To join or not to join a network?

To join or not to join a network? As I understand it, when you join two or more OpenWRT routers, you are not creating a mesh, but just a hierarchy. Do I understand this correctly?

A mesh would be peer to peer, but joined network would be 1 router acting as a wifi hub, and other routers just clients of the designed hub, right?

Better approach: define your goals (be it what you want to deploy, or what you want to learn).

People often confuse mesh and roaming:

  • Mesh is a very specific type of wireless connection between multiple APs where the backhaul is handled wirelessly.
  • Roaming is a client side action that allows a device to roam between different APs. This does not require any special packages/protocols and all that is really required is that there are multiple APs on the same network with the same SSID and password.

"joining" a network is not really specific enough to define here, as it depends on the topology and use case.


You could also connect ad hoc (IBSS or peer-to-peer) and merely route traffic between their interfaces. As @psherman noted, it depends on your use case...also your setup and wifi chip capability. OLSR uses ad hoc between devices to route in a mesh (it can also route to/across wired).

Some technologies allow the client (be it a mobile device or a router) to connect to other APs as it moves.

"Mesh" is just a term for data link or routing mechanism to accomplish either seamless connectivity, seamless routing, or both.


Guys, thanks for the clarification, it was the definition of the terms, that I was after per my question. The 'joining network' feature implied to me just a way to set a common SSID/BSSID configuration, but as I continued to read more, question or two came to mind. I could not see a simple consumer wifi-router even with OpenWRT installed really being that sophisticated.

I am a 30 year IT retired, but relatively new to OpenWRT use. So I wanted to make sure there was not some odd or loose use of technology applicable. In actual practice, all I need is simple roaming client side.

I have a 3000 sq home, that has a layout that tends to absorb radio signals, so using 3 routers, basically one for the courtyard, and one for the main house, and one for a separate casitas. Will likely add more more for the pool area at some point.

Fortunately, when I moved in, I wired the house for cat 5e (actually used cat 6 wiring, got a deal on it), so the wireless really is just device end point connectivity for devices bridged into the wired network. Trying to get any stable high volume streaming via only wireless just is not going to happen in my house, too many signal sinks in the structure/walls.

Going forward, I should split wireless traffic and current (gaming) wired traffic to VPNs or even separate physical networks (since I have it available), so I can also firewall things to a best practice approach, a future effort. But one thing at time, as they say.

Thanks for the replies.

If you have wires to all the places then what you need is a router (connected to your ISP) and several access points (connected to your LAN wired net) the access points should all use the same SSID. You can use wireless router hardware as an access point but it won't be routing and hence it's function will not be "a router"

1 Like

You should definatly have a read of this then :slight_smile:

Lee has been there and done similar. Might give you a few ideas. He's also done a couple articles on wifi placement. the TLDR is use wifi points with backbones and do some signal mapping software. Much like him i do rather like the ubiquiti devices. HOWEVER i will say this. their firmware can be a shitshow. Get a stable version and then dont let it auto upgrade your devices and you will be happy.

I personally run a NanoPi R4s with 4gb of ram and a docker container with the ubiquiti software which controls my AC-Lite wifi point. If required i could add more or even upgrade to a wifi 6 one. I'd like a ubiquiti switch too but thats just for statistics really and better VLAN support as well as POE for the wifi.

(edit. found and linked the wifi guide)

1 Like

I also like this video which describes the idea of AP placement and tuning. While it is showing this with Unifi APs, the same concepts apply to all wifi APs, provided that the basic settings (i.e. channels, power) are available to the user.

I personally use Unifi UAP-AC-PROs on the stock firmware (4.3.20 for me) and have had excellent results (but as noted -- the Unifi AP firmware has been disastrous over the past 2 years... @mercygroundabyss's characterization of it as a shitshow is being generous, but I agree entirely).

IMO, you don't need to use 802.11r or any special additional methods for roaming. In fact, I'd recommend not using them, at least initially, since a properly tuned setup can work really well without, and some devices don't play nice with fast roaming.

1 Like

If you get a stable firmware that works? stick with it and just leave it. Let others do the testing. The hardware is good. The firmware... not so much. Which honestly is a real shame because as a setup its amazing. I love the controller and the app. Its just badly let down by unstable firmware.

And having to keep turning off auto updates is infuriating too.

oh the tears i've seen over that...

1 Like

Yeah. I have 3 unifi setups (mine, my dads, and my in-laws). I have kept them all on 4.3.20 because everything since has been broken in one way or another. Auto-updates = off, always. Unless you like waking up to a broken network without any obvious reason.

1 Like

Maybe I should throw away everything I own and live in the mountains and grow my own food and never think about technology ever again

^^ Until he looks up at the attic upon constellation Musk and wishes he had more than a slingshot.

1 Like

if i had dual or more AP's i'd do more testing. I'm on 6.2.15? i think right now with my AC-Lite. Its honestly embarressing reading their forums at times. The multiple branches they have open are confusing as hell.

They really should cut it right back. Just have a stable, beta, nightly set of branches and ONLY parse from them. But my concerns are more they arent doing proper QA and thus fixes go in random places and arent properly backported or upstreamed. Then doing maybe bi yearly stable releases and monthly betas? I'd have strangled a few people if i was relying on their kit in a business environment. 4.3.20 and 4.3.28 are rock solid. i think i used 28 cos the ac-lite got better rates with it. The 6 series of firmware cut my wifi speeds in half due to a fun bug. the 6.2 range once you manually reset the 5g to 40 instead of 20 performs far better.

yeah poor lee and his setup. I do understand his "why am i doing this" moments. I've been there myself. Usually also at 2am and hating myself.

Honestly half of the battle is your planning.

wifi mesh's can work as long as you manage the traffic. Flood them out? and the kids will scream that youtube isnt loading.

Wifi AP's with backbone Lan to a switch will ALWAYS beat wifi mesh. Its just a case of threading the cables. POE switch and it makes AP deployment easy.

Then just a good signal map and adjust AP's till you get good coverage and bolt them to the wall/ceiling.

Then its beer o'clock :slight_smile:

Their QA is excellent, if that stands for “question avoidance” :rofl:

1 Like

Interesting, my router to ISP is an Edge4, and I have a stand-by Edge 4 that powers up if the main fails. Not active/active, but since I only have one ISP IP... running functional active/active not really possible unless I setup a lot of scripting to flip on failure. Overkill for a home setup IMHO.

And yes, the house has at least one 1G wired line to almost everywhere so my WiFI is almost always line of sight, except for the pool area right now. Since my home 'eats' signals/strength of signal, this works well. I have had a roaming setup since I moved in about 12 years ago, but since I was new to OpenWRT, the idea of how or why a 'joined' network came to point.

I had no idea it would trigger (in a positive sense) such a discussion. It is all really interesting truly.

Of course when you own your own home, you can do things as you like of course. I have a gamer friend that lives in a location where the restrictions are so tight, he can't even hang pictures on the walls without a hassle. So he of course has a bridged wifi setup... and about once per gaming session he will scream about his wifi setup doing something odd... like the cat walked through his signal.... of course we hear about this, only after it is over, because his connection drops for a few seconds... which is a major sin to gamers.

For the original AP placements I setup the first one where I knew I would use it just in room, the casitas. Then I use my smart phone with signal strength app, to walk the house, room to room and map out the locations that signal blocking was the worst. Then I would move the AP to the next location and repeat the process. It took a while, maybe 2 hours, but with just my phone and one router, had a reasonable signal map. Then I just placed a 2 other routers to cover the dead zones, and tested again, roaming. The only real issue I have now is that main house router just can't handle the pool area, combination of distance, obstructions, and the router is nothing special. But have an wired drop, I can use near where likely the backyard AP should be place, so at some point problem solved.

1 Like

Yup, pretty much what I did. You are right Edge firmware can be a PITA, I was emailing and such with the devs on a offloading bug in the Edge4 2.0.9 F2 firmware, for weeks, had to finally prove to them the bug was specific to 2.0.9 F2, update, but running both my Edge 4 routers concurrent, one with offloading enabled, it would randomly disconnect and reconnect but not reboot sometimes fine for an hour only to disconnect and reconnect multiple times in a few minutes, had nothing to do with the ISP, or the traffic load, I ran endless video streaming pushing the router CPUs. The other Edge4 with the offload features selectively disabled.... never disconnected over 48 hour test window using the same test scenario.

1 Like

Yeah, there was SO MANY wifi networks where I live, when I first got here, that were horrible at staging, I finally setup a network scanner, and just watched everything for a few days, to find the worst issues. I even had to tell a few neighbors to secure their networks, since I could see everything they were doing with home built receiver/sniffer. One guy still has to secure anything, and right now if I wanted I could turn off his AC, cause his garage door to lock in the open position, etc. Never mind I have one other guy that keeps turning up his transmission strength because he has a horrible setup, and drowning out/bleeding into the house next to him, why? Because the houses side by side refuse to tune their channels/signal strength. If I had a dime for every time I have seen 'Geek Squad' part out front of the either house? LOL

1 Like

Having just read Lee's post, one comment really jumped out at me... " I wanted WPA2 Enterprise Wi-Fi, with cryptographic certificate-based client authentication via RADIUS that I could control and revoke, rather than a lame-ass WPA passphrase."

The other comment... "I love the security of being able to really and truly shove all the IoT crap into its own isolated and firewalled segment." This is my next challenge. I, too, really do need to get the IoT stuff isolated.

1 Like

Glad to give you some ideas. Just remember its your fault when its 3am and everything is broken. :boom:

1 Like

LOL!!! Yeah... I remember the days, when the pager fired at 2am, and it was some technical support person asking me to drive for 2 hours to a location I had never been to before, and save the day, so to speak. Thank God... I was 30 something then! LOL!!!

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 10 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.