I'm currently setting up a network with 1 access point. Since WiFi range is not very far, I'd like to extend the range by using repeaters. I did several setups in the past but they always had another SSID. So I had an SSID for my repeater which computers and devices could connect to, and the repeater connects to the main access point. What I'd like to know if it's possible or not, is to have...say a router with a name 'linksys' and 3 repeaters connect to it. Would it be possible to have all repeaters to have the name 'linksys' so only 1 SSID would appear in the networks detected? Is there any other option to this if it's impossible to do with repeaters? Thank you very much.
It is certainly possible to do what you ask. As a matter of fact, it is the default configuration for some range extenders, like the Tp-Link TL-WA850RE which I have installed at home. The same SSID is visible all over my house, and you switch seamlessly from one to the other.
Besides, this is the standard configuration which you find in most places large enough to be covered by many repeaters, like schools, universities, many private and public offices. In each of these places there is a unique SSID, and a unique Pre Shared Key (PSK).
I've spent quite some time recently looking into this problem.
There are two topics to consider:
Let's start with topic 1:
There seem to be three options:
Not sure if it's obvious yet, but I would DEFINITELY advocate option 3 over the other two by a landslide.
There should be several hardware choices out there (I believe EnGenius for example makes one*), but the one I went with is the UniFi line by Ubiquity Networks (I'm not affiliated in any way with them other than being a very happy customer).
They sell several different types of access points that support different WiFi standards (b/g/n, ac) and are meant for either indoor or outdoor use. The ones I use are the UniFi AP LR (the indoor long range b/g/n version), which sells for less than $90 these days (the non-long-range version even goes for only around $65).
If you install the beta-release of their (free) controller software (which I've found to be very stable already), the access points will communicate with each other to handle the automatic device switching to implement what they call "Zero Handoff Roaming". And it works fantastically*. I can watch in the controller as other clients are being passed between APs while maintaining perfectly fluid skype calls, etc. And the clients are entirely unaware of what is happening. All they see is a single wireless network with perfect signal anywhere.
BTW: The controller software is only needed to configure the APs and update their firmware. Once the system is up and running, you can shut down the software and everything still works. So you don't need any other dedicated hardware to implement this system, just a bunch of APs sprinkled across your site.
Now, to topic 2 from the very beginning, i.e. how to have the APs/repeaters talk to each other:
There are two options here:
The Pros and Cons should be obvious: Wired is faster, more reliable, and probably more secure, but it might not be feasible because it involves running wires... So, choose it if you can and go wireless if you have to.
Luckily, the UniFi APs also support both modes*. For the initial configuration, you need to hook them up to a wire once to provision them, but then you can tell all but one of them to simply up-link wirelessly to their nearest neighbor, unplug them from the network and move them to their final location. Note: I have NOT tried this yet, so I don't know how well it works. Also, I don't know if the system supports multiple hops or if each AP using a wireless uplink needs to be close to an AP that is wired.
Note also: I've only tested their system in a fairly small network (3 APs with around 20 devices). In this setup, it works beautifully and provides much better stability and performance than our previous setup. But the v3 software (which is needed for zero handoff to work) IS still in beta and officially not recommended for production use. Maybe a different manufacturer has a solution that is no longer in beta already... Not sure.
A couple of things I researched over the weekend:
First of all, use Access Points and connect them to your switch. Then, when you install your AP's, make sure that they are located af far as possible with low intersection zones (intersection zones should be there to avoid loosing the signal, but should not be large). Then, configure each AP to use different frequency and make sure that frequencies don't repeat (AP1 with Freq.x intersects with AP2 with Freq.y, and AP2 intersects with AP3 Freq.z and AP3 intersects with AP4 with Freq.x) Set all AP's with the same SSID. Read Google about setting your frequencies; there are really only 3 options there and it is must know information. IMHO very important thing to know.