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Old router as wired AP to extend wireless range?

Posted on 2013-10-25
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Last Modified: 2013-10-27
The internal brick walls in my old house significantly reduces the wireless range of my D-Link WBR-2310 router. I would like to move up to an AC router, and from articles I've seen online, I understand that I may be able to use the older router as an access point.

I currently have an ethernet cable running from my office in the back of the house to a laptop and HDTV in a room at the front of the house. For watching TV or connecting via the laptop, the ethernet connection is excellent, but the wireless signal in the TV room is virtually unusable -- typically ~-75dB (vs -40dB and better in the office).

I have found several articles online about how to turn a router into an AP for wireless connections, and feel reasonably confident that I can follow the instructions to do it. However, I am unclear about whether this will allow seamless roaming with portable devices. For example, will I be able to walk from the office to the TV room with my Nexus 7 while it is streaming a YouTube video?

I'd appreciate any insight into this -- and especially if this is not a reasonable solution.
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Question by:EricFletcher
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 100 total points
ID: 39600778
1. To turn the router into an access point:
(a) Connect a LAN port on the router to your network.
(b) Log into the router and give it a static IP on your network.
(c) Turn DHCP OFF on the router so devices get IP from the network.

I do this routinely and it works.

2. With respect to seamless roaming, it depends on signal strength. The way you describe, the devices may need to stay within range of the new access point.

If you have more than one wireless signal, you may with to have the same SSID and Wireless Security but different channels (need to experiment). If channels need to be different, roaming will not be seamless, but should be very easy.

... Thinkpads_User
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by:Darr247
Darr247 earned 100 total points
ID: 39600915
The only way to get seamless roaming is to use WPA/WPA2-enterprise authentication, which requires an authentication server (typically RADIUS)... using WPA/WPA2-PSK authentication will result in a 10 to 30 second gap while the new connection is made and DHCP is assigned (even if it hands out the same IP address).
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by:masnrock
ID: 39602814
The gap that Darr cited does occur, but usually not 30 secs (respecting the fact he did say it could be up to 30). As far as video steaming goes, a lot of devices cache ahead in the process of downloading a video, so you generally will not notice, unless it's a live event. Downloads can go either way with the brief disturbance in connection. However, the potential disturbances are nothing significant, as you generally would not be moving when doing something critical.
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Author Comment

by:EricFletcher
ID: 39602832
If you have more than one wireless signal, you may with to have the same SSID and Wireless Security but different channels (need to experiment). If channels need to be different, roaming will not be seamless, but should be very easy.
How will I know if I have (or need) >1 wireless signal or channel? My location is isolated, so the only wifi within a kilometer or so is from my router. If I convert the old router to an AP, would it have to broadcast on a different channel? I had hoped an AP would just be extending the range of the same wifi signal my main router uses.

The only way to get seamless roaming is to use WPA/WPA2-enterprise authentication, which requires an authentication server (typically RADIUS)
Uh oh: I think I just hit my knowledge-level wall! I would like to achieve seamless roaming, but I'm not familiar with any of those terms and have no idea if my router is even capable of it.

Wifi security is not a big issue, and enterprise implies much more than my needs so do you think what I am hoping to do is overkill? If so, could you suggest an out-of-the-box solution instead?
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39602848
You can get inSSider from Metageek and install it. It shows you the nearby wireless signals, the channel they are on and the security they use.

WiFi security should be at least WPA so you can install and forget about it.

As I noted and others agreed, seamless roaming cannot be accomplished with old routers lashed together, but you probably do not need seamless roaming. Let devices disconnect and reconnect as they move around. There is usually no problem with this at all.

... Thinkpads_User
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by:EricFletcher
ID: 39602865
masnrock's comment came through after I'd submitted my comment above.

His point about not doing anything critical while moving is a good one, and I could live with a handover gap if that is unavoidable. The main objective is to be able to get a wifi signal in rooms where it is presently too feeble.

However, I'm unclear about whether using steps such as those described by ThinkPads_user will require additional steps to manage or implement the "WPA/WPA2-PSK authentication" mentioned by Darr247. Is this something that is established in a new router's setup -- and if so, would I need to ensure that whatever I choose in a new router is matched in my old router when it is converted to an AP?

I have not yet decided what new AC-capable router to purchase, but would I be best to stay with a D-Link brand for compatibility?
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by:John Hurst
ID: 39602876
would I be best to stay with a D-Link brand for compatibility?

The brand does not matter at all.

I'm unclear about whether using steps such as those described by ThinkPads_user will require additional steps to manage or implement the "WPA/WPA2-PSK authentication

My steps get the router set up and working. From there you set up the wireless section of the router. That is where you set the SSID, Channel and Security. But you want the router set up as I described so that when a device connects and gets an IP, it gets a network IP along with all the other devices.

... Thinkpads_User
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masnrock earned 100 total points
ID: 39602950
The short version is set the information for the wireless network on the new router you'd be getting to be the same as your existing router (brand doesn't matter, just don't get a crappy device please). That way you can walk around the house without having to enter new wireless network information into your laptop or mobile device.

Within the advanced settings on routers and access points, you can change the wireless channel that is used. Of all of those channels, only 3 do not overlap in terms of wireless frequency: 1, 6, and 11. If you're in an area where both your old and new wireless routers provide coverage, you want them to be utilizing different channels to avoid interference.

The information that Darr provided is usually what a business might utilize. For home purposes, it is generally not worth the money. Thinkpad's original post most likely overlapped with the articles that you had read, but the intention was to make sure you know what steps needed to be followed in order to get both routers working together on your network. Only ONE device on your network should behave as the DHCP server, in order to completely avoid confusion.

What will the wireless routers be connected to anyway? Directly to a modem from your ISP?
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by:EricFletcher
ID: 39603015
Thanks to all three of you for your considered input. Since there doesn't appear to be any downside, I'll probably get a new router and use the methods to convert the old one to an AP and see what happens.

What will the wireless routers be connected to anyway? Directly to a modem from your ISP?
My Internet service comes in from an outside antenna pointed to a tower ~400m away. I built the tower on a high spot on my property with a local wireless provider so his service could be extended to me and several neighbors. Although we are within 50kms of a large city, we are quite rural, and none of the major providers have been able (or willing) to provide service. The initial solar panels on our off-grid tower were inadequate when we put it up in 2008, but a larger array plus a wind generator and more battery capacity solved that. It has been running without incident for the past 18 months now, providing 8-9MBps transfer rates for the 5-6 clients getting service from it.
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Author Closing Comment

by:EricFletcher
ID: 39603021
Thanks for your help. Sometimes a bit of reassurance is all I need to venture off into something that seems overly complex!
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by:Darr247
ID: 39604634
Different manufacturers often use different names for the same thing,
WPA-PSK or WPA2-PSK are also referred to as WPA/2-Personal or WPA/2-Pre-Shared Key.
WPA/2-Enterprise is also called WPA/2-EAP or WPA/2-RADIUS.

It appears in the WBR-2310's interface it's called Enterprise, but in its manual they call it EAP.
e.g.D-Link WBR-2310 Wireless Authentication (click for larger)
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