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According to for example this Superuser question and answers, one can easily extend the range of a WiFi network by having multiple access points with the same SSID. This didn't work for me (and other commenters). Clients stubbornly stick to weak access points and there was no seamless handover, like there is in GSM, for example.

Then we tried Open Mesh + CloudTrax. They say:

Open-Mesh creates ultra low-cost, plug-and-play wireless mesh networks that spread an Internet connection throughout a hotel, apartment, office, campus, cafe, village—and just about anywhere else.

With my WiFi analyzer, I noticed that it merely does the same thing as having multiple access points: it creates multiple networks with the same SSID. The same problems arise: you can't just walk through the building and not lose your connections.

So what is actually the good way of making a large WiFi network, with proper handover and such? Does the protocol even allow it?

I must admit, I've never used my wifi analyzer in a Hotel, but I can't imagine I would see 50 access points with the same SSID.

Edit: BTW, would it not be possible to have multiple antenna's transmitting the signal of one access point that you wire up throughout your building? Or will this cause phase problems in the signal, and therefore they might actually worsen transmission quality?

edit2: Apparently, 802.11r was devised for this. It will be years before all clients support it, I guess.

  • I will be honest. I don't know if there is a good solution that exists. Even with mobile broadband there isn't a seamless transition to tower to tower all the time. I wouldn't rule out multiple SSIDs in a hotel considering how many I have seen implement WiFi wrong even 4 and 5 star resorts. A hotel can also afford expensive antennas allow a single professional grade access point handle hundreds of square feet and thousands of clients. – Ramhound Jul 9 '14 at 16:01
  • We have had similar issues with our wireless access points. In the office, things work relatively well since clients normally stick to the same access point. However, when we move back to the shipping and warehouse area, they may connect to as many as 4 or 5 access points depending on the day. The best workaround we found was to just have the users toggle their wireless off, then back on. From there Windows will (almost) always will pick the strongest signal and everything will work great for a couple of hours or even days. – Edgarion Jul 9 '14 at 16:10
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Roaming is unfortunately up to the client device and is mostly non-standardized. Some devices will roam 'better' than others and support different roaming protocols. For example, take a look at the iPhone's roaming capabilities on enterprise networks. Cisco has their own solutions regarding wireless roaming.

If your client devices don't roam well on consumer grade equipment, you might be out of luck. I attempted a similar set up some time ago, and found that while my Galaxy S3 roamed almost seamlessly, the wife's old Mac Book switched constantly between the two access points. With no settings to be tweaked in the network drivers, there wasn't much I could do about it. Your mileage may vary.

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Interesting that you mention hotels. I have been to a lot of hotels where they have a different SSID for the different areas and I have been to several that have a seamless wireless network. Either way works. The seamless seems a little more professional to me but that is simply a matter of opinion. When you draw out your coverage map, overlap your wireless access points but the trick to get this all to work is to have your access points on different channels. If you have a very long structure and an access point at each end you would want to put one end on channel 1 and the other on channel 6 or 11. (Different channels for N and AC of course. You get the idea though.)

Make sure they all have the same SSID, security type, and password. That is the poor mans way of doing it. With openmesh the difference is that all the access points need to be able to contact the internet where the centralized controller is. This controller takes your profile you set up for your access points and applies it with the same SSID, Security settings, and password just like how you manually set up all the access points before. It also does a map of coverage and automatically changes the operating channel so you do not have access points interfering with each other.

In a larger environment this same concept is put into play with wireless systems like Aruba or EnterasysAP. They have a centralized controller that costs an ungodly amount of money in house that sets up all the access points and controls them.

  • The matter of opinion on which way is better is easy: have your Google Hangout/Skype not disconnect. And that seems to be impossible. In another company I work, we have cordless barcode scanners with Windows Mobile that log into a terminal server. It's really annoying if you move between storage rooms and your session is dead. – Halfgaar Jul 9 '14 at 16:18
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I've managed to have a constant ping moving across APs, APs they have to be wired together and with exactly the same network configuration, not only SSID but as mentioned above same security settings, different channels and on the same subnet/vlan.

Also as mentioned above some devices will handle roaming better than others, specially between types of devices i.e laptop, smartphone/tables, etc on windows some WiFi controllers allow you to change "roaming aggressiveness"

as far as I know this is the best way to extend the coverage of a wireless network.

I starting to experiment with a mesh backbone with WiFi AP "as gateways" across but this devices will need two WiFi adapters.

Alternatively Software Define Radio, with multiple Tx/Rx for MIMO and beamforming this could not only increase your coverage but also the speed/throughput (obviously), some WiFi controllers already to this on the physical layer spetially as implemented on 11n and 11ac

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