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Multiple Wireless Networks, Same SSID

Posted on 2016-09-22
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2016-09-26
I have three routers in my house to improve range: one in basement, one on main level and one upstairs.  All are hardwired via ethernet.

As it stands, they are three separately named SSIDs.  I read somewhere to change all SSIDs to the same.  My question is, how will a device (your phone for example) know to switch to the stronger SSID when it needs to?

For example, if I'm upstairs I can see all three networks on my phone.  The strongest being the upstairs router, obviously.  If I connect to it and then walk to the basement how will my phone know to switch networks?  Does it have to wait until it just LOSES connection to the upstairs router and then attempts to reconnect to the strongest?  Since all three routers are accessible (to varying degrees of strength) on all three levels, I'm confused about how this 'hand off' process might work?

Thank you
Question by:Michael
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LVL 25

Accepted Solution

Ken Boone earned 1004 total points
ID: 41810966
So to start off with yea - put them all on the same SSID.  Thing about larger business and warehouses that have 10, 20 or 50+ APs..  It would be crazy if there were tons and tons of SSIDs to get access to the same network.   So put them on the same SSID.

Basically the client supplicant component makes the decision as to when to jump to a new AP.   Depending on how well your coverage is in your house, you might connect to one and just stay on it the whole time whether you go up or down.  So it is the phone's wireless component that decides when to jump or if you had a laptop, the wireless component on the laptop would decide when to change.  It is generally based on things like current signal strength, signal to noise ratio, interference etc..  Typically it is out of your control.
LVL 98

Assisted Solution

by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 332 total points
ID: 41811079
I agree that you should use one SSID. I do this where I have more than one wireless router on one network. In a simple environment like this, you cannot guarantee which access point will be used. Most times it does not matter. If you are moving a laptop and want/need the stronger signal, disconnect and reconnect. That works.

Also you may possibly be better off with two stronger routers.

I have a Cisco RV220W in the basement behind an iron I-beam and it services the whole house except for the farthest upstairs bedroom which does not matter.
LVL 34

Assisted Solution

it_saige earned 332 total points
ID: 41811132
I did not see it mentioned, but you also want to ensure that each AP uses a different channel as well.  It is also recommended that you use alternating channels to avoid overlapping.

Wireless clients assume that AP's configured with the same SSID have similar configurations and are just different points of access to the same parent network.  When connecting, a wireless client will scan all channels looking for AP's that are publishing the SSID it is configured to connect to and will pick whichever one suits its needs best.  This usually means that the client will select the one with the highest signal strength.

Once the client has connected, it will stay with the same AP so long as the AP is meeting the clients needs (e.g. - signal strength is adequate).  If the client believes that it could be better off with another AP on the network, it will perform a periodic scan of all channels once again looking for AP's that are publishing the same SSID it is connected to.  If this scan produces an AP that can provide a better connection than the AP it is currently connected to, the client will automatically roam to the other AP.

This is the same thing that your cell phone does as you travel down the road.

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LVL 47

Assisted Solution

by:Craig Beck
Craig Beck earned 332 total points
ID: 41811200
Couldn't have said it much better than Ken. Use the same SSID, authentication and encryption settings but different channels.

The client has a threshold that helps the decision to be made as to when to roam to a different AP.

Let's say you have a -72dBm signal and can see a different AP with -69dBm. If the client threshold is -75dBm you'll stay where you are, while if the threshold is -70dBm you'd move to the stronger AP.

Author Comment

ID: 41811283
Many thanks guys
LVL 98

Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 41811288
You are very welcome and I was happy to help.

Author Comment

ID: 41817093
I know I'm adding to an old question, but I hope you guys can answer this simple related question:

If I my three routers each have a 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radio, should I still make ALL networks the same SSID or should I make one SSID name for the the three 2.4Ghz networks and another SSID name for the three 5Ghz networks?
LVL 98

Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 41817097
You can make all routers the same SSID. You may wish to use different channel numbers but they can all be the same SSID.

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