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"Roaming" between wifi access points

Posted on 2016-08-27
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Last Modified: 2016-08-31
I've set up two wifi access points to give good access in a house. They are both connected via cable to the same switch and are configured with identical ssid and identical encryption type and key. APs are made by different manufacturers. No wds is used. Quite often it seems like mobile phones (Samsung) loses connection to the network. Phones are set to automatically connect to the ap with the best signal. Turning wifi off and on brings the connection up again, but it is a bit anoying...  Any ideas how to fix?
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Question by:omberli
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Expert Comment

by:Carlos Ijalba
ID: 41772708
Have you setup the APs to transmit in different WiFi channels?

You should use some wifi analyzer app in a mobile phone (Like WiFI Analyzer from farproc, but there are loads of them) to see which channels are best for each zone of the house and set the APs up so they use different channels.
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Author Comment

by:omberli
ID: 41772719
Carlos - yes they are differen channels (11 and 6) using only the 2.4GHz band. There is only one other access point in the area, and this is at channel 1. Also checked with Network Stumbler (on laptop) that I normally use when setting up wireless networks for customers, and could not see any nearby access points that should interfere..
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Expert Comment

by:Carlos Ijalba
ID: 41772838
In that case it's a bit difficult, as there is entirely a client algorithm decision (In Intel & Ralink wireless drevers it can be tweaked, but on mobiles there aren't that easy), however you can try this android app fix:

http://www.heleron.com/android-apps.html
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Author Comment

by:omberli
ID: 41772851
Thanks. I may try this one.
I just also discovered that the two APs had different encryption methods..... (but identical keys...) One had WPA-TKIP while the other WPA2-AES.  Have changed both to WPA2-AES and will see if this solves the problem. Thanks for your help.
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Fred Marshall earned 250 total points
ID: 41772951
Something seems not quite right here.

If the SSIDs are the same and the security mode and passphrase the same then the computer or mobile device should be dealing with but a single "connection" setup.  We do this all the time with laptops moving from one office to another.

But, if the APs have different security setups then this fairly well dictates that the device have two connection setups OR it won't work at all on one of the APs.  So, losing signal seems almost a foregone conclusion as the device moves around (in and out of range of the ONE AP that works).
Having the same SSID rather guarantees this kind of behavior.

Of course, with two SSIDs or with two connection setups in the mobile device, it's a different matter.
What happens with one SSID and two security setups is likely not entireley predictable. - well, at least not by *me*   :-)

The one thing that I don't fully understand is how a device makes the decision to change from one signal to another.  And, this is more complicated if there is one SSID.  The simplest method for doing this is to wait for the connected signal to be dropped altogether - which may be well into the better range for the 2nd signal.  Then search for the best signal.  Searching for a better signal while nicely connected may or may not be done or, if done, maybe not a very good idea either.
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Author Comment

by:omberli
ID: 41772990
Thanks.
Agree completely with this...  I've also set up similar configurations - two or more APs with same ssid and encryption, and it works well. Have tested by streaming video on a laptop moving between the APs and it is no visible loss of connection.

As mentioned, the security method was different on these two APs. In addition they are from different manufacturers (one older Linksys and an old Buffalo). After downloading the app from heleron.com (mentioned above) I also noticed that at some places in the house the signal from both APs were quite low. This may cause the phone to give up on one connection before being able to make a new one. I'll move the APs around and try to avoid this.  Alternatively set up two new Mikrotik APs.....
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Assisted Solution

by:Carlos Ijalba
Carlos Ijalba earned 250 total points
ID: 41773128
Well, looks like the roaming algorithms are different from vendor to vendor, so some go on strength, some on time, etc. By the way, if you really want to know all about it, you can check this link:

http://expertwireless2be.blogspot.com.es/2011/10/why-wireless-80211-roaming-is-nightmare.html


On the "wifi roaming fix" app from heleron, you can choose on the settings "Good signal level" by default it comes with a signal of -65db, but you can choose upto -35db, a good setting is something in between like -50db, but you can monitor it with an analyzer and detect whats the strength of the signal that you woul like you phones to swap.

There is also another "in -depth" guide about roaming (in this case for iphones) by the hands of Cisco Support:

http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/wireless/controller/technotes/8-0/iPhone_roam/b_iPhone-roaming.html
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Author Closing Comment

by:omberli
ID: 41778790
After setting both APs to have the same encryption (key and WPA2/AES) it seems like the problem is gone.
Tried the app from heleron. It showed some interesting info about when the client switched between APs and also that singal strength was lower than expected (and measured by a laptop).
So - problem seems to be solved.
Thanks a lot for the help !!
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