Using older routers to expand a mesh wifi footprint

Hi,

I'd like to use (if possible) some older routers as APs to expand the footprint of asus mesh. These routers are all different makes, so they will not mesh. Top speed isn't important, it just needs to be without dropouts. These won't have any "backhaul". I want to install them at the periphery of the cloud.

They'll all be using at least wpa2 with a 64 char key. They'll have, if possible, openwrt installed on them. The routers that are mesh do not have openwrt.

is this feasible?

Does "Asus mesh" use standard 802.11s Wifi mesh, or something proprietary like AVM uses in the FritzBox line?

If the former, then "probably yes", else "most likely not", my guess would be.

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I'm p. certain asus mesh is proprietary.
There's only one way of finding out really, and that's to experiment.
I'll post my findings here.

other things I was worrying about:

  1. will an old router still be secure, using wpa2
    [a] using its oem firmware
    [b] using openwrt

  2. i worry if it's the hardware. if it is, it'd fall into the "can't be fixed" category and id have to junk it.

I don't like junking things that on the face of it continue to work to a standard, unless there's something else overwhelmingly bad about them, like if they use too much electricity, ir if they're erratic in hardware and I can't fix them.

How would I find out?

There are a lot of possibilities where it might be "standard" as to the protocol but the oem firmware refuses to recognise it so it's not seen in the fluffy frontend of the mesh master node.

edit: ...which possibly might preclude it getting mesh visible on the master but would mesh nonetheless.

Some of these routers don't have mesh capability at all.

Says the cardboard box about the original firmware, or the output of iw phy on those routers once running openwrt?

Can you run iw dev , and iw phy on the Asus Wifi mesh master?

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I'll try! :smiley:

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-sh: iw: not found

this is stock asus firmware

Without knowing the ASUS environment specifically.

But it's very, very rare for this kind of OEM firmwares to support 802.11s (afaik only google does), they tend to use some kind of proprietary setup, which will not be compatible with OpenWrt (or the firmware of other vendors). This means a wireless backhaul is likely out of the question, meaning you will need a dumb-AP setup with a wired backhaul instead.

In general, you will want the same access credentials (encryption type, ESSID, PSK) among all APs in your environment (exceptions may apply, but then it needs to be completely different, including the ESSID), so all your participants need to support the same encryption standards.

Keep in mind that your APs might be at the edges of your network, but they're not operating in a vacuum either (and the range of their interference is around three times of its highlevel visibility), so adding these might actually hurt performance and reliability of your wireless network as a whole (as there are only few non-overlapping channels). I would recomend against mixing too disparate APs into one network (ac, ax, be, fine - but n, g, b really are a major step down, just avoid those, they really hurt your performance).

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OK thanks :smiley:

Then it is not a mesh that you are looking for.

See the OpenWrt mesh user guide:
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/mesh/80211s

To quote that guide:

What is a Mesh?

A mesh network is a multi point to multi point layer 2 mac-routing backhaul used to interconnect mesh peers. Mesh peers are generally non-user devices, such as routers, access points, CPEs etc..

Generally, a user device, such as a phone, tablet, laptop etc. cannot connect to a mesh network, instead, connection is achieved via a mesh gateway, a special type of mesh peer.

There's 2 mesh routers (a master and a client) connected meshlike giving a ssid let's call it 'cloud'. These have backhaul, according to the mesh master.

There's a couple of other non-mesh routers i'd like to connect to this SSID.
They would be sited near the periphery of usable signal for this ssid. They'd have the same SSID. They won't have backhaul.

There might be other issues too as these non-mesh ones are ancient. No ac even.
I'm not expecting mega bandwidth from them. All the're really for is for calls over wifi for a mobile and calls via a voip landline.

Ah, so you just want to use old routers to extend your wifi coverage.
The fact that there is a proprietary wireless link between two of them does not have any relevance.
You want these old routers to connect in STA (station) mode to an existing ssid and simultaneously provide a new AP (access point) mode interface.

You might find the existing oem firmware can do this, most do.
It is often called "hotspot wireless tethering" or similar.

If you can get these routers flashed with OpenWrt, then this shows how it can be done, at least in principle:
https://openwrt.org/docs/guide-user/network/wifi/ap_sta

You will probably want to omit the "wireless wwan" parts and configure as a pure bridge. But you can try is as it is as proof of concept at least.

To save a bit of landfill, an older version of OpenWrt that supports/fits is pretty much safe to use as these will not be facing the Internet and located in the privacy of your home.

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Thanks - this is what I'm hoping. Only testing will tell if it works well enough.

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