Seamless Wireless Connectivity Throughout the House?

Posted on 2014-01-01
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2014-01-05
It's been a long time since I've set up a wireless network at my home...I'm currently on Wireless G, with several access points scattered throughout the house, and am making the leap to Gigabit wired with Wireless N and ACdraft.

I'm moving (upgrading) to a Buffalo AirStation Extreme AC 1750 router.  The wireless signal from the router doesn't reach the whole house.  I would like to obtain additional access points and connect them to available ethernet ports in the far reaches of the house.

Back in the day, we had to be careful to set the various access points to different channels and different SSIDs so they didn't interfere with one another.  I understand things have changed since then.  

It makes me feel old.

What is the current best practice for setting things up so that when my family members wander around the house with an iPad or laptop, they will automatically find themselves connected at all times to the nearest access point with the strongest signal?  Should all the APs be set to the same SSID and same channel?  Same SSIDs but different channels?  Same channel but different SSIDs?  (This last seems VERY unlikely).

Is there anything else I need to be careful to set, or watch out for?

Any particular brand/model of access point you would recommend to work seamlessly with the Buffalo router mentioned above so that handoffs between the access points and the router will be smooth?  We have some devices that are capable of Wireless N, and others that are limited to Wireless G.

Question by:akahan
LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:Andrej Pirman
ID: 39750561
AFAIK the basics should be:
Same SSID and PASS on all AP's, but different channel. Use some Android WiFi analyzer app to see the channel distribution at certain area of your house and possible rogue AP's, and manually setup channels to be as far apart as possible. With other words, try to avoid channels overlapping.
Keep in mind that within n standard channels usage is even wider than with b/g standards, which you will see best with WiFi analyzer app on your mobile device. Do NOT start with channel 1, because each Tx/Rx window uses multiple channels. See the actual width of channels (might be base channel + and - 2, for example) and set first channel, for example, to Ch 3.
In this example, where Tx/Rx window is of total width of 5 channels, the nearest AP should then use channel 8, and the third AP channel 12.

Above is valid for simple setup with non-intelligent AP's.

If you would like to have rock-stable WiFi environment, then best is to use some solution with centralized CONTROLLER, for example Ruckus:
- ZoneFlex 7982 Dual-Band Access Points with up to 450 Mbps per-user throughput and patented beam-forming technology, which provides really excellent coverage; the number of used AP's will most probably be only HALF of what you use now
- and ZoneDirector 1100 with base 6 AP licences to controll all AP's

With such a configuration you would have really smart WiFi coverage, once you set it up and forget it - it will simply work for years without a hiccup (by my experience). It is indeed quite expensive, but if you have a house with almost dozen of AP's, you might spend some US$ 2k for wireless ;) Worth it, believe me.
LVL 44

Accepted Solution

Darr247 earned 2000 total points
ID: 39750651
Use channels 1, 6 and 11 in the 2.4GHz band.  Tell the 11n APs to use only 20MHz wide channels. That will limit speeds to 150Mb/s or less, but that's still ~3x as fast as 11g.

In the 5GHz band you can use 40MHz channels for 11n, and wider for 11ac.

You will not be able to get truly seamless roaming unless you setup a RADIUS server and use WPA2-enterprise authentication.  Using WPA2-personal (or WPA2-PSK), the connection from the AP you're moving away from will drop and there will be a 15 to 30 second period of no connectivity while it connects to the new AP and gets assigned an IP address (even if you have reserved IP addresses in your DHCP server).
With WPA2-enterprise, when the new AP sees you coming it can pre-authenticate you and cache the connection so no new lease from the DHCP server needs to be obtained.
LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 39751309
Yep, as others have said, same SSID and encryption/authentication and passphrase, but different channels.

If you don't use a RADIUS server you can still get this to be 'pretty' seamless.  As long as your AP doesn't require the client to obtain an IP address from DHCP the switchover would be generally <3s at most providing your APs overlap.
LVL 26

Author Closing Comment

ID: 39757777
All good ideas, thanks!  The selected solution provides the most "seamless" experience, which is what I'm looking for.

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