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Use the same or different SSID name for both 2.4/5Ghz bands?

Discussion in 'General Wireless Discussion' started by ejp, Aug 16, 2014.

  1. ejp

    ejp Occasional Visitor

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    I recently read an article written by a former apple network engineer who advised that people should have the exact same name for both their 2.4g and 5Ghz bands when setting up their router. He mentioned that this was the better way to do it because when both SSID bands are broadcasting the same name, the client chooses which is best for it to connect to rather than you manually connecting to either band.

    My question for the wonderfully well informed in this community is, does this sound right to you and would/do you do this with your at home routers? I'm on the market for a new router and very much would like to know who does and doesn't subscribe to this idea.

    Thanks to you all in advanced.
     
  2. thiggins

    thiggins Mr. Easy Staff Member

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    This has been discussed many times and there is no right answer. The discussion, however, is usually in the context of roaming among multiple APs in the same band.

    Some devices roam nicely, switching to a stronger signal AP quickly and before connection to the weak signal AP is dropped. Others switch only when the connection actually drops.

    Band to band roaming is something else. But it is also device dependent. In general routers do not have band-steering features. The exception will be routers based on Broadcom's new AC3200 XStream technology. Those have the capability to do band-steering. But it is up to the end product manufacturer to expose the feature. NETGEAR chose not to implement band steering in the R8000 Nighthawk X6.

    FWIW, I am in the separate SSID camp. My most often used wireless device, iPad2, is dumb about roaming.
     
  3. profd

    profd New Around Here

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    I would keep them separate.

    I put my slow unimportant devices on 2.4ghz like my nest's, older mobile phones and chromecast (because it can only do 2.4) and my faster devices on 5ghz.

    As i understand it your device will only select networks based on db of signal strength and not rate available and 5ghz often has a lower signal strength but higher rate.

    This also minimises the issue of slower devices slowing down the channel.

    I have two AP's in the house and having run it both ways this split method is better. Despite 2ghz range advantages i would not call it more reliable as interference and congestion play more of a part where as 5ghz is pretty empty.

    Given 5ghz tendancy to loose signal quicker through walls this actually helps my devices switch between AP's quicker.

    I am still on N at the moment waiting for AC wave 2. Want to see how much of an improvement beam forming brings :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2014
  4. TonyH

    TonyH Very Senior Member

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    Hi,
    I'd too. Keep them different. Simply would you like same address on two
    diffferent houses? That is the way I look at it. SSID won't tell which band client is connected to. Of course there could be an exception.
     
  5. stevech

    stevech Part of the Furniture

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    I keep each access device (including the router), irrespective of band, on a separate SSID. Then I tell people which SSID to use based on where they are in the house. This, because scarce few client devices choose best-signal, but often choose first-heard.
     
  6. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    As Tim and others have suggested - there is no one single answer...

    The Apple Engineer makes a very good point though - in a single AP/Dual-Band situation, most modern clients will hand up/down based on the signal quality (note, I don't say signal strength) - and there's a fundamental reason for this...

    SSID identifies a node, or group of nodes, on a single Wireless LAN - having unique SSID's per band and/or AP, to the client, these are different networks, not part of a continuous whole - so what can happen is that when having unique SSID's, the device can camp on that SSID well beyond the point where it could have handed off to a different node/band.

    Here at the fortress, I've got multiple dual-band AP's, and I run a single common SSID for all of them - and I haven't had issues - do note however, that I do run Apple Airports end to end for my wireless LAN.

    There is no correct answer - this is why the option is present, even on Airport's, to have different SSID's for the bands

    What I suggest is try it, and observe results - if it works, awesome, if it doesn't - then separate the SSID's.

    Every network is somewhat different.
     
  7. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    Good podcast around the article...

    http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/podcast/macgeekgab-509

    Web Link going into this...

    http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/answers/4-wi-fi-tips-from-former-apple-wi-fi-engineer
     
  8. stevech

    stevech Part of the Furniture

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    That's Apple-centric.
    More broadly speaking, many WiFi clients don't chose best-AP, nor do they switch APs for a better one until the current one degrades greatly.

    Best AP can mean signal quality (as previously mentioned), where that implies some heuristics on recent frame error rates and minimizing throughput lost to heavy coding (forward error correction to simplify the term).
     
  9. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    If you get past the Apple focus (the guest speaker is a former Apple Engineer, but he was the guy that did their WiFi client SW for MacOS and iOS), there's a lot of good info there...

    1) Common SSID's - most modern clients can select based on signal quality which radio/AP to attach to

    2) Moar Power - bad idea - better to use more AP's and lower power - and this isn't WDS, although WDS/Extended Networks can cover things if wired backhaul isn't available

    3) He had good things to say about Wired Connectivity in general - always preferred, either by ethernet directly or via HomePlug

    good stuff here...

    sfx
     
  10. code65536

    code65536 Occasional Visitor

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    Yea, what everyone said: It depends on the device.

    Which generally means, keep them separate. :p

    I live in an urban setting. Lots of neighbors. Lots of congestion. 2.4GHz is so noisy that I get 1/8 the throughput on it that I get on 5GHz. Should be a no-brainer, right?

    Whether it's the Nexus 5 (Qualcomm) or a Windows laptop (Atheros and Intel), everything seems to pick them seemingly at random if the names are the same and I let them choose--half the time it goes 5GHz, half the time 2.4GHz. My Dell Venue 8 Pro (Atheros) pretty much picks only 2.4GHz--I think I've seen it pick 5GHz twice.

    At least with Windows systems that have Intel cards, I can change the advanced driver settings and tell it to explicitly prefer 5, which does work (such a setting does not exist under Linux, unfortunately).

    I ended up keeping the same SSID on both radios, but then creating a third, virtual SSID on the 5GHz radio with an affixed name (because of the principle of the matter--I believe strongly that the same network should have the same SSID, even though in practice, that's a fool's errand... so I have my single-band and my Windows-Centrino systems connect to the properly-named network, and everything connect to the one with the ugly affix in the name).
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2014
  11. azazel1024

    azazel1024 Very Senior Member

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    OP: Per what you read, that is very true. That is why I keep mine with the same SSID, for roaming between bands and APs.

    If they are different names, I have not seen a SINGLE client that roamed between bands appropriately. No matter how aggressive you set roaming, they'll treat the other SSID as a completely seperate network, even though they are the same one, and will hang on to the currently connected band unless it completely loses the connection. So even if it roams to another AP, it'll typically only do that connecting to the other AP on the same band it is currently connected on.

    This is often not desirable behavior if you don't have excellent 5GHz coverage.

    I set my bands to the same SSID on all of my APs and all of my devices roam great between APs and bands, though less band roaming. I have done some careful testing and my devices WILL roam to other bands occasionally if the situation warrants it. For example, I have my laptop with an Intel 7260ac card in it set to prefer the 5GHz band, but roaming is set to very agressive. Near my APs it'll always go to 5GHz, but if I move further away so that 5GHz is maybe 20-25dB lower than 2.4GHz, it'll switch over to 2.4GHz, until the signal strength gets high enough on 5GHz again and then it'll switch back.

    Other devices behave a little differently, where they'll often stay on the band they connected to the AP on unless they connected on 5GHz, then they'll roam to 2.4GHz if the 5GHz signal strength drops low enough. Once I get near enough to one of the other APs, sometimes they'll connect on 2.4GHz, sometimes on 5GHz even if the signal strength is high for both bands.

    I would say more devices connect on 5GHz than on 2.4GHz when associating with a new AP, but not always the case even with the same device (I have my APs setup as 144Mbps 2.4GHz and 1300Mbps 5GHz on one AP and 300Mbps 2.4GHz and 300Mbps 5GHz on the other AP (an AC1750 and N600)). I only have the one AC device and it is set to prefer 5GHz, and when it is, it associates on 5GHz on both APs 95% of the time, with the other 5% being that 2.4GHz is significantly stronger than 5GHz at the time at which it associates with the new AP.
     
  12. RMerlin

    RMerlin Part of the Furniture

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    Personally I would disagree with this. The 2.4 GHz RSSI would almost always be stronger than the 5 GHz RSSI, so most devices would probably prefer the 2.4 GHz band if they are set to just pick up whichever is strongest. Chances are you would still get far better throughout from the 5 GHz at medium range than from the 2.4 GHz band, due to lower interference and also typically running with a larger channel width (40 vs 20 Mhz).

    Also, some clients have a (deeply buried) setting where you can tell it if you want it to prefer the 2.4 or the 5 GHz band. So if you don't know the state of that setting, you might be offsetting any benefit of having the router use "whichever is actually best".

    I'm firmly in the camp of distinct SSIDs here. I want my laptop on the fastest link, and my mobile devices on the signal with the longest coverage (since they are occasionally used at the other end of the house - my laptop isn't). So, I want to manually decide which band each device connects to.
     
  13. azazel1024

    azazel1024 Very Senior Member

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    To complicate matters a little, but in my experience a lot of devices will choose the band with the largest bandwidth. If you have 2.4GHz set to 20MHz and 5GHz set to 40MHz, I see that most devices then prefer 5GHz (but not always). Exceptions being long range where 2.4GHz is significantly stronger.

    When both are set to 40MHz, I generally see no band preference, except interestingly in the iPad 2 my wife has. It ALWAYS chooses 5GHz, even at longer range.

    My laptop chooses 5GHz because I have it set to prefer 5GHz (exception being longer range, then it'll choose 2.4GHz occasionally).

    With my AC1750 router, most devices also go 5GHz, over 2.4GHz which is set to 20MHz on it. Exceptions being at longer range.

    YMMV of course, but most devices seem relatively intelligent on which band to choose and generally seem to choose the "faster" band. I am positive there will be some devices that are pretty stupid about choosing the band, but I am pretty happy with my devices letting them choose.

    Checking my WAP and router, of around 9 wireless devices scatter around my house, I see 2 on the WAP attached to 2.4GHz, 1 on the router on 2.4GHz and the rest on 5GHz on the WAP or router (N600 WAP, AC1750 router, WAP is set to 40MHz 2.4GHz and 40MHz 5GHz, router 20MHz 2.4GHz and 80MHz 5GHz).

    Setting to seperate SSIDs, the 5GHz is weak enough in a couple of parts of my house where the speed would just be ridiculously slow compared to 2.4GHz. Not a lot, but enough. Letting them choose, I don't see devices hanging on to 5GHz when things drop low enough in signal strength, they'll either kick over to 2.4GHz on the same base station or 2.4GHz on the other base station instead of hanging on to a really crummy 5GHz signal. Otherwise they'll hang on to that 5GHz weak signal until they get a strong enough 5GHz signal from the other base station. Exception being the 5GHz signal gets weak enough to drop the device, then it'll connect to the 2.4GHz SSID (using unique SSIDs for the bands). Not a desirable behavior.

    That said, I'd love to get an AC1200 wall pluggable extender that can operate in wired AP mode and turn the 2.4GHz radios on it off and use it to cover my 5GHz dead spots (well, very weak spots). I generally don't roam around with my laptop, but it does happen on rare occasions. I do roam around with my tablet and I'd generally prefer the fastest connection possible at the location, which could be 2.4GHz or 5GHz (especially since it is a dual band 1:1 11n adapter in it), in part of my house it is connecting to the router on 5GHz and through most of the rest of the house it is connecting to the WAP on 2.4GHz 40MHz.

    Phones, kid's tablets and my wife's iPad 2 I could careless about, so long as they have some kind of connection and they tend to choose intelligently enough.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2014
  14. sinshiva

    sinshiva Very Senior Member

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    in the past, i've had decent success making clients prefer a band by lowering the band's beacon interval. probably works for most clients still
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2014
  15. code65536

    code65536 Occasional Visitor

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    That's because most clients just blindly pick the first thing they see, so lower beacon = see it sooner. ;)
     
  16. azazel1024

    azazel1024 Very Senior Member

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    A lot of clients (no clue the percent) do not pick the very first one they see. They'll determine all surrounding SSIDs by collecting beacons for some period of time (I assume long enough that at least with standard beacon invervals they are likely to have seen them all, like 100ms, or 200ms or something like that). They'll often then connect to the SSID with the best combination of signal strength and advertised MCS rates.

    I have absolutely NO doubt that there are clients out there that are simply first come first serve (for recognized SSIDs) and probably others that monitor, but only look at signal strength. That just isn't my experience with a lot of clients.
     
  17. stevech

    stevech Part of the Furniture

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    Many/most don't choose best RSSI.
    And most don't seek a better signal strength so long as the one in use is working at all, any bit rate.
    IEEE and WiFi don't mandate any particular behavior.
     
  18. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    IOS/MacOS X - the native clients track more than just RSSI - they also track CINR, as such, they make reasonable decisions on which band/AP to select - and the clients do track other AP's/Radio's within the same SSID set - this is not dependent on having Airport Extreme's or Express's as the AP - this is general guidance overall.

    Breaking out the AP's/Radio's into different SSID's will effect the user experience in a negative manner there.

    In my experience, Win8 and Win7 behave similar when using the native WiFi clients - third party SW may work, might not - Cisco Clients are pretty good about it, as is Intel's client SW - ASUS's SW for the USB-56AC isn't very smart, as it tracks the MAC addr from my experience, rather than the SSID - so it's a bit confused when offered mutliple AP's on the same SSID/band class..

    Android 4.0 and later - the native client provided by Google seems to be fairly smart - third parties can get into trouble if they replace the native client with their own - this is for both OHA compliant (e.g. Google Services, etc) and AOSP (Android OpenSource Project, e.g. not OHA compliant).

    At the house - I run an Apple Airport network with 2 AP's - common SSID across both bands - I mostly work from home these days, and I do a lot of VOIP calls with a SIP client on my iPhone (CounterPath Bria, very good client) or MS Linc 2013 - walking around the house as I typically do, the handset will transparently handoff from AP to AP and is band class aware - just works... and this goes for both Android (Samsung GS4) and IOS (iPhone 5 and iPad Mini Retina).

    At the office - current job runs Aruba - again, common SSID's (we run two, CampusWIFI, and CampusGUEST) and no problems here with Windows PC's on Win7/IntelWiFi - Macs, and a mix of Android/IOS handsets and tablets.

    Previous job a few years back - Cicso Aironet's A/B/G, again, common SSID's across both bands.

    Again, everyone's situation is different - and this is why most vendors (including Apple) offer the means to use different SSID's for the 5Ghz radios.

    My recommendation is to keep things the same - and focus on where the clients will be at, locating the AP's for best coverage across both bands.

    sfx
     
  19. code65536

    code65536 Occasional Visitor

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    Are you sure it's entirely up to the client? The driver does have some say in it, since the Intel driver offers a band preference option in the driver parameters that does have an effect.

    And I've found that there is quite a bit of variance in the behavior depending on the chipset (and I always install my drivers using bare INF files, so I'm always dealing with the native client).

    I'm my experience, my Nexus 4 and 5 do a fairly poor job of picking the right band; I used to have my Nexus connect to the common SSID, but I've since given up on that.
     
  20. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

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    Intel ProSet allows this - e.g. you can select a preference, but this is not absolute - better to leave it on "No Preference" - and for Roaming Aggressiveness - set it at "Medium" which is the best balance between roaming and performance

    The driver/ProSet SW will usually make the right choice... given a common SSID environment to let it work with.

    sfx
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2014

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