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bassjunky

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 15, 2009
218
60
Texas
So I have a latest gen Time Capsule as my router in the office closet, a 2nd gen Airport Express in the living room, and an old Airport Express in the garage. All are connected by ethernet. I've setup the 2nd gen Airport Express to extend the wireless network, the 1st gen APX is only a client for Airplay.

My understanding is that devices will connect to whatever stronger signal it sees depending on it's location, whether the TC or 2nd Gen APX. Is this not a mesh network? Should the devices not roam between the two? Despite it not working like I want it to, is this not correct?

My issue is that most of my devices seem to connect to the TC, even though it's much further away and many more walls away from the 2nd gen APX, just on the other side if the wall, really strangling throughput. Why is this? Shouldn't most devices be connecting to the closest AP device? I can't discern any rhyme or reason as to which of my devices connect to which AP. Further, they sometimes connect at 2.4, sometimes at 5GHz with either of the APs. Changing channels has had little affect.

Any thoughts?
 

techwarrior

macrumors 65816
Jul 30, 2009
1,250
498
Colorado
So, it might be wording, but if the 2G APX is extending the network, that implies it is connecting wirelessly to the router in Apple terminology.

In AP Utility\Apple terminology, you "Extend" wirelessly, or "Create" a wireless roaming network. Since you state all are connected by wire, the proper setting on the 2G APX would be to "Create a Wireless Network" on the wireless tab, and "Off (Bridge Mode)" on the network tab.

Extending puts the wireless radios in a dual function mode, one part for upload\download data between the router and APX, the other for client connections. In short, you cut throuhput in half. So, clients probably see the router signal as a better option, the TC has a stronger radio so the split function makes it more desirable of the two signals. In this case, the ethernet is not used, despite being connected. Further, TC is broadcasting 802.11ac/n on 5Ghz, and 802.11a\b\g\n on 2.4Ghz. 802.11ac far outperforms 802.11n, so clients that support ac will favor the TC Router's WiFi signal.

So, start with changing the 2nd Gen APX Wireless Network Mode to "Create" to enable the full WiFi signal to handle client connections and Ethernet to handle router uplinks.

To force cliients to use 5G, try naming the SSID different. For example, NETWORK and NETWORK5G. Then, on clients that can use 5Ghz, join that SSID, and "Forget" the 2.4Ghz SSID.

Since 5Ghz range is less than 2.4Ghz, you may need to join both networks on devices that roam further distances from the TC. They will tend to join 5G before 2.4G, but that is not always true as they tend to keep acceptable connections for reliability.

Finally, put some distance between access points. If one access point (the TC) is adequate for the entire home, unplug the APX. If needed to extend the range, put it far enough away from the router so there is a clear choice for clients, and minimal overlap. In the WiFi world, less is almost always better.

As for the 1st Gen APX, if just used for Airplay, it can be done in two ways. One is to turn Wireless OFF instead of client mode. In this setup, the Network > Router Mode should be Off (Bridge Mode). With Airplay enabled, the music will stream over Ethernet and the radio will be off to avoid interfering with the other signals. The second way is to leave the Wireless setting in Client mode and unplug the Ethernet. The APX will connect to the Router or other APX wirelessly and streaming will use the wireless connection. This link should be more than adequate for music streams which only use 1-3 mbps of bandwidth. I have done exactly this in both modes, both work equally well, but reducing Wireless Signals always improves performance for other devices.
[doublepost=1510927787][/doublepost]Oh, and no, this is not a true Mesh network. Mesh WiFi uses different radios between access points to preserve the client connection capacity. They also have advanced algorithms to understand the network better and find the best path. Apple does not support Mesh technology, and virtually every vendor has it's own variation on Mesh implementations, the standard is pretty lossely defined. In smaller spaces, Mesh will do very little other than drain your pocketbook.
 

bassjunky

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 15, 2009
218
60
Texas
So, it might be wording, but if the 2G APX is extending the network, that implies it is connecting wirelessly to the router in Apple terminology.

In AP Utility\Apple terminology, you "Extend" wirelessly, or "Create" a wireless roaming network. Since you state all are connected by wire, the proper setting on the 2G APX would be to "Create a Wireless Network" on the wireless tab, and "Off (Bridge Mode)" on the network tab.

Extending puts the wireless radios in a dual function mode, one part for upload\download data between the router and APX, the other for client connections. In short, you cut throuhput in half. So, clients probably see the router signal as a better option, the TC has a stronger radio so the split function makes it more desirable of the two signals. In this case, the ethernet is not used, despite being connected. Further, TC is broadcasting 802.11ac/n on 5Ghz, and 802.11a\b\g\n on 2.4Ghz. 802.11ac far outperforms 802.11n, so clients that support ac will favor the TC Router's WiFi signal.

So, start with changing the 2nd Gen APX Wireless Network Mode to "Create" to enable the full WiFi signal to handle client connections and Ethernet to handle router uplinks.

To force cliients to use 5G, try naming the SSID different. For example, NETWORK and NETWORK5G. Then, on clients that can use 5Ghz, join that SSID, and "Forget" the 2.4Ghz SSID.

Since 5Ghz range is less than 2.4Ghz, you may need to join both networks on devices that roam further distances from the TC. They will tend to join 5G before 2.4G, but that is not always true as they tend to keep acceptable connections for reliability.

Finally, put some distance between access points. If one access point (the TC) is adequate for the entire home, unplug the APX. If needed to extend the range, put it far enough away from the router so there is a clear choice for clients, and minimal overlap. In the WiFi world, less is almost always better.

As for the 1st Gen APX, if just used for Airplay, it can be done in two ways. One is to turn Wireless OFF instead of client mode. In this setup, the Network > Router Mode should be Off (Bridge Mode). With Airplay enabled, the music will stream over Ethernet and the radio will be off to avoid interfering with the other signals. The second way is to leave the Wireless setting in Client mode and unplug the Ethernet. The APX will connect to the Router or other APX wirelessly and streaming will use the wireless connection. This link should be more than adequate for music streams which only use 1-3 mbps of bandwidth. I have done exactly this in both modes, both work equally well, but reducing Wireless Signals always improves performance for other devices.
[doublepost=1510927787][/doublepost]Oh, and no, this is not a true Mesh network. Mesh WiFi uses different radios between access points to preserve the client connection capacity. They also have advanced algorithms to understand the network better and find the best path. Apple does not support Mesh technology, and virtually every vendor has it's own variation on Mesh implementations, the standard is pretty lossely defined. In smaller spaces, Mesh will do very little other than drain your pocketbook.

Awesome write man, thanks. Yeah, I do have the 2nd gen APX setup in bridge mode since it is connected by Ethernet to the TC. I'll have to do some more experimenting, possibly moving the APs around the house, maybe setup a separate 5GHz SSID. I like them being the same SSID, but it doesn't always seem to give the best results.

Again, thanks, I'll keep messing with it. And thanks for the clarification about mesh networks, didn't realize they use a completely different radio and frequency for the back haul.
 

techwarrior

macrumors 65816
Jul 30, 2009
1,250
498
Colorado
Yeah, I do have the 2nd gen APX setup in bridge mode since it is connected by Ethernet to the TC.

But, they key is in the Wireless setting. Make sure the APX is set to Create a Wireless Network, not extend. I know it seems a little counter-intuituve, but you don't want to extend wirelessly if you are trying to improve performance.

didn't realize they use a completely different radio and frequency for the back haul.

Different radio for sure, just like routers use WAN and LAN ports to separate traffic. Different channels means slightly different frequencies.

WiFi channels can be thought of like AM\FM radio signals. With WiFi, access points mux several channels\frequencies simultanously (typically 5), almost like multiple wires. Any traffic on other channels is tuned out, just like when you tune in an FM radio station, the other stations in the surrounding channels are ignored. So a mesh network will use different channels for the backhaul to avoid interfering with the data being sent t\f clients, but in the same general frequency range.

2.4Ghz WiFi actually used 2401 - 2495 MHZ frequencies, AM radio uses 540-1600kHz. So, if the client radio on an access point is tuned to channel 11, it will actually use channels 9-13 and the backhaul would likely use 1-5. Still in the 2.4Ghz frequency range, but actually 2401-2443 for the backhaul, and 2441 - 2483 for client connections. Minimal overlaps, so minimal interference.
 
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