Wireless access points and extending my home network range

I like hardwired ethernet for reliability. No doubt speed is better, too, when that matters. But we use wireless too.

I have ethernet throughout the house. I bought two Apple Airport wireless access points and plugged them in at opposite corners of the house, to make the network better for phones and the like. I wanted each of these to distribute radio signal with better coverage over a larger total space. Unfortunately the books I bought and advice I found was oddly worded and ambiguous about which of several modes I should be using. This was all at least 10 years ago. Now, they often blink yellow in complaint, and seem to need a lot of updating frequently, and sometimes misbehave otherwise.

Should I get newer ones? Is there a simple name for the effect I’m trying to achieve, giving my house more wireless signal to access the same network?


Perhaps you are talking about a mesh network ?

One downside is, you need to buy however many nodes to cover your space. Maybe two isn’t enough to get wireless over your whole house?

Bridge mode.

If your access points are more than 10 years old, new ones will be much more capable, easier to set up, and relatively cheaper.

@DPRK is right that you are probably looking for a mesh network.

One important factor is the size and configuration of your house. That will determine the equipment you need

I recently installed a TP-Link Archer X-10 router and a few TP-Link AC1200 extenders that automatically form a OneMesh network. There are many other similar products, but these are well-reviewed, perform well, and are quite inexpensive.

If you can’t or don’t want to spend any more money, I’m sure that people here will offer some suggestions to maximize the performance of your existing equipment.

I don’t think so. My home network is primarily a star network, hardwired ethernet radiating out from a centralized switch. Most devices plug into ethernet recepticals in various rooms in my house.

But for our two cell phones, and any guests, I’d like to provide wireless connectivity. This is for “Verizon Wifi Calling” (their version of a femtocell I guess), as well as non-telephone usages. I do have a wireless router the phones can connect to. But we have a lot of space, and it’s not hard to get far enough away that there’s noticeably less signal. This is why I wanted the wireless access points. I think of them as providing separate radio fields which would be better in and beyond the north end of my house, and in and beyond the south end.

I don’t think I want the wireless access points to talk to each other wirelessly. They’re already hardwired to the central switch. Besides, what starts as typical wireless traffic is eventually going through the cable “modem”, not from wireless user to wireless user.

In that case, maybe you really do just want however many wireless nodes in “bridge mode”. I had something like that set up at one point, where the node had a wireless network interface and an Ethernet interface. The way I set it up, traffic would be passed between the interfaces so that wireless and wired devices would be on the same network. Once I even set it up backwards, because I did not feel like running a cable, so that the node connected to an existing wi-fi network and you could plug stuff into its Ethernet port and join the main network.

Ah, maybe I’m getting it! Before I plug things together, each wireless node would have created its own independent (but not very interesting) network, each one a wifi network. And of course I already had my wired network. So I plug the wireless nodes into various recepticals around my house, and the whole thing becomes one big aggregate network. Do I understand this right?

So, this means I want these little appliances to be in bridge mode.

Does that inform what I need to purchase? Or can I buy any old “wireless access points” and configure each one in bridge mode, will I get what I want?

Thank you DPRK!

Yes, this is what you want to do. Buy some wireless access points, or buy routers which can run in a access point (or bridged) mode. If you set all of your wireless networks to have the same name and password, then devices should seamlessly move from one to the other.

I’ve had very good luck with the Ubiquiti UniFi AP devices, but there are other choices.

To be clear. Wireless access points (APs) take a wired ethernet signal and turn it into Wi-Fi. Wireless routers take a connection from your ISP, and then create a new network over Wi-Fi and ethernet for use by your devices. Some devices can be either a router or an AP depending on how they’re configured.

To run a router in access point mode - simply turn off DHCP which hands out addresses. Plug it into the wired ethernet in one of the local ports, not the internet port. (No need to connect the internet port)

As a result, when a device connects to the wifi, the “request for IP address” broadcast is relayed from wifi over the wired network the router/AP is attached to, and your main router (the gateway to your internet) will respond with an address, which includes the IP address of the main router as the default gateway. So essentially, each such wifi point is a switch or bridge between the wifi and the rest of th network.

DHCP is done by broadcast packets, since initially the device has no personal IP address. Broadcasts are by definition broadcast throughout the whole network, as are the responses until the device accepts the given IP address. This assigned address includes IP address, default gateway address to get out of the local network, and DNS server to resolve names to addresses.

“Mesh” is for the situation where the AP’s are not attached to the wired ethernet, but relay to another wifi point (AP or router).

Not sure if newer versions of wifi fix this, but back when I fiddled with wifi - a device would continue communicating with the wifi point it connected to, until it no longer could. Fancy multipoint commercial networks handled this with central controllers - by the wifi point refusing to connect if the device had moved so the signal was stronger on another AP, and then the device would connect to this nearer AP. Homemade systems won’t necessarily do this, but disconnect/reconnect should connect you to the nearest wifi point.

That’s one thing I like about the UniFi stuff. It has these kind of enterprise level features at consumer level prices—-about $100 for the cheaper APs. There are some pretty sophisticated systems from some of the consumer brands, but I found a solution that works for me, so I haven’t paid attention to their features.

In the past, with just a few old Wi-Fi routers run in the exact setup you describe, it mostly worked with devices moving from one AP to another, but with lots of dropouts and reconnects as they moved around. I don’t get that with the UniFi stuff.

AirPort routers are old tech by today’s standards, but if you have them and they work, then so be it. Bridge mode is the way to do it when they’re wired and you already have another router, or use one as the router and the other in bridge mode. Bridge mode just turns the AirPorts into wi-fi access points rather than wi-fi access points + routers. The trick to configuring the wi-fi is to use the same SSID and security settings on all of the access points, that way mobile devices will (theoretically) hop from one to the other seamlessly while moving through the house.

I used a couple of AirPorts in an office environment this way back around 2015, with a wired-only router in the server closet. Even when the office was later upgraded to a more enterprise-level Cisco wi-fi system, there was one dead spot in the main conference room (bad mojo for presenters obviously) so I un-retired one of the AirPorts and bridged it to the new network to cover that one area. It worked fine since I made sure when designing the network that we had some extra Ethernet jacks scattered around the office.

One thing to keep in mind, which shouldn’t be an issue in the OP’s case, is that AirPort routers will NOT bridge/extend a wireless-only network with non-Apple routers. So you can’t use them to wirelessly extend a Netgear or Linksys or Cisco network, they must be connected via Ethernet in that case, but then they work fine. I think the reason is that AirPort uses a special radio or frequency or security protocol for the wireless backhaul that just doesn’t work with 3rd party routers.

Wow, this is great. This all makes more sense than any understanding I ever had in the past. I wish I had had this discussion years ago.

Thank you all!!