Large Airport network

Kajje

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Dec 6, 2012
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Asia
I have set up quite a few (simple) Airport networks in my life. Well, setup might not be the right wording; attaching a couple of Airport Expresses into the power, launch Airport Utility and go.

Now I'd like to implement a larger network of about 20 APEs in a hotel environment. For having good wireless connectivity around a property, but also to be able to stream music in every room.

My questions are
- Is this amount of access points feasible?
- What are the caveats?
- How does the Airport handles the frequencies / channeling?
- Would a couple Airplay streams cough up the entire network?
- Can I go for wireless only or do I need some cabling?

The last question is quite important. In the past I tried to wire up APE's, treating them as normal access points (LAN in, WLAN out). No matter what I tried, all APE's ended up being wireless repeaters rather than getting source signal from the LAN cable.

Any suggestions, ideas or real life experience are greatly appreciated!
 

ZMacintosh

macrumors 65816
Nov 13, 2008
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I don't have answer for all your questions but I would suggest that the AirPort while potentially capable of this I don't think it was designed for this structure.

With that said, I would recommend hard wiring them together when/where ever you can when distributing them.
You may be able to achieve a bit of a load balance by changing some DNS/DHCP settings if they're extended.

But thats where Access points will come in beneficial. thats what they do, exactly what it is you're trying to achieve.
 

DJLC

macrumors 6502a
Jul 17, 2005
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North Carolina
AirPort could certainly do that, but just because it could doesn't mean it should. IMO it's a bunch of proprietary garbage.

I'd go with access points designed for that sort of scenario. I use Xirrus at my main job, but I've heard good things about Ubiquiti, AeroHive, and Meraki, just to name a few.
 
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Kajje

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Dec 6, 2012
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I would have choosed Ubiquity if not for the fact I need the Airplay option.
 

ZMacintosh

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Nov 13, 2008
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Well then go with ubiquity and use an Extreme/Express to join to the Access Point (AP).
 

Bruno09

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Aug 24, 2013
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Far from here
In the past I tried to wire up APE's, treating them as normal access points (LAN in, WLAN out). No matter what I tried, all APE's ended up being wireless repeaters rather than getting source signal from the LAN cable.
This is because you made a mistake : in Airport utility you chose "Extend a wireless network" instead of "Create a wireless network".

"Extend a wireless network" means extend the primary network wirelessly (= the Express acts as a wireless repeater).

If you want the Express to extend the network via the LAN cable, you must select "Create a wireless network", with the same SSID (wireless network name), same security, same password as the primary network.

This is creating a "roaming" network.
See here : https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204616
See also : https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202056
 
Last edited:

hobowankenobi

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Aug 27, 2015
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on the land line mr. smith.
You really need something like Ubiquiti or Open Mesh.

Trying to build a 20 WAP with any consumer gear will be a mistake. Lots of reasons, but having one WLAN with seamless handoff between each WAP is the single biggest thing.

Yes, you will need to run CAT 5e or better to each WAP. Even if you built a true wireless mesh network, you would need power to each device. Unifi or similar devices use POE (power over ethernet) so you don't need power.....just the single data cable. Of the two, data is much MUCH easier/cheaper to run.

Unifi or similar will give you one, continuous network. It will also let you easily manage channels and broadcast power of all devices from one dashboard, and more.
 
Last edited:

Kajje

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Dec 6, 2012
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Asia
I have installed several unifi networks and always prefer to offer this solution. It is indeed the best option.

But the customer wants to have Airplay in every room.
 

hobowankenobi

macrumors 65816
Aug 27, 2015
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on the land line mr. smith.
I have installed several unifi networks and always prefer to offer this solution. It is indeed the best option.

But the customer wants to have Airplay in every room.

This is challenging. If there was an existing WLAN, I would be inclined to say use the previous gen AppleTV, but that would require one for each room, plus the guest would have to switch inputs, and so on. Complicated.

We have this campus wide where I work (university) and it works well, with an ATV at every projector or large TV. But, as I mentioned, the user has to switch inputs. In this case, the options are:

1. ATV via WLAN with a unique name and ID number to enter
2. HDMI Cable input from computer

Using a switch something like this.

So power & cabling for each switch AND each ATV, plus WIFI, on top of the TV and cable box, assuming the std hotel setup.

Gets complicated fast.

----

Never used Airport Express for AirPlay....can't advise as to usability and complication and the ensuing support issues in a guest environment.

Seems like any solution will be fraught with design, config, user and support problems. Will be following along to see if others have any
 

ZMacintosh

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Nov 13, 2008
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In this environment, how does the client want to use AirPlay? just audio or audio+video?
 

ZMacintosh

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Nov 13, 2008
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If they're using external speakers you can get expresses to join the Access Points and use passwords to protect those so people aren't aimlessly streaming or ulterior motives. ;p
 
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