Computers & Electronics

Experience with Access Points vs Routers/Extenders

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[OP]
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Experience with Access Points vs Routers/Extenders

Can anyone help give some personal experience using wireless access points at home? Over the years, I've picked up an extra router or two to try and cover weak wifi in areas of my house, but I think I've been doing it all wrong and should have bought access points instead.

I would like to clarify a couple of main things too.
Does using an AP make switching between the router and the AP easier? How different is this than using a second router, with the same network name/password? Do devices get "stuck" on the weaker signal until they are completely out of range of the stronger device before switching?
As a follow up on this "roaming", does it only work well if you have a wired router + several APs? Or will it work fine with a main typical residential wifi router + AP?
I see a lot of APs using PoE. Can they use a normal AC adapter instead? Or is it just better to use PoE? I don't have a router that supplies PoE.
I've read that many newer routers have a AP mode. Is there any downside to just using this (if any of my devices have the option)?
What are the main negatives about installing an AP instead of a different device? Or another network? Right now, I'd love to cover my garage or backyard with some signal.
(I've tried to read a lot of articles, but so many are very short, with bare bone explanations)

And if you have installed Access Points at your home, I'd love to hear your experience with them!
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AP = Router with only 1 port. That is the only difference from what I know. All traffic from the wireless interface will be sent to the wired one & vice-versa.

If you have multiple routers broadcasting the same Wifi, then "roaming" will happen automatically. The "stickiness" depends on the client device

One of the most trusted sites for router recommendations is smallnetbuilder.com. I bought an R7800 based on what that site said, and it more than easily covers my 1500sqft house + backyard etc. Serves ~40 devices over Wired, 2.4Ghz & 5Ghz

Ideally in a network, you should have one router (192.168.1.1) and the other routers/AP should provide the "Gateway" address of that router (i.e. 192.168.1.1). This ensures that the packets from your devices reach that router directly, without the second router doing additional unnecessary processing

The bad way (debatable) of doing this is letting each router work on it's own as a router. This will cause more delay as the packets will first be processed by both routers.

PoE adapters exist in case you need them, however most consumer grade equipment will not use them
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kramer1 wrote: If you have multiple routers broadcasting the same Wifi, then "roaming" will happen automatically. The "stickiness" depends on the client device
This is part of my issue with multiple routers with the same wifi. I had installed a second device at my father's house, for the bedroom (as the wifi is very weak there). But when I gave it a test, it would not switch me over. I had to disconnect from the network, then reconnect. But when two routers are using the same SSID, they weren't individually showing on my device (likely the point). But when I disconnected, and reconnected, I wasn't sure which device I was connecting to (without assuming based on network speed).

I currently have an Asus Blue Cave. Which works great in the house. But signal is rough in the garage.

A few TP-Link models current in the deal section all seem to include a "PoE injector" in the box.
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It depends on your client device and it will switchover when it needs. They will not show up as separate, which is what allows the roaming to work.

If you only have a few deadspots and are not bothered about speed, just get a repeater/booster. Otherwise you'd need to install another router/AP and then wire it up to your main device
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kramer1 wrote: It depends on your client device and it will switchover when it needs. They will not show up as separate, which is what allows the roaming to work.

If you only have a few deadspots and are not bothered about speed, just get a repeater/booster. Otherwise you'd need to install another router/AP and then wire it up to your main device
Pretty incorrect to call an access point a router with 1 port. That's not what an access point is...

A router can act as an access point, but an access point can't perform routing functions (otherwise it's called a router).

@OP Generally people buy access points to increase wifi strength and would use old routers lying around to be on AP mode only if they're trying to save money. I find it ridiculous for anyone to buy a new router to be used strictly as an access point.

In order to optimize the ability for clients to properly roam to the closest access point, you really have to play with many settings such as transmit power, minimum RSSI, etc. What you would be doing is reducing the range on each access point to ensure the overlaps are minimized.
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I believe most wireless clients will try and continue to hold on to a network even if a stronger network is available. I believe some mesh and access points try to work around with this issue by forcing clients to connect to a closer AP. I believe Asus AI Mesh does it. And if I am not wrong, even TP Link EAP access points do it if you run their software on an always on computer somewhere on the network.
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@FrugalConsumer is right on. AP's are not routers, they strictly provide WiFi access to your network, hence they're called access points (AP). You still need a router to route traffic on your network to the internet (your ISP). If you have an existing router, you can add an AP to expand your WiFi coverage.

Ubiquiti makes decent gear, find more info here. https://www.ui.com/ Here is an example of a decent AP https://www.amazon.ca/UBIQUITI-UAP-AC-L ... 231&sr=8-4.

You will need to use their management software UniFi to configure the AP. If you leave the software running on a PC it can send alerts if AP goes down etc. Even if you don't have the software running all the time, the configuration is retained on the AP.

If you configure multiple Ubiquiti AP's, they can be configured to hand off clients to the AP with the stronger signal.

Hope this helps.
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Skilas wrote: Over the years, I've picked up an extra router or two to try and cover weak wifi in areas of my house, but I think I've been doing it all wrong and should have bought access points instead.
When you use the term "AP", I assume you mean a device that strictly provides a Wi-Fi signal and connects to your primary router/modem with an Ethernet cable.

A typical home "router" usually has 1 WAN port and 4 LAN ports. Internally these devices contain a "router" (accessed from the WAN port), a 4 port switch, and a Wi-Fi AP, which can be considered as a 5th port on the switch.

In your case you have no need for the router function, so don't connect anything to the WAN port. Set the LAN IP to fit into the network address range of your main router, and turn off the DHCP server. Connect a LAN port on the main router to a LAN port on this secondary router. Set the SSID on this new AP. You now have the same functionality as what you call an AP device. You also have the added benefit of being able to connect additional wired devices at the location of this 2nd router.

You can set the SSID of the secondary AP to match the primary AP, but as you already noticed, you will have no idea which AP you are connected to. You are also correct that as you move throughout the house, your devices will "cling" to a single AP until the signal is effectively lost. The only way to prevent the "clinging" is to install an actual mesh network, such as the Ubiquiti products described by "frugalcanuck".

Personally I have my main router, with AP active, on the 2nd floor, and a secondary AP (an old router) on the 1st floor. I have given each of them different SSID's. Although each AP can reach the entire house, different SSID's allow me to connect all my fixed devices like Android TV boxes, Google Homes, Smart TV's, etc., to the AP that I know is the strongest.

You really have to consider if you want to invest in true mesh hardware for the times that you walk around the house while using the Wi-Fi. Out of the dozens of devices in my home, I only "roam" with my phone and my 8" tablet. If I need optimum speed from one of these 2 devices (eg. for streaming video), I simply make a manual selection to the strongest AP. For other things like web browsing, I never bother changing to the alternate AP because the benefits are marginal.
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Rick007 wrote: When you use the term "AP", I assume you mean a device that strictly provides a Wi-Fi signal and connects to your primary router/modem with an Ethernet cable.

A typical home "router" usually has 1 WAN port and 4 LAN ports. Internally these devices contain a "router" (accessed from the WAN port), a 4 port switch, and a Wi-Fi AP, which can be considered as a 5th port on the switch.

In your case you have no need for the router function, so don't connect anything to the WAN port. Set the LAN IP to fit into the network address range of your main router, and turn off the DHCP server. Connect a LAN port on the main router to a LAN port on this secondary router. Set the SSID on this new AP. You now have the same functionality as what you call an AP device. You also have the added benefit of being able to connect additional wired devices at the location of this 2nd router.

You can set the SSID of the secondary AP to match the primary AP, but as you already noticed, you will have no idea which AP you are connected to. You are also correct that as you move throughout the house, your devices will "cling" to a single AP until the signal is effectively lost. The only way to prevent the "clinging" is to install an actual mesh network, such as the Ubiquiti products described by "frugalcanuck".

Personally I have my main router, with AP active, on the 2nd floor, and a secondary AP (an old router) on the 1st floor. I have given each of them different SSID's. Although each AP can reach the entire house, different SSID's allow me to connect all my fixed devices like Android TV boxes, Google Homes, Smart TV's, etc., to the AP that I know is the strongest.

You really have to consider if you want to invest in true mesh hardware for the times that you walk around the house while using the Wi-Fi. Out of the dozens of devices in my home, I only "roam" with my phone and my 8" tablet. If I need optimum speed from one of these 2 devices (eg. for streaming video), I simply make a manual selection to the strongest AP. For other things like web browsing, I never bother changing to the alternate AP because the benefits are marginal.
Yes, I'm trying to make sure I properly distinguish between a device like a wifi router (1 wan / 4 lan as you described) and an access point (wifi only, often powered using PoE)

This was the solution I had to implement a few years ago, because I was having a lot of issues installing smart home devices to my main wifi router. As noted, I have an Asus Blue Cave. And for some reason, whenever I tried to connect a TP-Link smart plug to the network, it froze my network. I was not able to figure out a fix for this, so I ended up installing a second wifi router, and created a new SSID strictly for home smart devices. I suppose I could implement that solution again, and as you mentioned, use a different SSID so that it would be obvious which device I was connecting to. My worry was I may be creating "wifi congestion" in my own house. At my last place, I purposely tried to connect most of my devices through wired LAN, as I was having connection issues with some wifi devices. With the hopes that fewer wifi devices meant clearer signals.

Currently, I've actually just purchased a TP-Link AC1750 ceiling mount wireless access point. I wanted to give that a shot to provide wifi to my garage. I also have a spare Linksys R75 (EA7500-4B) that I bought from Walmart on clearance. I suspect I will need to do as I did last time (and like your example), install this as a separate SSID in my house. I have not re-installed any of my TP-Link home devices, but when I do, I expect I will have the same trouble with my Blue Cave device. So I will use this as a separate network for devices like that.
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Hi,

I think a mesh network will solve all your problems.
https://www.tp-link.com/us/mesh-wifi/

If you want to get another router, I would recommend UniFi ap ac lr. I have the cable router broadcasting 2.4 ghz. signal & the UniFi broadcasting 5.8 ghz. signal. This way, all your devices will see both signals & there won't be any broadcasting conflicts.
https://www.amazon.ca/Ubiquiti-Unifi-Ap ... B015PRCBBI
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Skilas wrote:
Whenever I tried to connect a TP-Link smart plug to the network, it froze my network. ..........My worry was I may be creating "wifi congestion" in my own house.
How many devices are on your network, and how many of those are on Wi-Fi?.

Is the DHCP pool setting on the router large enough to accommodate all your devices?

Are you aware that many of these Wi-Fi devices need to be connected to a 2.4G network. When I have installed devices like this in homes that have the same SSID for both 5G and 2.4G, I have had to turn off the 5G radio in order to establish the connection. So you might want to create unique SSID's for the 2.4G and 5G networks to make sure you are connecting to the 2.4G only.

I personally don't like using Wi-Fi devices as so called "smart" devices in a home for several reasons. I prefer Z-Wave and occasionally Zigbee, if the device is only available in Zigbee. My hub supports Z-Wave, Zigbee, and even Wi-Fi.

1) You can suffer from network congestion with too many Wi-Fi devices. This results in a slowdown for all your devices including PC's and phones.

2) Many Z-Wave devices form a mesh network, so as you add more devices, the coverage area becomes larger and more reliable.

3) Providing access to your Wi-Fi devices from the Internet means that if someone finds a back door, they now have complete access to your home network,

4) Most Wi-Fi devices, such as the TP-Link Smart Plug, can only be controlled by the TP-Link app. So each device from a different manufacturer requires a different app.

5) Because each device may require a different app, they cannot be truly called smart devices. For example you probably can't say that whenever the smart lock is unlocked, turn on the interior lights and set the thermostat to cooling.
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May 6, 2010
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APs +router is more reliable solution than all-in-one units.
Im using 2 x Unifi AC-Pro.
Its more flexible, im getting good coverage.
Now, UBNT software is different animal...

mentioned TP link AP is good too.
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I've been an engineer working on APs for 15 yrs. Just wanted to add some factual information to battle some of the rumours.

Roaming is mostly a client device dependent operation - although the AP can play a part in helping it out. E.g. The Apple iOS method of roaming happens when the phone detects the current signal is less than -70 dBm. At this threshold, it will start searching for "better" neighbours with the same ESSID (Network Name). The definition of "better" depends on the state the device is in. They publish the full method here -- https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT203068

Modern Android phones operate very similar to iOS but you have to get the precise method directly from the manufacturer. Good luck finding any info from smaller companies though.

From my experience, laptops do NOT follow the same method as phones -- e.g. Apple MacOS is quite different than Apple iOS and you'll find that Macs "stick" to previous APs much more.

APs can help the roaming by implementing various features -- it depends on the software/firmware on the AP. It doesn't matter if the APs are "meshed" or not if these features are present.
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Possum77 wrote: Im using 2 x Unifi AC-Pro.
shopper_of_things wrote: I've been an engineer working on APs for 15 yrs.
If one uses two or more APs, so devices can roam on them, should they broadcast the same SSIDs but use different channels for same bands? That's what logic tells me but it's hard to find a good guide on how to setup multiple APs for one location.
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Skilas wrote: I've been doing it all wrong and should have bought access points instead.
I agree.

Access Points if set up properly will run like cell towers. As you move throughout your house the access points are communicating with each other and will hand off your device to the closest access point. Just like driving along the 401 and you’re on a call, as you move along the highway, your phone signal gets handed off to the next cell tower to ensure you have constant coverage.

When you have multiple WiFi routers setup, they are not aware of each other. Many people mistakenly think that setting everything to the same SSID and password will yield good coverage. That is NEVER the case. As you move from room to room, your device is still connected to the original WiFi as it clings for dear life hoping not to lose you even though there is another WiFi router next to you with a stronger signal.

UniFi (Ubiquiti) makes a good product, but you need a set up a controller to configure it. Even a single unit requires a controller. I prefer the TP-Link EAP245, you can set up a single access point without any controllers. If you have multiple access points, then you will need to install the controller.

Start with one EAP245 and see if you get decent coverage, if not, add a second one. I was surprised how well a single access point covered my entire house.

One last thing, always use an Ethernet back haul. Meaning, no mesh. Always connect an access point via ethernet back to your main switch or router.

Don’t use wireless mesh.
alpovs wrote: If one uses two or more APs, so devices can roam on them, should they broadcast the same SSIDs but use different channels for same bands? That's what logic tells me but it's hard to find a good guide on how to setup multiple APs for one location.
You don’t need to use the same SSID or password. The controller manages all of that. You set up multiple access points in your location. As long as your device has access to one access point, the controller will do the rest. As you move within that location, the controller can see your mobile device and will hand you off to the nearest access point.

If you are using Ubiquiti, you need to buy the hardware controller or install the software controller on a Pi or Virtual Machine (docker, Linux Container etc). When you run the controller, it will find and configure all your access points

If you are using TP-Link, the Omada controller does the same thing. But with TP-Link you can setup each access point individually and then use the controller to group them together.

In all instances (Cisco, Meraki, Aruba et al), it is the controller that manages all the access points and makes roaming possible
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Gee wrote: You don’t need to use the same SSID or password. The controller manages all of that.
This, I don't understand. Why would my devices move to a different SSID with a different password? How can the controller arrange for that?
Gee wrote: You set up multiple access points in your location. As long as your device has access to one access point, the controller will do the rest. As you move within that location, the controller can see your mobile device and will hand you off to the nearest access point.

If you are using Ubiquiti, you need to buy the hardware controller or install the software controller on a Pi or Virtual Machine (docker, Linux Container etc). When you run the controller, it will find and configure all your access points

If you are using TP-Link, the Omada controller does the same thing. But with TP-Link you can setup each access point individually and then use the controller to group them together.

In all instances (Cisco, Meraki, Aruba et al), it is the controller that manages all the access points and makes roaming possible
I have two UniFi APs but I am using just one of them. I have a controller on a RPi. Do you have links to some good guides on how to setup what you described, i.e., seamless roaming on APs?
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Troubleshooting WiFi roaming is a tricky part of my professional life and sometimes each customer has different issues. It's really hard to give general advice on a public forum. Take free public advice with a grain of salt -- you get what you paid for.
alpovs wrote: If one uses two or more APs, so devices can roam on them, should they broadcast the same SSIDs but use different channels for same bands? That's what logic tells me but it's hard to find a good guide on how to setup multiple APs for one location.
My free advice is -- generally you should use the same SSID and use non-overlapping channels. Also see my previous post giving you guys a link on how iOS does roaming.
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alpovs wrote: I have two UniFi APs but I am using just one of them. I have a controller on a RPi. Do you have links to some good guides on how to setup what you described, i.e., seamless roaming on APs?
@shopper_of_things is correct, it is an art to get things working near perfect.

The hand off is actually done on your mobile device and not the access point. You can have too many access points, that is why I always suggest people start with one and add as needed.

With Ubiquiti, you need to set the Minimum Received Signal Strength Indication for each Access Point (they should all be different depending on where you place the access points). This sets a threshold the mobile device needs to connect to the access point before it gets dropped and the device connects to the next access point with a stronger signal

Unfortunately, I don’t have any guides or videos and I am far from being an expert.

*** Edit ***

I just read @shopper_of_things previous post. That’s a big clue on how you should set up if you have iOS devices. You set the Access Point to -70 dBm and your iDevice will start looking for the next access point with a stronger signal. The trick is to find the optimal setting for all your various devices.
Last edited by Gee on Sep 6th, 2021 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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May 6, 2010
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alpovs wrote: If one uses two or more APs, so devices can roam on them, should they broadcast the same SSIDs but use different channels for same bands? That's what logic tells me but it's hard to find a good guide on how to setup multiple APs for one location.
I have single ssid and "allow to mesh" setting (which is in fact roaming between APs in this case), plus few other tweaks on channel settings.
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Possum77 wrote: I have single ssid and "allow to mesh" setting (which is in fact roaming between APs in this case), plus few other tweaks on channel settings.
Which equipment do you have?

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