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Mesh access points and confusion

Lairlair

Okay so I've been reading and watching tons of things to understand the difference between all types of network related devices and the more I understand things the more I'm confused by marketing claims. So my question is simple and example based: if I buy a set of 2 TP-Link Deco M4, will I be able to keep the existing SSID from my existing WiFi router (which is also my modem)? Or will I have to create a new one?

 

It seems like there has to be one of the devices that needs to be connected via ethernet cable, and the cable in the box is like 2 meters long so it looks like in the end I would have 3 access points but 2 would be very close to one another so it's a bit pointless... Or I would need to invest in a long ethernet cable as well. I don't know, can anyone help me understand? Ideally I'd need 3 wireless access points around 20 meters apart and if no ethernet cables are involved can all the better.

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If you are getting the mesh system you can use the same SSID and password that you use now, however it would be strongly recommended to disable the wifi on the existing router.   Mesh and non Mesh Wifi systems with the same SID don't play nice together, the mesh system allows you to smoothly move between AP's, with the non mesh router, your devices would hold on to the connection even if the signal is weak and unusable.

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Lairlair said:

if I buy a set of 2 TP-Link Deco M4, will I be able to keep the existing SSID from my existing WiFi router (which is also my modem)? Or will I have to create a new one?

You can try using the same SSID as your WiFi Router, but if there's issues, you'd want to either turn off wifi on the router (if thats even an option, otherwise might be able to dial down the transmit power) or put the router on a different SSID. If you do the latter, there may be a risk of interference, especially at a distance when 2.4 GHz is likely to be used by devices.
 

What matters more is whether you setup the M4s to be in Access Point (AP) mode or router mode. Configuring them as APs likely makes the most sense, that way there's little to no config update needed for the wifi router. If M4s are set to router mode, then that could cause what's called Double NAT, which can be a problem with certain types of initial inbound connections such as some online gaming.

 

If you get adventurous and if your original wifi router is not also acting as the modem, you could remove your existing WiFi router alltogether and set the M4 to router mode. If the wifi router came from your ISP, it may not perform as well in some cases as your M4s, but it depends.

 

3 hours ago, Lairlair said:

the cable in the box is like 2 meters long so it looks like in the end I would have 3 access points but 2 would be very close to one another so it's a bit pointless... Or I would need to invest in a long ethernet cable as well. I don't know, can anyone help me understand? Ideally I'd need 3 wireless access points around 20 meters apart and if no ethernet cables are involved can all the better.

I think you are on the right track with wanting long ethernet cables and putting them at 20 meters. That is always better than each AP having to connect to each other wirelessly, especially when it basically cuts the effective speed of each AP by at least half, because the other half has to be used to communicate with other AP(s). How much that actually impacts you depends on how fast your ISP is and whether you have internal network traffic that requires high speeds & low latency (streaming video from NAS, etc).

 

There's no exact science to this because the materials in everyones house affects wifi differently, and devices have some minor different wifi capabilities aside from which major wifi version # they support. So it's okay to play with placing them using trial & error.

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23 hours ago, Allan B said:

Mesh and non Mesh Wifi systems with the same SID don't play nice together

The spec sheet of my router says it has mesh capabilities so it's probably fine... Right? Or do I need to look at something else to make sure they're compatible?

 

23 hours ago, NobleGamer said:

I think you are on the right track with wanting long ethernet cables and putting them at 20 meters.

Yes it makes a lot of sense to me. The thing is it's for a shared working space and a shared budged. I'm more geeky than average there and I tried to pitch this idea to the group but it didn't seem to convince anyone else to spend more money buying something as archaic as a cable (which isn't super cheap either if you need to buy 2 long ones). But then I guess there are better access point devices that specify in that type of connection and are more cost effective, I'd have to look into that.

 

Thank you for your replies so far!

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But then new question: if I do get an access point and run a long cable, will my devices be capable of dynamically roam between access points depending on which one has the strongest signal? What feature do I have to look for to make sure it can do it?

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4 hours ago, Lairlair said:

I'm more geeky than average there and I tried to pitch this idea to the group but it didn't seem to convince anyone else to spend more money buying something as archaic as a cable (which isn't super cheap either if you need to buy 2 long ones).

Multiple gbps capable CAT 6 or higher is not archaic, but whatever.

They'll change their tune if/when they complain about possible slowness from limitations of mesh without a wired backbone.

 

4 hours ago, Lairlair said:

But then I guess there are better access point devices that specify in that type of connection and are more cost effective, I'd have to look into that.

Of course wireless to wireless mesh will cost a bit less than having a wire between them, but at the "cost" of latency and slower wifi speeds to support AP to AP communication.

 

Also, if the APs aren't within 5 GHz range of each other, that means they'd communicate across 2.4 GHz which would be interference prone and has an upper limit of ~400mbps at closest/best, but ~50mbps when far enough that 5GHz becomes useless but 2.4GHz is still strong enough.

2.4 GHz doesn't get faster no matter how new or expensive your AP is - At best, a WiFi 6E will have a more reliable 2.4 GHz against interference.

 

4 hours ago, Lairlair said:

if I do get an access point and run a long cable, will my devices be capable of dynamically roam between access points depending on which one has the strongest signal? What feature do I have to look for to make sure it can do it?

As long as all APs are on the same SSID, the ability to roam between APs has nothing to do with whether your APs connect to each other wired or wirelessly.

 

Switching between networks is up to the devices for the most part. There's a very limited number of things APs that might help with that, but again largely comes back to the device - The link to your device's spec has one such feature and it says the same thing about depending on device support.

 

The only other feature on a router/AP I've seen that might also help is one that will drop a device from an AP when the signal strength drops below a certain threshhold - I saw that on one older ASUS router/AP.

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5 hours ago, Lairlair said:

The spec sheet of my router says it has mesh capabilities so it's probably fine... Right? Or do I need to look at something else to make sure they're compatible?

Generally speaking, if your wireless router or mesh system supports mesh, it will only do so within the same brand or product line. Even within the same brand, there might be some peculiarities that the support documentation would be able to help you with. Asus is one of the unique brands that, if its wireless router supports AiMesh, then it is usually compatible with all other AiMesh wireless routers.

 

Is your existing internet gateway an ISP-supplied device? If so, and it claims to support mesh, it will only do so with other similar-branded wireless mesh devices. In my part of the world, my fiber ISP provides a Huawei ONT for the tier I want. While the ONT supports mesh, I don't use it. But if I wanted to spend even more money (yeah, right!) for my ISP to provide "improved wireless coverage", I could pay for this and they'd simply drop a few Huawei mesh points around my apartment and activate the mesh system. It's something I could do on my own with an independent mesh system, but I'm now paying more every month for the speeds, ONT rental and mesh point rental.

 

5 hours ago, Lairlair said:

But then new question: if I do get an access point and run a long cable, will my devices be capable of dynamically roam between access points depending on which one has the strongest signal? What feature do I have to look for to make sure it can do it?

The purpose of mesh systems was to make all of this invisible to the client, while still allowing for some degree of improved wireless coverage. When you use a mesh system the way it was intended, this is what happens. Running them in AP mode, on the other hand, might disable seamless roaming.

 

As previously stated, transitioning from one wireless source to another really depends on the client. Some clients transition easily, while others are very "sticky". You can set up all of your APs with the same SSID on non-overlapping channels and achieve a hybrid of seamless roaming, but only if you tune it very well. By that I mean that you optimize the power output of each AP's broadcast so their "fringes" barely overlap each other and you set signal strength thresholds for clients.

 

The best systems for seamless roaming and no drops are SDN-based, i.e. there is software running on the APs that allow them to talk to each other so that handoffs occur without needing to reauthorize/etc. when a client moves from one location to the other.

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On 3/18/2023 at 6:57 PM, NobleGamer said:

CAT 6 or higher is not archaic, but whatever.

For sure, I was mostly trying to caricature my friend's reaction 😅

 

Yeah I'm actually a bit worried we might buy stuff that looks easier to use but is not very fitting for our needs.

 

23 hours ago, Falcon1986 said:

Is your existing internet gateway an ISP-supplied device?

Well it's a bit more complicated because we're using something our landlord is providing us, so I feel like it would make things even more complicated to involve him and the ISP 😭

 

In my head the best course of action would be to try to implement one mesh repeater, run it wirelessly. And if the connection is still bad, run a cable to free some bandwidth

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