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Standard User cbackham
(learned) Mon 28-Dec-20 15:52:16
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WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


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I'm interested in getting improved WiFi coverage around the house, and was initially attracted to Mesh systems. However, after a bit of reading I'm no longer so sure about them, and hope that there may be some experts around here who can help me out.

I had initially (and naively) thought that a Mesh system would perhaps use some kind of magic so that it appeared to any client devices as one big wide-coverage access point, thus obviating any need for roaming. But what I've read seems to suggest that I was living in a fantasy world, and clients still have to roam between the nodes in a mesh network. To the clients, the mesh is still just a bunch of APs with the same SSID. Have I got that right?

And what's more, if the mesh nodes need to send data between them over their wireless connections, the bandwidth starts degrading. So ideally it's best to hardwire each mesh node via ethernet. If that is correct, then what's the difference between a mesh system and multiple APs with a shared SSID (apart from being more expensive)? What am I missing?
Standard User troublegum
(member) Mon 28-Dec-20 17:00:47
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: cbackham] [link to this post]
 
The mesh system units should be able to work together and try to push the client to a better access point, when the client moves away from the currently connected AP. If fast roaming is supported then it should be seamless to the client and will have the appearance of one big access point.

With multiple APs as the client moves away from the AP, it will try to hold on to the weakening signal, even though there may now be a nearer AP. The user may have to manually reconnect or the connection may be dropped as the client disconnects and reconnects to the closer and stronger AP.

Yes for cheaper mesh systems the backhaul is shared with the normal bandwidth, but the more expensive systems have dedicated wireless backhaul.

Personally I’ve got a TP-Link Deco M5 with 3 units and can’t fault it.
Standard User dustmaker
(newbie) Mon 28-Dec-20 17:25:01
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: cbackham] [link to this post]
 
Mesh systems should have multiple antennas to separate the wireless backhaul from the client bandwidth (at least the more expensive ones will do). However you are still sending more data over the crowded airwaves if you are relying on wireless backhaul.

Some mesh systems will have the option to use wired backhaul, avoiding the need to duplicate the data sent over the air.

I opted for a Ubiquity system with a Dream Machine as the router and additional wired access points in the loft and garden office; the Ubiquity system supports fast roaming between access points and I have found it to be seamless. It also allowed me to create additional wireless networks with their own virtual LAN that automatically propagate across all the access points to segregate personal devices (phones, laptops etc.) from IoT devices that only need internet access (CCTV cameras, smart home hubs etc).


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Standard User cbackham
(learned) Mon 28-Dec-20 17:27:35
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: troublegum] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by troublegum:
The mesh system units should be able to work together and try to push the client to a better access point, when the client moves away from the currently connected AP. If fast roaming is supported then it should be seamless to the client and will have the appearance of one big access point.

So you seem to be confirming that the clients do have to roam between the mesh nodes.

Given that it's the client which makes the decisions about if and when to switch, what does a mesh system do to encourage it to switch that a standard AP doesn't? If you're referring to sending out neighbour reports that can help the client decide, then APs can deliver those too, can't they?

In reply to a post by troublegum:
With multiple APs as the client moves away from the AP, it will try to hold on to the weakening signal, even though there may now be a nearer AP.

How does the client know whether it's conected to an AP or a mesh node? Why would it hang on to a normal AP but not a mesh node?

I've read about "sticky clients" and the measures you can take in AP setup to discourage it. Is it simply that a mesh system has these measures configured by default?

I'm not trying to be argumentative - I genuinely want to understand what, if anything, distinguishes a mesh node from a normal AP from the client's POV.
Standard User jchamier
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Mon 28-Dec-20 17:43:26
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: cbackham] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by cbackham:
I'm not trying to be argumentative - I genuinely want to understand what, if anything, distinguishes a mesh node from a normal AP from the client's POV.

Enterprise AP's with shared controller, can. Most people don't have the money to install the top end enterprise grade (e.g. Cisco) in a home. Ubiquity and others have lower priced professional products, but they are often more expensive than domestic mesh systems.

Domestic mesh systems, with or without separate wireless back haul, are cost effective ways of managing WiFi connectivity in a home, where structured cabling in ceiling voids is not generally available smile

If you define an AP as a "repurposed router" then we are talking at cross purposes.

21 years of broadband connectivity since 1999 trial - Live BQM
Standard User TimJ
(committed) Mon 28-Dec-20 20:30:30
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: cbackham] [link to this post]
 
We live in a large T shaped bungalow that requires 3 AP to cover it. We used to use the router and 2 random wired AP, but it was far from seamless, the google audio chromecasts could only be seen from the AP they were connected to. The whole system seemed clunky and required frequent reboots and attention.

Two and a half years ago I bit the bullet and got 3 Ubiquiti mesh AP, expensive, but they have truly been fit and forget and enjoy seamless WiFi throughout the property and near garden. A very worthwhile investment.
Standard User danielhyde
(member) Tue 29-Dec-20 09:23:16
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: cbackham] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by cbackham:
In reply to a post by troublegum:
The mesh system units should be able to work together and try to push the client to a better access point, when the client moves away from the currently connected AP. If fast roaming is supported then it should be seamless to the client and will have the appearance of one big access point.

So you seem to be confirming that the clients do have to roam between the mesh nodes.

Given that it's the client which makes the decisions about if and when to switch, what does a mesh system do to encourage it to switch that a standard AP doesn't? If you're referring to sending out neighbour reports that can help the client decide, then APs can deliver those too, can't they?

In reply to a post by troublegum:
With multiple APs as the client moves away from the AP, it will try to hold on to the weakening signal, even though there may now be a nearer AP.

How does the client know whether it's conected to an AP or a mesh node? Why would it hang on to a normal AP but not a mesh node?

I've read about "sticky clients" and the measures you can take in AP setup to discourage it. Is it simply that a mesh system has these measures configured by default?

I'm not trying to be argumentative - I genuinely want to understand what, if anything, distinguishes a mesh node from a normal AP from the client's POV.


The access point can boot the client when it sees its signal drop below a certain threshold then the client should connect to a mesh point with a stronger signal.
Standard User cbackham
(learned) Tue 29-Dec-20 09:43:24
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: danielhyde] [link to this post]
 
OK, thanks to everyone who has commented, but nobody has actually answered the question I asked.

Let me rephrase it.
Suppose I have three "traditional" access points with a shared SSID, and some client devices with unknown protocol support. (For example, I very much doubt any of my mobile devices support 802.11r). As these devices move around, they might need to roam between the APs. Some of them ("sticky clients") may be reluctant to make the move.

Now suppose I replace those APs with a mesh system, and all of the mesh nodes are hard-wired to the router. The same mobile devices with unknown protocol support will still need to roam between the nodes. And if they are "sticky clients", they might still be reluctant to make the move.

Here is the core, fundamental question: What mechanism(s) does a mesh system use that will encourage the mobile devices to switch to a different node that the APs can't?

It's not enough to give me anecdotes where someone has replaced APs with a mesh and it worked better. I want to know WHY.
Standard User jchamier
(eat-sleep-adslguide) Tue 29-Dec-20 11:35:48
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: cbackham] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by cbackham:
Suppose I have three "traditional" access points with a shared SSID, and some client devices with unknown protocol support.

As I asked, by "traditional" do you mean re-purposing domestic "routers" (or "hub") with DHCP and NAT disabled?

If so then they do not know about each other.

A mesh system, or a corporate system, know about the other transmitters. The corporate systems use a single controller, the mesh share control information between each other.

They can each measure the signal strength from the device, and transmitter A can decide to decline to respond, where transmitter B can decide to respond.

This gets around the problem where your device hangs on connected to the transmitter that is 4 rooms away, even when you have another transmitter in the same room, because the device CAN work, badly, with long range WiFi, but you don't want it to.

They need to share the control information to do this.

21 years of broadband connectivity since 1999 trial - Live BQM
Standard User cbackham
(regular) Tue 29-Dec-20 12:23:34
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Re: WiFi: Mesh v Multiple APs


[re: jchamier] [link to this post]
 
In reply to a post by jchamier:
In reply to a post by cbackham:
Suppose I have three "traditional" access points with a shared SSID, and some client devices with unknown protocol support.

As I asked, by "traditional" do you mean re-purposing domestic "routers" (or "hub") with DHCP and NAT disabled?

No, I'm referring to genuine access points, for example TP-Link AC1750, Ubiquiti UAP-AC-LR or similar.

In reply to a post by jchamier:
A mesh system, or a corporate system, know about the other transmitters. The corporate systems use a single controller, the mesh share control information between each other.
They can each measure the signal strength from the device, and transmitter A can decide to decline to respond, where transmitter B can decide to respond.

OK, understood.

It's my understanding that you can configure some APs to stop responding once the RSSI drops below a certain threshold, and that will force the client to seek another AP, which should achieve the same end result.

But perhaps the kind of APs that will be configurable to that extent will be no cheaper than a mesh system, in which case perhaps a mesh system will be easier to deploy.

Thanks for your help.
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