Speed Problems with Multiple Routers as Access Points

I have 3 Netgear Nighthawk routers set up as my network. The main router is connected to a cable modem. The other two routers are configured to be access points. They receive their connection to the network via ethernet (on the WAN port). Each router's wireless settings are configured to be on a different channel to cut down on interference issues. Each router has the same SSID.

I've noticed that my speed generally suffers with this setup. However, if I change each router name to a different SSID, it seems almost twice as fast when I connect to one of the routers when they have unique names. I've tried this with multiple devices and across different parts of the house.

What could be causing this?
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In general, basic wireless routers don't seem to work well when on the same SSIDs.  There are better ones (Ubiquiti, for example) that handle hand-off well.

As a separate note, I'd not connect through the WAN port.  Unless you want to protect the wireless devices from the wired ones, set the LAN  side up on the same subnet, disable, DHCP, and connect one of the LAN ports to the main switch.
Sajid Shaik MSystem AdminCommented:
it's cause of multiple DHCP server.... always best practice is point to 1 DHCP srver rather than multiple DHCP servers in multi wll router environment when use single ssid.

all the best
Andy MIT Systems ManagerCommented:
Do the routers have rogue AP detection or something similar? If so it could be that causing issues as they'll be seeing the other routers using the same SSID and believe it's an attempt to infiltrate the network.

As noted previously, using routers as AP's is not a great setup - you want dedicated wifi access points (see Ubiquiti - recommend them) and ensure everything is on the same network (or at least setup a separate network for the wifi and another for hard wired if security is key).

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I assume that you did properly set these in AP mode? Routers in general aren't really designed to be good access points, so you definitely know they aren't going to do well for multiple unit deployments as access points. Ubiquiti would be a far better investment for AP deployments. You might even be able to take care of the place you are covering with fewer units.

A recommendation: use your router as only a router, and let the APs handle all of the wireless work.
baadayakaziAuthor Commented:
Could I do just use the one main Netgear router and add Ubiquiti access points via ethernet?
Yes you could. It's just simpler for the sake of having a standardized wireless infrastructure.
I think the immediate problem is less that you are using routers as access points (that can work well enough if configured correctly) and more that you're trying to use them all on the same SSID.  With that said, I very much agree that using Ubiquiti Access Points would make for a more useful (though more expensive) solution.
nociSoftware EngineerCommented:
You need to check for iee802.11s, 802.11r , 802.11k 802.11v (and .11w)  those standards allow for setting up a network that is ready for fast roaming. Where the network can pre authenticate (authenticate BEFORE connecting to better AP while still connected to the same network through another AP)
baadayakaziAuthor Commented:
I ended up buying 4 Ubiquiti UAP-AC-PRO-E Access Points. I thought I had POE options on my nighthawk router, so I got the version without power supplies. But I realized when they arrived that I do not have POE on my router, so I got a Netgear 8-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Switch (GS308P) that has POE. I've connected the switch to the router and the access points to the switch.

I've run into some problems with configuration. I was able to set up an access point with the iOS app, but it appears when I go to set up the second AP it is designed to work independently. In other words, it appears that multiple access points won't be viewed/controlled as a single wifi network. I understood the Ubiquiti products as geared toward "mesh networking."

I need to add a few more details that might impact things:

I need a lot more local speed than external/internet speed. I run a video production company from home and transfer very large files across the local network between computers. A few of the computers are connected via gigabit ethernet cabling, so those should generally be fine. But I need close to gigabit speed on my wireless devices as well. I'm wondering if I should upgrade the access points to a stronger model? I'm getting max speed of 600mbps, even though its supposed to go up to 1300.

Second, the best place for me to put everything is in the basement, but only portions of the data needs to go the basement. The house is a mid-century home with almost no attic access and I don't want to run cords up walls. I've found that I can place the access points in the basement with the dome side pointing up (beaming up instead of down). In some cases this means placing it on top of a ceiling tile or on top of a bookshelf. As expected this doesn't provide the strongest signal on the main floor, but I'm okay with it if 80-90% of the signal is making it upstairs. I assume that providing more access points will help.

What should I change about my setup? Do I need some sort of controller? Switch? Managed Switch? Does Ubiquiti make a router that I should get to replace my nighthawk router? What about the access points -- should I get a stronger model?
What should I change about my setup? Do I need some sort of controller?
Ubiquiti makes a controller, just that it's software based. (UniFi Controller) It's a free download. I think it also still requires Java (just a forewarning)

Also make sure that the firmware on the APs, as well as the drivers on your wireless devices are up to date.

The house is a mid-century home with almost no attic access and I don't want to run cords up walls. I've found that I can place the access points in the basement with the dome side pointing up (beaming up instead of down).
Have you considered using HomePlug to help with avoiding running wiring where possible?

Does Ubiquiti make a router that I should get to replace my nighthawk router?
They make a Security Gateway. Never used it, so I'm not going to pitch its being any better or worse.

What about the access points -- should I get a stronger model?
Let's at least take a crack with your current UniFi units first.

I understood the Ubiquiti products as geared toward "mesh networking."
They do make some mesh products. However, what you chose is not one of them.
The APs you bought WILL do zero-handoff, which is slightly different from mesh.  As I understand it (and I trust someone will correct me if my understanding is wrong) with a mesh system the APs (all but one) can act as repeaters.  That is, only one needs to be wired to the LAN.  The others (as long as they are in range of each other) can repeat the WiFi so that they all are active APs.

The UAP units have a setting that allow zero handoff.  This allows easy transfer from one AP to another as you move around.  Without that, your device will stay connected to the first AP as long as it can, even though there may be a much better connection to a different AP.  If you are able to cable each of the APs to the LAN, this should be better than mesh.
baadayakaziAuthor Commented:
I think I'm getting the hang of this. One thing I'm currently having a problem with now is that the max speed on all the APs is at 600mbps, despite them being capable of 1300. Any idea on how to change this? See screenshot.Untitled.jpg
Your problem sounds to be more around signal. If there is a way you can improve that, things should get far better. You could try out the UniFi nanoHD, which should keep the cost in a similar range to the Pro.
baadayakaziAuthor Commented:
I ended up changing the channel width to 80, and that got me the higher speeds. Not sure if there are any downsides to doing this though.

So I'm really liking these access points. They're phenomenal and there's so many ways to configure them. I'm actually really hating the Netgear nighthawk router being in the mix though -- especially since it seems like I can have a tighter integration with a Ubiquiti solution. What would be the best replacement for it? I'd like to get something that hands out IP addresses (DHCP server) and all the regular stuff a router does. I also need it to power 4 of the access points -- so it'll need POE ports.

I'm confused by some of the Ubiquiti products. Is a "managed switch" something that would hand out DHCP addresses? Would something like this replace my router and connect to the cable modem? https://www.ubnt.com/unifi-switching/unifi-switch-8/
nociSoftware EngineerCommented:
No a managed switch is a network switch that can be configured and setup to your specs. And is used to connect hardware.
Unmanaged switches can only handle one VLAN, management capability is required to be able to do multiple VLAN's.
It mostly only provides L2 (ethernet) connections, nothing IP related.  In general for IP related stuff you need a router.
baadayakaziAuthor Commented:
Ok. So would this combination work? I basically need a DHCP server and the ability to connect all my wired computers, wireless access points, and my cable modem. All without a dedicated server.


Yes that combination would work perfectly fine.

The first link is the Unifi Security Gateway that I had mentioned earlier. That is the router they make. You could use that for DHCP, as well as VLANs if the need ever arose.

The managed switch could be configured to handle DHCP instead of the router, but I wouldn't do that in your case. Keep it simple.
nociSoftware EngineerCommented:
The managed switch accodring to available documentation cannot handle DHCP in the switch documentation DHCP is mentioned with the Gateway device.

Some L3 switch can do this, an L3 switch is a Switch + router built in.... This doesn't look like that.
L3 switch also can do routing, routing protocols, and to some extent filtering.
baadayakaziAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone - the Ubiquiti Networks products are hands down the best solution for my situation. 4 access points, switch, and Unifi Security Gateway are the hardware that make my network scream!
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