Two wifi routers in house - same or different names?

The basic scenario: I’ve got a wifi router in one room of the house, and the signals do not reach where I’d like them to. In practical terms, the router can not be moved as it is actually a Uverse gateway, so it’s tethered by phone lines, coax and LAN cables.

I have wired LAN in the room I need to light up with wifi. I have an Apple Airport Express that can be used in two different ways - it can be a bridge and extend a signal, or it can be a stand-alone router.

Should I try to find some intermediate location for the Airport where it gets a decent signal from the Uverse gateway and have it act as a repeater, or should I plug it into the family room switch so it gets unrestricted WAN bandwith? The Airport is a dual-band “n” device, so having it link to the single-band b/g Uverse router would be limiting its potential.

If I plug it into the switch, the next question is whether I should set it with the Uverse SSID in hopes that wireless devices can roam the house and use whatever signal is stronger, or should I give it a different SSID?

Make them different SSID’s, it will already hop to the stronger signal, but this will avoid other addressing conflicts.

For the first question, you’ll have to plug it into the switch. The AirPort can only wirelessly extend the network if the other access point is also an AiPort.

On the second question, I work in a small school district that uses AirPorts for the wireless network. We had trouble with devices losing network connections when moving though the buildings. Apple’s tech support told us we needed to use the same SSID on all APs to be able to “hand off” seamlessly.

You do need to set it in bridge mode. Otherwise it will run its own DHCP service and it probably won’t play nice with the main router.

You can do either, but the normal thing to do (e.g. for companies that have many wireless access points) is to use the same network name for all of them. This way you don’t have to choose the right network for the part of the house you’re in - the computer will just do it. If there is any overlap between the signals at all, it is important that they be on different channels (ideally non-overlapping channels; the easiest way to do this is to use 1, 6, and 11, but you can choose other channels as long as they’re far enough apart). If one of the access points is a router, the other definitely needs to be in bridge mode. But definitely use it as a wired access point. The wireless network extension can work, but it is never as good as a second wired access point. It’s slower, and can be flaky. It’s the last resort for when you don’t have a wired connection. Since you do have a wired connection, there’s no reason to use it.

One thing to know is that large enterprise wifi networks have “controllers” that manage the access points, as well as other tricks that help clients transition seamlessly between APs. With two standalone APs in your house, you won’t have this, and depending on the devices you’re using, the handoff might not be as good as you’d like. For example, if you start out near one AP and then walk to the other, many devices will hang on to the first one even as the signal gets very weak, rather than switching to the second one when it becomes better. If you don’t roam between the areas much, this isn’t really an issue, and even if you do, it might work well enough for your needs. If it really bothers you, you CAN set them up with different network names, and then just manually choose the one that’s better for where you are. If they both have the same name, it can be hard to force your device to associate with a specific AP (and its ideas about the best to use may not agree with yours). Though again if you’re really in a situation where you have no signal from one AP in the other location, it’s not really an issue.

Another thought… If you have ethernet cabled from your router to your second AP location, does this mean you have ethernet throughout the house? Depending on the house layout, it might make sense to turn off the wireless on your router (use it solely as a router, not a wireless access point), and put a high quality wireless access point at some central location in the house, with a wired connection to the router. With that, you might be able to cover the whole house with a single AP. My house is on the order of 4000 square feet across two floors, and I cover my whole house with one AP. But it’s an enterprise-grade (read: expensive) AP; I tried it with the one my cable company gave me, and there were several parts of the house where I effectively had no signal. The nice thing about a single AP is that it avoids the channel overlap and roaming problems entirely (aside from any channel conflicts with nearby neighbors).

I’ve been fooling around with computers for 25 years and actually making money with them for 12, but I have much to learn about wireless. I haven’t even had wifi at home until last December.

Turns out the Airport utility does a good job of sniffing out the local environment and asking what I want it to do. After maybe two minutes, it set itself up as a bridge with the same SSID, and the dead zones are gone with the Uverse gateway and the Airport at opposite ends of the house.

I though about putting the Airport centrally, but Uverse won’t even let me change its SSID, much less disable it unless I put it in a Faraday cage.

Eh, if what you have set up now works, leave it alone :slight_smile: