smart connect and roaming assist

jata

Senior Member
I have a Aimesh setup with AX86S as main router with 2x AX58U nodes. Overall I am very happy with the AX86S and how smart connect works.

I have a few 2.4ghz only devices (printer, robot vacuum etc) and they sometimes get stuck on a node with a lower strength connection (below the smart connect threshold)

So I have enabled roaming assist on the 2.4ghz network (not on 5ghz) but also have smart connect at the same time. So:

1. anyone else have a similar setup and can comment on how these two approaches coexist?
2. will/should smart connect trigger a 2.4ghz device to connect to another node at 2.4ghz or does the system only move devices from 2.4 to 5?

Any advice or input appreciated.
 

Morris

Very Senior Member
Roaming Assist will drop any client below the signal strength threshold you set. It is then up to the client to connect to the AP with the strongest signal and in my experience that will usually work. Some people state they have had success with Smart Connect. I'm not one of them.
 

jata

Senior Member
Thanks @Morris. I will try having both roam assist and smart connect running at the same time to see if this works ok. Sorry you have not had a good experience with smart connect but it does seem to work quite well for me so not keen to drop it (yet).
 

drinkingbird

Very Senior Member
I have a Aimesh setup with AX86S as main router with 2x AX58U nodes. Overall I am very happy with the AX86S and how smart connect works.

I have a few 2.4ghz only devices (printer, robot vacuum etc) and they sometimes get stuck on a node with a lower strength connection (below the smart connect threshold)

So I have enabled roaming assist on the 2.4ghz network (not on 5ghz) but also have smart connect at the same time. So:

1. anyone else have a similar setup and can comment on how these two approaches coexist?
2. will/should smart connect trigger a 2.4ghz device to connect to another node at 2.4ghz or does the system only move devices from 2.4 to 5?

Any advice or input appreciated.

They're two totally different things.

Smart connect manipulates the beacons to force dual band clients to connect to 5Ghz when they're in range (since the 2.4Ghz signal almost always appears stronger, it used to be many clients would prefer that band if they had the same SSID). It basically hides the 2.4Ghz signal from clients that support 5Ghz and have good signal. These days most clients have been programmed to prefer 5Ghz even if the signal is weaker, as long as the signal isn't too weak to be usable. The threshold there is just saying at what point do you no longer try to force a client to connect to 5Ghz. So Smart Connect isn't terribly useful unless you have older devices. Setting both your bands to the same SSID essentially accomplishes the same thing these days.
The generic name for this feature is Band Steering, each vendor calls it something different.

Roaming assistant kicks off clients when their signal strength falls below a threshold (different threshold than smart connect), forcing them to reconnect to a closer, stronger AP (assuming there is one) or simply keeping them from slowing down all your other users, i.e. someone driving away from your house hanging on at 1 megabit for 30 seconds and degrading your network performance. This is to deal with clients that like to "stick" as long as possible to an AP, often to the point they are getting a very lousy or even unusable signal. It is similar to setting "roaming aggressiveness" on the client to a higher than stock setting (for those that support it).
I don't know if there is a generic name for this, I first encountered it with Ubiquiti and they call it Minimum RSSI.

The two are exclusive of each other and can be used at the same time, however Smart Connect isn't really necessary in a lot of cases anymore.

There is a third feature called airtime fairness but generally that will degrade your performance unless you have a very high number of active users on the same AP, in which case it can help. In some scenarios if you have one person that likes to hog bandwidth it can help too even if there are only a few users, but when that person isn't hogging bandwidth, it will hurt the other users (again, just general experience, the implementation differs with each vendor and has been improving).
 
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jata

Senior Member
They're two totally different things.

Smart connect manipulates the beacons to force dual band clients to connect to 5Ghz when they're in range (since the 2.4Ghz signal almost always appears stronger, it used to be many clients would prefer that band if they had the same SSID). It basically hides the 2.4Ghz signal from clients that support 5Ghz and have good signal. These days most clients have been programmed to prefer 5Ghz even if the signal is weaker, as long as the signal isn't too weak to be usable. The threshold there is just saying at what point do you no longer try to force a client to connect to 5Ghz. So Smart Connect isn't terribly useful unless you have older devices. Setting both your bands to the same SSID essentially accomplishes the same thing these days.
The generic name for this feature is Band Steering, each vendor calls it something different.

Roaming assistant kicks off clients when their signal strength falls below a threshold (different threshold than smart connect), forcing them to reconnect to a closer, stronger AP (assuming there is one) or simply keeping them from slowing down all your other users, i.e. someone driving away from your house hanging on at 1 megabit for 30 seconds and degrading your network performance. This is to deal with clients that like to "stick" as long as possible to an AP, often to the point they are getting a very lousy or even unusable signal. It is similar to setting "roaming aggressiveness" on the client to a higher than stock setting (for those that support it).
I don't know if there is a generic name for this, I first encountered it with Ubiquiti and they call it Minimum RSSI.

The two are exclusive of each other and can be used at the same time, however Smart Connect isn't really necessary in a lot of cases anymore.

There is a third feature called airtime fairness but generally that will degrade your performance unless you have a very high number of active users on the same AP, in which case it can help. In some scenarios if you have one person that likes to hog bandwidth it can help too even if there are only a few users, but when that person isn't hogging bandwidth, it will hurt the other users (again, just general experience, the implementation differs with each vendor and has been improving).
thank you @drinkingbird - that is so helpful. It explains why I only have this issue with a few clients that are 2.4ghz only. I have been happy with how my 5ghz clients move between the two bands and between my AiMesh nodes.

I just need to use/tune roaming assist on the 2.4ghz band to force these sticky clients to reconnect. I will set the threshold to -70 and report back on how I get on.

Interesting that if I get roaming assist working well on both bands then smart connect is not needed - this is inline with @Morris experience. I thought that smart connect did something clever (smart) to cleanly handover between nodes (e.g. without glitching facetime/teams calls)
 

drinkingbird

Very Senior Member
thank you @drinkingbird - that is so helpful. It explains why I only have this issue with a few clients that are 2.4ghz only. I have been happy with how my 5ghz clients move between the two bands and between my AiMesh nodes.
Yeah the 2.4ghz signal travels much further and clients hang onto it much longer than 5ghz.
I just need to use/tune roaming assist on the 2.4ghz band to force these sticky clients to reconnect. I will set the threshold to -70 and report back on how I get on.
Yes you can even try -60 and -50 (-70 is usable but pretty weak signal, depending how much overlap you have between APs, you should be able to go lower and get better handover). If your clients support adjusting the roaming aggressiveness, you can set that to "maximum" on them too. Intel WIFI adapters on windows PCs have it but you usually need their official drivers (either from intel or the PC manufacturer) and not the inbuilt windows drivers to get that feature. Some android phones have it under developer options but I found it didn't really work well.
Interesting that if I get roaming assist working well on both bands then smart connect is not needed - this is inline with @Morris experience. I thought that smart connect did something clever (smart) to cleanly handover between nodes (e.g. without glitching facetime/teams calls)
Nope, smart connect is just a way to have a single SSID and force clients to prefer 5Ghz, but since most clients do that anyway now (they didn't always), it often isn't much if any benefit over just setting the two bands to the same SSID yourself.

What you were thinking is another feature I forgot to mention. "Seamless Roaming" which existed on N and AC wireless from some vendors, but was proprietary to each vendor and was pretty buggy (Ubiquiti had it working ok but still had issues, some brands got it working better than others). Some of the mesh systems that came out had an implementation of it, but none of them could do it great since there was nothing on the client side working with it to make it smooth. You really need both sides working together, which N and AC did not have. Most of them gave all the APs the same MAC address, channel, etc, making the client think there was just one AP and as it roamed between them, it didn't even know it. But it never really worked all that great as if you didn't have your APs spaced just right it would end up bouncing back and forth, losing a few packets each time, and degrading the quality of your connection.

On AX/Wifi6 there is a new implementation (the first standardized implementation of seamless roaming) that if both the client and AP support it, will switch APs within about 1/10 of a second and give you uninterrupted streaming, calls, etc. It is constantly monitoring the various APs in range for the SSID and switches much sooner than older implementations did. There are actually 3 standards involved, 802.11k, 802.11r and 802.11v, they all work together to make this work. I'm not sure if any of the Asus AX routers support it yet though. In theory AIMESH on AX wifi, if/when they implement this, with clients that also support it, should have a very good experience when multiple APs are involved, basically the same as your cell phone as you're driving down the highway (they've had seamless roaming for decades now, and it is nearly perfect at this point, disconnects are very rare). When this feature becomes commonplace we'll finally have true mesh networks, rather than just multiple APs that have a hacked proprietary roaming algorithm on them.
 
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jata

Senior Member
Thanks again @drinkingbird - This is the most interesting and useful thread I have read for ages (generally and also because it is helping me with my specific issues).

Unfortunately, roaming assist does not seem to do what I expected - connect and hold a few fixed clients to the AP with best signal strength for the device. I have just used the 'bind' functionality and now all the fixed clients are connected to the right AP.

I'll monitor how my mobile clients reconnect between nodes now but I didn't really have an issue with this in the first place LOL.
 

drinkingbird

Very Senior Member
Thanks again @drinkingbird - This is the most interesting and useful thread I have read for ages (generally and also because it is helping me with my specific issues).

Unfortunately, roaming assist does not seem to do what I expected - connect and hold a few fixed clients to the AP with best signal strength for the device. I have just used the 'bind' functionality and now all the fixed clients are connected to the right AP.

I'll monitor how my mobile clients reconnect between nodes now but I didn't really have an issue with this in the first place LOL.

All roaming assistant does is kick a client off the AP when their signal falls below a certain level. Most clients will then reconnect to the AP with the strongest signal as long as it has the same SSID. However the AP that kicked them off may still very well be the one they see the strongest signal from, in which case they just keep getting kicked off and reconnecting. It is useful in some scenarios, problematic in others.

In my case I have one indoor and one outdoor AP. My phone likes to "stick" to the outdoor one after coming back inside, so roaming assistant (or minimum RSSI in that case since it is a Ubiquiti AP) helps as I set it to a level where it kicks my phone off when I go back inside.

If you have two indoor APs and they have a good amount of overlap, it may cause more issues than it solves. You could try reducing the power of the two APs also to reduce the overlap but not really a great solution either. You can also use two different SSIDs on the two APs so that you can tell your fixed clients exactly what one to connect to, and put both SSIDs on your mobile clients so they can use either one. Or it seems like your clients have the preferred AP option which sounds like it is working also.

Luckily there is some light at the end of the tunnel for seamless roaming and mesh networks that behave much more like cellular networks, hopefully that becomes the norm soon.
 

SomeWhereOverTheRainBow

Part of the Furniture
All roaming assistant does is kick a client off the AP when their signal falls below a certain level. Most clients will then reconnect to the AP with the strongest signal as long as it has the same SSID. However the AP that kicked them off may still very well be the one they see the strongest signal from, in which case they just keep getting kicked off and reconnecting. It is useful in some scenarios, problematic in others.

In my case I have one indoor and one outdoor AP. My phone likes to "stick" to the outdoor one after coming back inside, so roaming assistant (or minimum RSSI in that case since it is a Ubiquiti AP) helps as I set it to a level where it kicks my phone off when I go back inside.

If you have two indoor APs and they have a good amount of overlap, it may cause more issues than it solves. You could try reducing the power of the two APs also to reduce the overlap but not really a great solution either. You can also use two different SSIDs on the two APs so that you can tell your fixed clients exactly what one to connect to, and put both SSIDs on your mobile clients so they can use either one. Or it seems like your clients have the preferred AP option which sounds like it is working also.

Luckily there is some light at the end of the tunnel for seamless roaming and mesh networks that behave much more like cellular networks, hopefully that becomes the norm soon.
I agree, from my experience trying out Smart Connect, Aimesh, and Roam assistant, placement of routers and access points is critical. Similar to the back-in-the-day method of access point mode, except now everything is supposedly fine tuned, but we truly know that is not the case. A couple of tools I have played with for stationary devices is

The fabled roaming block list:
1651810413207.png


and

Binding stationary wireless clients to mesh-node:
1651810518844.png


One thing I noticed is that you want to minimize the dissconnects and reconnects of stationary devices. I can't remember when I picked up my flat screen TV and decided to stream walking across the house.
 

drinkingbird

Very Senior Member
I agree, from my experience trying out Smart Connect, Aimesh, and Roam assistant, placement of routers and access points is critical. Similar to the back-in-the-day method of access point mode, except now everything is supposedly fine tuned, but we truly know that is not the case. A couple of tools I have played with for stationary devices is

The fabled roaming block list:
View attachment 41123

and

Binding stationary wireless clients to mesh-node:
View attachment 41124

One thing I noticed is that you want to minimize the dissconnects and reconnects of stationary devices. I can't remember when I picked up my flat screen TV and decided to stream walking across the house.

Ah, I haven't used AIMESH so didn't know what he was referring to by bind. Many clients you can set a "preferred AP" using the MAC address and that works similar. However using different SSIDs (you can use a guest SSID perhaps) for the different APs is the only bullet proof way of keeping things where you want them, but that doesn't really apply with AIMESH as I'm assuming it would just replicate all the SSIDs to all the nodes.
 

jata

Senior Member
Thanks all for the input and suggestions.

I have just realised that I didn't make it clear that I am using Asus AiMesh as the main tool/approach for roaming my clients across the network. So apologies for that. AiMesh is closed source so not even Merlin can really see how it works but Asus do seem to be improving it from release to release.

After testing roam assist together with AiMesh for a few days - and it not really working (clients not being disconnected at the set thresholds) - I have come to the conclusion that AiMesh basically overrides roaming assist.

Everything working quite well with a few of my fixed clients 'binded' to the correct node in the AiMesh network.

I am looking forward to the future - with seamless / improved roaming hopefully becoming part of AiMesh.
 

Morris

Very Senior Member
Thanks all for the input and suggestions.

I have just realised that I didn't make it clear that I am using Asus AiMesh as the main tool/approach for roaming my clients across the network. So apologies for that. AiMesh is closed source so not even Merlin can really see how it works but Asus do seem to be improving it from release to release.

After testing roam assist together with AiMesh for a few days - and it not really working (clients not being disconnected at the set thresholds) - I have come to the conclusion that AiMesh basically overrides roaming assist.

Everything working quite well with a few of my fixed clients 'binded' to the correct node in the AiMesh network.

I am looking forward to the future - with seamless / improved roaming hopefully becoming part of AiMesh.

Roaming is the clients' job. They decide what node to connect to and when to look for a stronger and/or faster connection. Tune the clients if they are tunable. Update there firmware and/or drivers.
 

CaptnDanLKW

Senior Member
I've posted a few times about my Smart Connect & AI Mesh experience and recommendations.

https://www.snbforums.com/threads/smart-connect-curious.71929/post-682642.

IMHO, you do not want to use the old 'Roaming Assistant' setting in the Professional tab, this essentially defeats the purpose of seamless band steering and roaming.

Tuning the smart connect rules and signal values is VERY specific to the exact location of each node and the location of your devices - especially the dumb & stubborn ones.

As always, YMMV.
 

jata

Senior Member
Thanks all. In my opinion and after a few days of testing, smart connect + AiMesh provides the best overall experience and performance.

Just have one final annoying client - a new robot vacuum with 2.4ghz only (and no ability to tune network) that keeps selecting the node at the end of the house and wont reconnect to a stronger node. I have now 'binded' it to my main router in the centre of the house and will see how that works.
 

MarkyPancake

Senior Member
Will be interesting to see how the node binding works for you. Last time I tried it in my environment, devices bound to the router that I didn't want roaming to the node that was further away from them, would still connect to the node, even though it had a weaker signal to them than from the router.
 

radiomyke

Occasional Visitor
Will be interesting to see how the node binding works for you. Last time I tried it in my environment, devices bound to the router that I didn't want roaming to the node that was further away from them, would still connect to the node, even though it had a weaker signal to them than from the router.
I've never had much success with binding. I have 5 Sky Q boxes around the house (static satellite TV boxes, the main box and 4 mini/relays in different rooms) which communicate with each other via their own mesh system. They all usually sit connected to my AX11000 and work well. However, for some reason every few days they will all decide to connect to my node (an XT8) which sits at the far end of the house and is only closely located to one of the mini boxes. A couple of days later they will all bounce back to the AX11000. The problem is that on occasion when jumping between the router and node, one or more boxes will loose connection either to the router/internet or each other, meaning I have to reset the system. In an effort to stop this, I've tried binding them to one or the other of the router or node but each time I've tried they have all disconnected overnight. Hope @jata has more luck than me with binding.
 

jata

Senior Member
@radiomyke - AiMesh binding seems to work as expected on my system. I have a few clients bounds to different APs in my mesh network and they are all staying where they are supposed to. I use Merlin (latest version) on my main router and stock Asus (latest version) on all of my nodes.

The one thing I did recently (with 386.5) was to totally reset all APs and rebuild my network/setup from scratch doing a complete/nuclear reset on all of the APs. Setup main router with merlin first and do minimum config then add each node with it/them connected to the main router by ethernet. let each one settle before adding the next...

I bought a new AX86S as part of my network rebuild and use this as my main router. It has been awesome and all the little issues I had with my previous setup (using AX58U) are history.

I hope this helps and good luck
 

drinkingbird

Very Senior Member
The thing to keep in mind is that Smart Connect, Roaming Assistant, Binding, even the current iteration of seamless roaming, are all ways to attempt to override the client's decision or force it to make a decision it wasn't normally going to make. So none will ever be perfect. With the new standards coming out hopefully that will change, as it will be a negotiation between the client and station.

Wherever possible, focus on tweaking problematic clients, and when that isn't possible, these technologies may help, but they won't be a total solution.
 

radiomyke

Occasional Visitor
@radiomyke - AiMesh binding seems to work as expected on my system. I have a few clients bounds to different APs in my mesh network and they are all staying where they are supposed to. I use Merlin (latest version) on my main router and stock Asus (latest version) on all of my nodes.

The one thing I did recently (with 386.5) was to totally reset all APs and rebuild my network/setup from scratch doing a complete/nuclear reset on all of the APs. Setup main router with merlin first and do minimum config then add each node with it/them connected to the main router by ethernet. let each one settle before adding the next...

I bought a new AX86S as part of my network rebuild and use this as my main router. It has been awesome and all the little issues I had with my previous setup (using AX58U) are history.

I hope this helps and good luck
Thanks for the info. I'm using the latest Merlin FW on both the router and node and do the usual resets when installing/upgrading etc, all to no avail.

Generally speaking I tend to leave most of the settings as the default and virtually everything, aside from the Sky boxes, work fine. I'm coming to the conclusion that it's the satellite boxes that are 'at fault' as no other clients have any difficulty either staying on the nearest point (i.e. those that are static) or roaming around as they are moved.

I've researched various Sky TV fora and have altered a few settings on the receivers but they still insist on hopping around and losing connections when doing so; I think it's just something I'm going to have to live with unfortunately, but glad to hear that your set up is all good - I too am happy with mine - less so with the Sky set up ;)
 

drinkingbird

Very Senior Member
Thanks for the info. I'm using the latest Merlin FW on both the router and node and do the usual resets when installing/upgrading etc, all to no avail.

Generally speaking I tend to leave most of the settings as the default and virtually everything, aside from the Sky boxes, work fine. I'm coming to the conclusion that it's the satellite boxes that are 'at fault' as no other clients have any difficulty either staying on the nearest point (i.e. those that are static) or roaming around as they are moved.

I've researched various Sky TV fora and have altered a few settings on the receivers but they still insist on hopping around and losing connections when doing so; I think it's just something I'm going to have to live with unfortunately, but glad to hear that your set up is all good - I too am happy with mine - less so with the Sky set up ;)

When all else fails, set up a guest network with different SSID on each AP. Use those to force your problematic clients to only connect to that one AP and nothing else.
 

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