Dual-band wifi router to dual-band extender: can/should I use a single SSID name


I have a UK Virgin Media Suberhub 2ac Cable Modem/wifi router (rebranded Netgear) connected via wifi (ethernet not an option) to a LinkSys RE6700 extender. Currently I have it set up with four different SSIDs, for the 2.4 and 5 GHz networks from the router, and the 2.4 and 5 GHz from the extender, with the extender set to automatically attempt cross-band networking when possible. This is the most fine-grained, and optimal when I'm on the right network for the particular location in my flat, but it seems like it shouldn't be necessary.

Moreover, I sometimes start on the 5 GHz network from the router, which is fastest when near there, but when I move between areas of my flat I end up staying on the network with much worse performance as I move away (the 2.4 GHz extended network would be much better at that distance).

So there are two related questions:

  • Is it even possible to set things up with a single SSID for all four networks? Note that this isn't trivial, since the extender wants to separately know the SSIDs of its incoming 2.4 and 5 GHz networks. One possibility would be to use guest networks (possibly with hidden SSIDs?) whose sole purpose would be to feed into the extender. Or would it be easier just to have (say) two different SSIDs, one at 2.4 and one at 5 GHZ?

    The crucial point here is that the extender wants to separately connect to the router's 2.4 and 5 GHz networks, and so (I think) that they can't have the same SSID (hence the idea about using a guest network for this purpose).

  • Assuming it's possible, is it a good idea, or are there big performance hits? Would it automatically hand off to the stronger network as I move around the flat?



Best Answer

You can certainly share the same ESSID between multiple access points, as long as:

  • they also have identical security settings (e.g. WPA2-PSK with AES);
  • they connect to the same IP subnet (otherwise roaming devices in overlapping areas can get very confused).

Beyond that, no special configuration is needed – clients will roam to whichever AP they prefer.

Performance problems are mainly caused by extenders' uplink quality and radio signal interference. For example, a pure repeater which shares the same radio & antenna for everything will perform much worse than one with dedicated uplink radio (especially since it can use a different channel/frequency), which will still perform worse than a wired access point.

The SSID doesn't affect this – besides not being able to manually choose which AP to use anymore. (Sometimes the client might insist on using a slow repeater due to stronger signal.) Commercial "mesh WiFi" products have features to steer the client towards a faster AP.