AIMesh, SmartConnect and Roaming Assist best practices?

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CaptnDanLKW

Regular Contributor
I've been running AIMesh with SmartConnect enabled for a couple months and I'm not happy with client placement at times. Some of my distant 5Ghz clients, like a FireStick4k is staying connected to the main Router that's 100ft away, with a signal of approx -74db on 2.4Ghz when there is a AIMesh AC86U node less than 15ft away in the same room. The SmartConnect rules are set to default.

I was thinking of enabling roaming assist, but that seems like it would defeat the purpose of AIMesh (i.e. steering a client without a disconnect and re-association of a new AP). I think that's what roam assist does, and its purpose... to drop the client so the it's forced to re-associate - and presumably would pick the 'best' choice.

I want to make sure my assumptions are correct and to see if there's any guidance on use/dont use roam assist with AIMesh. Also, I WANT to keep using smart connect if possible. I'm in a VERY low density area and I like a single SSID.

Finally, IF I end up enabling roam assist, is this one of the parameters that's copied over the the AIMesh Nodes? Are we sure that everything on the professional tab is kept in sync between nodes?
I've dont some nvram comparisons in the past and noticed there are settings that differ but I cant recall if they were wireless values or something else.

Thoughts?
 

Grisu

Part of the Furniture
Which firmware? Maybe last ones with 802.11 k/v support can handle it better.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
I've been running AIMesh with SmartConnect enabled for a couple months and I'm not happy with client placement at times. Some of my distant 5Ghz clients, like a FireStick4k is staying connected to the main Router that's 100ft away, with a signal of approx -74db on 2.4Ghz when there is a AIMesh AC86U node less than 15ft away in the same room. The SmartConnect rules are set to default.

I was thinking of enabling roaming assist, but that seems like it would defeat the purpose of AIMesh (i.e. steering a client without a disconnect and re-association of a new AP). I think that's what roam assist does, and its purpose... to drop the client so the it's forced to re-associate - and presumably would pick the 'best' choice.
Roaming Assistant is node steering... 'encouraging' the client to connect to the 'best' node.

Smart Connect (not supported on AC1900/AC68/AC66 B1) is node band steering... 'encouraging' the client to connect to the node's 'best' band.

I get the best results with my AiMesh by:
o using RA with default settings;
o not using SC;
o using separate SSIDs for each band (OE-24 and OE);
o using fixed channels (11 and 149);
o connecting wireless clients to the preferred SSID only.

If you set these, reboot clients afterward.

OE
 

CaptnDanLKW

Regular Contributor
Which firmware? Maybe last ones with 802.11 k/v support can handle it better.
Ah, forgot to mention. I'm always on the latest. 384.15, but I recall the same issue with 384.14_0 / _2. Interestingly I THINK it was better with 384.13 but cant be sure.
 

CaptnDanLKW

Regular Contributor
Roaming Assistant is node steering... 'encouraging' the client to connect to the 'best' node.

Smart Connect (not supported on AC1900/AC68/AC66 B1) is node band steering... 'encouraging' the client to connect to the node's 'best' band.

I get the best results with my AiMesh by:
o using RA with default settings;
o not using SC;
o using separate SSIDs for each band (OE-24 and OE);
o using fixed channels (11 and 149);
o connecting wireless clients to the preferred SSID only.

If you set these, reboot clients afterward.

OE
Thanks for the feedback.

Here's a scenario... taking SC and Mesh out of the equation for a moment.

On a single AC86U, I set up two SSIDs, one for each band (LKW & LKW_5G)
Join my iPhone client (STA) to both LKW and LKW_5G SSID.
As I move away from the router at some point ill drop 5GHz and it will automatically join the 2.4Ghz network.

The two issues with this scenario is that
1) The link (i.e. Layer-2) is broken during SSID changeover - this breaks most streaming and communication apps - even those that can tolerate poor quality.
2) wont ever move itself back to 5GHz.

My experience is that with SC and a single SSID, that this layer-2 drop never occurs and the change between 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz is seamless from the perspective of the client. That means L4 / TCP connections or other established communications are never torn down and the app never has to deal with whatever recovery methods they coded in the higher presentation layers.

Throwing AI Mesh discussion back in, and based on my understanding of what's happening under the hood, it seems AIMesh does for AP 'changeover' what SC does for 'Band Selection'. It prevents your device from have to initiate any type of SSID change, preventing the Layer-2 drop / Layer-3 IP address acquisition.

Which does back to my original question / thoughts about roaming assist. I thought it forces a stations disconnect from the perspective of the router, which the client would then realize and have to re-associate.... leading back to my worry about what's essentially a L2 disconnect and it breaking any app's open connections.

lots to consider I know.... just REALLY trying to understand what happening under the hood. I may nuke everything and start over... just a lot of work.
 
Last edited:

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Thanks for the feedback.

Here's a scenario... taking SC and Mesh out of the equation for a moment.

On a single AC86U, I set up two SSIDs, one for each band (LKW & LKW_5G)
Join my iPhone client (STA) to both LKW and LKW_5G SSID.
As I move away from the router at some point ill drop 5GHz and it will automatically join the 2.4Ghz network.

The two issues with this scenario is that
1) The link (i.e. Layer-2) is broken during SSID changeover - this breaks most streaming and communication apps - even those that can tolerate poor quality.
2) wont ever move itself back to 5GHz.

My experience is that with SC and a single SSID, that this layer-2 drop never occurs and the change between 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz is seamless from the perspective of the client. That means L4 / TCP connections or other established communications are never torn down and the app never has to deal with whatever recovery methods they coded in the higher presentation layers.

Throwing AI Mesh discussion back in, and based on my understanding of what's happening under the hood, it seems AIMesh does for AP 'changeover' what SC does for 'Band Selection'. It prevents your device from have to initiate any type of SSID change, preventing the Layer-2 drop / Layer-3 IP address acquisition.

Which does back to my original question / thoughts about roaming assist. I thought it forces a stations disconnect from the perspective of the router, which the client would then realize and have to re-associate.... leading back to my worry about what's essentially a L2 disconnect and it breaking any app's open connections.

lots to consider I know.... just REALLY trying to understand what happening under the hood. I may nuke everything and start over... just a lot of work.
Does your mobile really need to use/know about 2.4 GHz if your AiMesh is extending 5.0 GHz like it should?

If you name your SSIDs LKW and LKW-24, you might find it easier to test same and separate SSID scenarios, assuming most of your devices can use 5.0 GHz.

I appreciate the technical discussion, but it really comes down to what works best for your wireless clients and their usage... some things have to be tried. I started out with same SSIDs and now find better stability and predictability using separate SSIDs as noted earlier. I also did some speed tests with a laptop PC and it consistently performed better on 5.0 GHz way far from the node so jumping to the 2.4 GHz band would never make sense... admittedly, the 2x2 laptop is likely a stronger wireless client than a mobile phone.

OE
 
Last edited:

CaptnDanLKW

Regular Contributor
Let me ask / add one more comment.

I've switched to separate SSIDs, disabled SC and set fixed Channels (2.4 Ch11 /20Mhz, 5 Ch 149/80).

I've checked the WiFi Radio nvram settings on my nodes and they are NOT set the same...

AC86U Mesh Router
wl0_chanspec=11
wl1_chanspec=149/80
wl_chanspec=149/80

AC86U Mesh Node #1 (wired)
wl0_chanspec=0
wl1_chanspec=0
wl_chanspec=0

AC68U Mesh Node #1 (wired)
wl0_chanspec=0
wl1_chanspec=0
wl_chanspec=0

So it seems (as I mentioned in my OP) that not all settings are copied to the nodes. This seems like a fundamental settings that should be kept in sync, especially since we cannot access the web UI on any nodes.

I'll try overriding the nvram variables on the nodes to match and see if they stick.

Wondering if anyone else as realized their AI Mesh nodes Channels & Width are Auto and if you are trying the same overrides?
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Wondering if anyone else as realized their AI Mesh nodes Channels & Width are Auto and if you are trying the same overrides?
Nope. My node broadcasts the same signal spec as my router. I can see this with a WiFi Anayzer app. That's one intent of AiMesh... the router manages the nodes. If I had to manually poke around settings in the nodes, I'd dump AiMesh in the trash first.

OE
 

CaptnDanLKW

Regular Contributor
Nope. My node broadcasts the same signal spec as my router. I can see this with a WiFi Anayzer app. That's one intent of AiMesh... the router manages the nodes. If I had to manually poke around settings in the nodes, I'd dump AiMesh in the trash first.

OE
That would have been my sentiment as well. I should have used my WiFi Analyzer first because I can verify they are all the same too. So AI Mesh controls the channel spec though other means than the wl0/1_chanspec variable.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
I've switched to separate SSIDs, disabled SC and set fixed Channels (2.4 Ch11 /20Mhz, 5 Ch 149/80).
Good... is Roaming Assistant enabled per band?

OE
 

Grisu

Part of the Furniture
you can ignore wl_chanspec as it shows only the recently selected band (2.4 or 5GHz) in GUI, so same as either wl0 or wl1 and I think =0 means auto what is ok in Aimesh-mode as it will be set same as master-router.
 

CaptnDanLKW

Regular Contributor
Good... is Roaming Assistant enabled per band?

OE
Not yet. I try to practice good troubleshooting analysis practices by only making one change at a time and testing and I'm not done walking my property (Main house, Outbuilding and a boat dock) with different clients on different bands while using different apps. (Common testing is Amazon Video streaming, my Silicon Dust HDHomerun tuners, Wi-fi calling and FT - the last 2 requiring availability and patience from my wife).

I suspect RA will help when I'm on a fringe or a good signal but before AIMesh steers me to another node.
 

Smokindog

Senior Member
Have you looked at the advanced settings of the NIC in your clients? Roaming is primarily a function of the client. Most modern adapters allow for you to assign a level at which it will attempt a new connection. Look for something like "Roaming Aggressiveness" in the advanced setting. Also look for a setting called "Preferred Band". I'd also look for channel width settings in the client and align it with your infrastructure node settings.

If you've got a wire between the nodes, ditch AiMesh and use AP mode, assign your frequencies based on your WiFi Analyzer scans per targeted use location and dump the independent SSID names. It's much more stable and you've got control over nodes when things need adjusting. At the very least you can place each node channel selection to Auto but I prefer to set them manually. As to setting up an AP node it couldn't be easier. It's just like setting up the wireless on the main node. A few key setting and you're good to go.

Again, let the client have full control of the connection choice and full spectrum availability. Both AiMesh and separate SSIDs in effect sacrifice client access to a radio in every node. Not what best practices would tell you.

I cover about 6K sq ft in a long 2 story/detached bus garage and most of 2.5 acres with a main router and 4-5 AP nodes (the outdoor AP is switched on only if needed based on where people may be and even things like humidity/...)

AiMesh was an unmitigated disaster forcing nodes to be within a closer range of each other than desirable which reduced overall coverage as well as reducing access to spectrum. It was equally as large a disaster with wired backhaul. I had wires so I used them and switched to AP mode, never looked back and it's great, including roaming. I even use an old N66 for the outdoor AP ;) Easy Peasy to setup and manage. Could probably be done with an "NVRAM script" as highlighted in other threads.

Ignore the circles in the attached diagram, I was playing with coverage maps and gave up (note 1 is even missing). The nodes basically alternate down stairs/upstairs and the outside AP is not shown. Just never went back to update. The main router is the second from the top up in the wiring closet. Everything goes to a 48 port Gb switch. Also, sorry for the switch to MAC in the spectrum JPGs. ALL SSIDs are the same. The NIC in the laptop used to capture those images is set to "Preferred Band" at 5GHz.
Wireless Coverage V3-1.jpg


Example of 5Ghz Prof Settings. Not saying they're right for everyone but works well for me.

AP Node Proffessional settings 5GHz.JPG


Example of spectrum in my family room "on a good RF day".

2-4 Home.JPG

5G home.JPG
 
Last edited:

damaltor

Occasional Visitor
The main router is the second from the top up in the wiring closet. Everything goes to a 48 port Gb switch. Also, sorry for the switch to MAC in the spectrum JPGs. ALL SSIDs are the same. The NIC in the laptop used to capture those images is set to "Preferred Band" at 5GHz.
Thinking of ditching my AiMesh setup and going to AP mode. Are you saying that the SSID for the main router and all the AP's are the same?
Thanks
 

Smokindog

Senior Member
Thinking of ditching my AiMesh setup and going to AP mode. Are you saying that the SSID for the main router and all the AP's are the same?
Thanks
YES, I set one SSID for all nodes and all bands. I allow the clients to choose their connection as it's supposed to be :) I do steer some by using the "Preferred Band" setting on most modern devices. HOWEVER, they can still choose a different band if it's more suitable for the situation.

The VIZIO device you see is a WiFi Direct remote for one of the Vizio TVs upstairs that popped up during the scan.
 
Last edited:

CaptnDanLKW

Regular Contributor
Have you looked at the advanced settings of the NIC in your clients? Roaming is primarily a function of the client. Most modern adapters allow for you to assign a level at which it will attempt a new connection. Look for something like "Roaming Aggressiveness" in the advanced setting. Also look for a setting called "Preferred Band". I'd also look for channel width settings in the client and align it with your infrastructure node settings.

If you've got a wire between the nodes, ditch AiMesh and use AP mode, assign your frequencies based on your WiFi Analyzer scans per targeted use location and dump the independent SSID names. It's much more stable and you've got control over nodes when things need adjusting. At the very least you can place each node channel selection to Auto but I prefer to set them manually. As to setting up an AP node it couldn't be easier. It's just like setting up the wireless on the main node. A few key setting and you're good to go.

Again, let the client have full control of the connection choice and full spectrum availability. Both AiMesh and separate SSIDs in effect sacrifice client access to a radio in every node. Not what best practices would tell you.

I cover about 6K sq ft in a long 2 story/detached bus garage and most of 2.5 acres with a main router and 4-5 AP nodes (the outdoor AP is switched on only if needed based on where people may be and even things like humidity/...)

AiMesh was an unmitigated disaster forcing nodes to be within a closer range of each other than desirable which reduced overall coverage as well as reducing access to spectrum. It was equally as large a disaster with wired backhaul. I had wires so I used them and switched to AP mode, never looked back and it's great, including roaming. I even use an old N66 for the outdoor AP ;) Easy Peasy to setup and manage. Could probably be done with an "NVRAM script" as highlighted in other threads.

Ignore the circles in the attached diagram, I was playing with coverage maps and gave up (note 1 is even missing). The nodes basically alternate down stairs/upstairs and the outside AP is not shown. Just never went back to update. The main router is the second from the top up in the wiring closet. Everything goes to a 48 port Gb switch. Also, sorry for the switch to MAC in the spectrum JPGs. ALL SSIDs are the same. The NIC in the laptop used to capture those images is set to "Preferred Band" at 5GHz.
View attachment 21458

Example of 5Ghz Prof Settings. Not saying they're right for everyone but works well for me.

View attachment 21462

Example of spectrum in my family room "on a good RF day".

View attachment 21459
View attachment 21461
Thanks for joining in and the contribution. Yes, all my nodes have a Ethernet backhaul. For my PC devices, I do make use of the advance NIC settings for roaming and preferred band and how I used to do it before I switched to separate SSIDs but those settings are obviously not there for phones, tablets and other 'consumption' devices.

I am realizing that there are many different ways that work for specific setups, personal preferences and use cases but if I take this back to the original reason why I asked, it has to do with my understanding about a fundamental part of WiFi client <> AP association. To verify...

The AP cannot tell the client (STAtion) to do anything, such as switch bands, use a different AP with the same SSID,etc. *ALL* client (STA) associations are initiated by the client and are actually quite dumb. The only thing the router can do is, through something like roaming assist, is to drop the association, which the client would detect and start the basic process of picking another saved network with the best signal.

If the above statement is true, then that's the exact scenario I am trying to avoid.

In my testing, when using SC and/or AI Mesh, when you move between bands or nodes, your client never actually loses association with the Router/Node (why its referred to as steering). This keeps layer 2 up, no momentary loss of IP address and your TCP sessions are not closed. This makes apps (streaming and calling) happier.
 

truglodite

Regular Contributor
For me it seem that no ra tends to result in less interrupted games, facetimes, and videos. With one ac86u there are small spots in my house (like behind the fireplace bricks) where phones see weaker wifi signals, and with ra on I would see more interruptions in those areas. It got really annoying at times when ra would result in my phone bouncing back and forth between 2.4wifi and 4g cell. With no ra this happens a lot less. Also with sc enabled I don't get interrupted when it switches from 2.4to5 and back, which of course is nice.

This is why I was planning to upgrade with another aimesh ap... to get more signal without losing the smooth transitions between bands and/or ap's.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
For me it seem that no ra tends to result in less interrupted games, facetimes, and videos. With one ac86u there are small spots in my house (like behind the fireplace bricks) where phones see weaker wifi signals, and with ra on I would see more interruptions in those areas. It got really annoying at times when ra would result in my phone bouncing back and forth between 2.4wifi and 4g cell. With no ra this happens a lot less. Also with sc enabled I don't get interrupted when it switches from 2.4to5 and back, which of course is nice.

This is why I was planning to upgrade with another aimesh ap... to get more signal without losing the smooth transitions between bands and/or ap's.
Another approach is to leave RA enabled, disable SC, use separate SSIDs, fixed channels, and only configure your phones for one connection so that they connect and stick using a channel that's fixed and only roam when you roam.

OE
 

damaltor

Occasional Visitor
YES, I set one SSID for all nodes and all bands. I allow the clients to choose their connection as it's supposed to be :) I do steer some by using the "Preferred Band" setting on most modern devices. HOWEVER, they can still choose a different band if it's more suitable for the situation.

The VIZIO device you see is a WiFi Direct remote for one of the Vizio TVs upstairs that popped up during the scan.
Another quick question...
Finally undid my AiMesh setup and configured it as AP, so far working great.
Wondering if under LAN setting, should I set the "domain name" to the same as the main router, set a unique name or leave it blank doesn't matter?
Thanks again.
Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 2.42.10 PM.png
 

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