Adding a mesh wifi network



  • I would like to add a mesh wifi network to my home.

    I currently have a pfSense appliance for routing. It also has a native wifi adapter for my guest wireless. I also have a single TP-Link EAP245 that provides my homes main wifi.

    What I have found is the wifi signal can be weak in my daylight basement, and in my garage (where I have 2 ring cameras and 2 August door locks).

    I have been kicking around buying something like the Amazon Eero or Nest WiFi to add a mesh wifi network and then delegate the EAP245 to be used to provide guest wifi. However, these packaged mesh devices seem to be designed to replace the router as well.

    I do have a few cat5 Ethernet jacks run in my house and they run back to my crawl space where pfSense and a switch is located. However, they are pretty much centrally located, so not sure if purchasing a couple Ubituiti (or other brand?) access points is the best option. Thus why I was looking at mesh options.

    What plays nice with a dedicated pfSense router?


  • LAYER 8 Global Moderator

    Keep in mind there is wireless uplink, and then there is multihop support or mesh..

    All of the unifi ap support wireless uplink, so if you need to place an AP in an area where there is no wire you could use wireless uplink to another AP to provided better coverage.

    You might want to look at say the UAP-FLEXHD-US, which provides for multiple mounting options as well as just sitting on a shelf sort of deployment.

    Is there no way you can run a wire to where you need coverage - this is always going to be the best option.



  • @johnpoz thank you for the reply. Your insight is always appreciated.

    If I did decide to try and run a cat5e/6 cable, would you still recommend the UAP-FLEXHD-US? Or is there a better option? I like the price point of the UAP-AC-LITE and UAP-AC-LR-US a little better.




  • LAYER 8 Global Moderator

    Well comes down to how your going to mount it, and if you want wave2.. If you can mount it correctly prob go with like a nanoHD.. But sure if cost is a concern then the lites work... I have one in my guest room.. Along with a pro and LR.. in other places in the house..

    If I was in the market today for another or replacement for a failure I would be looking at the HD, or SHD or the nanoHD (cheaper option).. I don't have a need for just setting an AP on a shelf sort of setup - if I did then yeah would look at the flex model.



  • @RyanM said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    @johnpoz thank you for the reply. Your insight is always appreciated.

    If I did decide to try and run a cat5e/6 cable, would you still recommend the UAP-FLEXHD-US? Or is there a better option? I like the price point of the UAP-AC-LITE and UAP-AC-LR-US a little better.

    That depends. If you have the cable, then you can install multiple access points. You can use regular APs, but the issue is when moving from one to another is the device won't switch APs, until the current connection becomes so bad it fails. However, there are some APs that are designed for use in an multiple AP environment and use a central controller, which controls which AP is used. One example would be Cisco. Cisco APs, out of the box, have to be used with a controller. In fact, to use them stand alone, you have to load in different firmware. However, they will connect a device to the best AP, adjjust power levels, check for interference and more.



  • What about options other than Ubiquiti? I don't know how often I will end up replacing these units, and I am not a fan of them going into LTS and EOL where the controller will no longer be able to configure them.



  • @JKnott said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    That depends. If you have the cable, then you can install multiple access points. You can use regular APs, but the issue is when moving from one to another is the device won't switch APs, until the current connection becomes so bad it fails. However, there are some APs that are designed for use in an multiple AP environment and use a central controller, which controls which AP is used. One example would be Cisco. Cisco APs, out of the box, have to be used with a controller. In fact, to use them stand alone, you have to load in different firmware. However, they will connect a device to the best AP, adjjust power levels, check for interference and more.

    This intrigues me. Are there other options that are friendlier to a home implementation and not too expensive? This is primarily why I was looking at some of these packaged home-user mesh solutions like the Orbi, Eero, or Nest WiFi. I would definitely want something that switches to the best AP based on signal strength.



  • @RyanM

    The access points designed for roaming tend to be business class. I mentioned Cisco, but there are others. You'd have to ask someone who's more familiar with the various makes/models than I am.


  • LAYER 8 Global Moderator

    Forcing a client to a specific AP is normally a bad idea.. Client will move to a better AP on its own if there are multiples available. But unifi can for sure do rssi sort of setting and kick a client off a specific AP if they don't have good enough signal..

    But I think your getting a bit over the top here, if what your looking for is access in your garage ;)



  • @johnpoz said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    Forcing a client to a specific AP is normally a bad idea.. Client will move to a better AP on its own if there are multiples available.

    The reason a WiFi controller is used to control where a device connects is because it won't let go of an AP, until the signal is too poor. A managed network can compare signal strength through the different APs and respond to the device through the one with the best signal. Also, with band steering, the AP can force a device to 5 GHz. In this case, it's only forcing that band and avoiding 2.4 GHz. Either way, the change is not controlled by the client device. Also, when a device switches on it's own from one AP to another, it takes time to make the new connection. With the controller network, such as Cisco, the AP is essentially a bridge and the device logs into the controller, rather than the individual AP. This results in much faster transfer between APs.


  • LAYER 8 Global Moderator

    Not sure who your trying to explain it too - I have been doing this stuff just as long as you.. And prob more involved with wlan.. Please don't try to explain shit to me that I already know exactly how it works..

    You really think someone that is asking for how to add an AP In their garage is going to setup a freaking $20K wirelless setup???

    Lets be clear to the audience is here, you need to keep it at a basic level.. And don't bring up enterprise systems to clearly someone not going to be setting up such systems to add wifi coverage in their garage.. And I don't think he is too worried about a client fast roaming between the garage and his kitchen ;)

    A few unifi AP would be above the moon sort of setup at a reasonable price point to what he is use to with his soho wifi router ;)



  • @johnpoz said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    Not sure who your trying to explain it too - I have been doing this stuff just as long as you.. And prob more involved with wlan.. Please don't try to explain shit to me that I already know exactly how it works..

    You really think someone that is asking for how to add an AP In their garage is going to setup a freaking $20K wirelless setup???

    Lets be clear to the audience is here, you need to keep it at a basic level.. And don't bring up enterprise systems to clearly someone not going to be setting up such systems to add wifi coverage in their garage.. And I don't think he is too worried about a client fast roaming between the garage and his kitchen ;)

    A few unifi AP would be above the moon sort of setup at a reasonable price point to what he is use to with his soho wifi router ;)

    Very good point and exactly right.

    I am wintering in southern California right now and a guy is selling a pair of UAP-PRO's (not the AC model) for what I think is cheap ($65). This seems to be a very good value that I can use to add coverage to my smart devices in the garage. And I can get a cable out there pretty easily.

    That solves for the garage. My other challenge is that I would like to improve the signal/coverage in my basement. Currently my single AP is on my main level is my office and my coverage in the master bedroom upstairs and the rest of the main level (2nd bedroom, office, den, kitchen) is fine. Just the basement is weak. So I figure I can add that 2nd UAP-PRO to the basement to provide better coverage there.

    Then I can purchase another UAP that is newer and supports the modern standards for my main level to replace the TP-Link EAP245 so that my personal wifi network is all UAP.

    Lastly, I will likely move the EAP245 to where the pfSense router is so I can plug it into one of my free ethernet ports and setup a better/faster guest wifi with a captive portal and such.

    Is this a sound approach? Does this (at least on paper) appear to provide me an upgrade in my home wifi at a very reasonable cost?

    I assume the UAP-PRO's are EOL, will I have trouble controlling them with the same instance of the controller as a newer UAP?

    The area where I am somewhat concerned about switching between UAPs isn't for my smart devices, but for our mobile devices and tablets. I wouldn't want my mobile phone to stay connected to the UAP in the garage simply because that was the first AP it connected to. If I had an all UAP setup, are they smart enough to do a handoff? Is this just something I need to configure in the controller?

    Thanks guys, I know there are a lot of questions in here, and this really helps me learn and understand how all of this works.



  • @RyanM said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    The area where I am somewhat concerned about switching between UAPs isn't for my smart devices, but for our mobile devices and tablets. I wouldn't want my mobile phone to stay connected to the UAP in the garage simply because that was the first AP it connected to. If I had an all UAP setup, are they smart enough to do a handoff? Is this just something I need to configure in the controller?

    The AP controls the roaming is a common fallacy, the devices decide when to roam or not.

    However the APs can do band steering and force devices from 2.4Ghz to 5Ghz.

    With Intel clients there's a thing called roaming aggressiveness that's basically a slider that defines if you see a stronger signal then roam or stay on the first access-point as long as you can.

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203068



  • @NogBadTheBad said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    @RyanM said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    The area where I am somewhat concerned about switching between UAPs isn't for my smart devices, but for our mobile devices and tablets. I wouldn't want my mobile phone to stay connected to the UAP in the garage simply because that was the first AP it connected to. If I had an all UAP setup, are they smart enough to do a handoff? Is this just something I need to configure in the controller?

    The AP controls the roaming is a common fallacy, the devices decide when to roam or not.

    However the APs can do band steering and force devices from 2.4Ghz to 5Ghz.

    With Intel clients there's a thing called roaming aggressiveness that's basically a slider that defines if you see a stronger signal then roam or stay on the first access-point as long as you can.

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203068

    I meant to ask as well, do I need to use the same SSID for my 2.4 & 5ghz in order to take advantage of band steering? I want to say I had done this initially, but then seemed to have connection issues. Could just be the TP-Link isn't good at it, but wasn't sure.



  • @RyanM said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    @NogBadTheBad said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    @RyanM said in Adding a mesh wifi network:

    The area where I am somewhat concerned about switching between UAPs isn't for my smart devices, but for our mobile devices and tablets. I wouldn't want my mobile phone to stay connected to the UAP in the garage simply because that was the first AP it connected to. If I had an all UAP setup, are they smart enough to do a handoff? Is this just something I need to configure in the controller?

    The AP controls the roaming is a common fallacy, the devices decide when to roam or not.

    However the APs can do band steering and force devices from 2.4Ghz to 5Ghz.

    With Intel clients there's a thing called roaming aggressiveness that's basically a slider that defines if you see a stronger signal then roam or stay on the first access-point as long as you can.

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203068

    I meant to ask as well, do I need to use the same SSID for my 2.4 & 5ghz in order to take advantage of band steering? I want to say I had done this initially, but then seemed to have connection issues. Could just be the TP-Link isn't good at it, but wasn't sure.

    Yup by default the SSIDs on the Ubiquity equipment are 2.4 & 5Ghz, they appear as a single SSID, I have quite a few SSIDs and had to define a 2.4Ghz only one by calling the SSID IOT - 2.4 Ghz then go into the SSID and switch off the 5Ghz radio.

    I had to create a 2.4Ghz only SSID due to a crappy Honeywell smart thermostat.


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