netgear N600: I reused old gear. It wasn't great. Devices would stick to one AP or another and sometimes flat out refuse to connect

Netgear N300/N600 & Dlink AC1200: Roaming worked better and I got better coverage. But there were still some weird connectivity issues

DLink AC1200 x2: Worked very well but at some point one of them crapped out entirely. Took me a while to notice I had issues on just one AP

DLink N300 & I don't know what: My brother was having coverage issues at the back of his house. Got a powerline/WiFi combo thing. It works well

DLink AC1200 & Ubiquiti AC1200: DLink AP swapped with an ACLite. This setup was the first to remove the "what have you done to the internet"

Ubiquiti AC1200 x2: I got a second because of how happy I was with the first. Unnecessary but I like the amount of information/control it gave me.

I've also found that devices will also prefer/stick to an AP with the highest wireless standard regardless of signal strength, even on enterprise AP from Cisco (not Meraki). An 80% signal strength N AP can be available but a device will pick and stay on a 10% AC, rather annoying.

 

This was in a deployment without a Cisco controller and the APs were all manual configuration, not the best setup. I've never had these types of issues when using Aruba controllers and APs and same for Ruckus.

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