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Wifi roaming

Posted on 2014-02-05
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Hi

A hotel client is complaining about a wifi roaming issue.

His customers can't stay connected to the Internet as they roam around the premises

The site is composed of three different wifi 802.11n access points : mikrotik, engenius and devolo powerline (wireless capable) adapters

They are all configured with the same password and SSID

My question is: should this work as the clients expects or is it normal that roaming is disrupted because of the different brand of access points ?

thanks
yann
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Question by:Yann Shukor
7 Comments
 
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by:Alex Green
ID: 39835138
they will always drop out as the link changes from one access point to another. You can't change this since you can't connect to two different access points at the same time.
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by:regmigrant
ID: 39835149
Typically the roaming should be seamless but this, partly, depends on the wireless client and can also be confused if there isn't a single NAT/DHCP access point with the others tracking assigned IP.

This article has a good outline:
http://superuser.com/questions/122441/how-can-i-get-the-same-ssid-for-multiple-access-points


You mention that the client is a hotel so its possible these IOS specific hints might help given that many guests will be using IPads where the problem seems more prevalent.

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4199

Reg
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 39835166
It's actually because the APs don't talk to each-other that roaming issues occur.

When you connect to one AP the session credentials aren't shared with the other APs, so when you move to another AP the client device has to disconnect from the original AP before it can connect to the new one.  This takes time.  When the disconnect happens the client then has to authenticate to the new AP.  This also takes time.

If you used WDS between the APs (for example) this would be solved as all client session information would be synchronized, so a client would be free to move between APs without having to re-authenticate every time.
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by:regmigrant
ID: 39835177
Craigbeck raises a good point - I assumed an Ethernet backhaul to connect the AP to broadband  and the AP  in bridged mode; if none of the advice helps you should outline the topology that's in place to aid with trouble shooting
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Author Comment

by:Yann Shukor
ID: 39835314
Thanks for your insights
You assumed correctly remigrant, I have installed an Ethernet links to each access point, except for the two PLC adapters of course
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Craig Beck earned 1500 total points
ID: 39835455
Even with Ethernet backhaul, the APs don't exchange client session info so when a client roams he has to authenticate all over again.  That means a full disconnect has to happen first and that's why roaming is disrupted.

In short, it's working as expected at this moment in time.  If you want to stop the disconnect from happening use a RADIUS server, or implement WDS on each AP.
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by:regmigrant
ID: 39835580
If this is a first class hotel with hundreds of guests and/or Wifi is a paid extra then craigbeck's solution will guarantee quality and speed of transition; investment in the infrastructure is the only sensible way to go but brings its own problems because of WDS standards implementation vary between manufacturer and some elements (lower throughput, reduced security) would need careful consideration to resolve whilst the Radius server would need its own support and administration system (unless you can hook into an existing setup).

On the assumption that this is a smaller concern offering a free service to guests that  would prefer not to invest any capital in a solution:-

The hand-off should be invisible to the client and apart from a hiccough which most people would accept as 'normal' my reading of the OP is that they do not 'stay connected' which implies they disconnect and have to take action to reconnect. A bridged AP solution with the same SSID *should* work but as I said it relies on the Wireless client stack and IOS on IPAD is particularly sensitive to a change in AP; which given the profile of a typical hotel guest  is probably the majority.

A quicker solution might be to maintain the broadband router as DHCP/Gateway and APs in bridged mode but with different SSID for each area of coverage. The guest would then associate with each SSID once - using the common password - and the client stack might make the transition more easily. Its less user-friendly but we implemented it in an office in Dublin and once people had visited 'Reception', '1st floor', '2nd floor', 'Recreation' and associated once they had no problem roaming between floors. I think its at least worth trying this as a quick fix before considering the more complete approach.
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