So confused about terminology for Wireless APs (Mesh, Fast Roaming, etc)

Markess

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May 19, 2018
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Seems like for every explanation I get/read elsewhere (vendor forums, L1T, Smallnetbuilder, even [gasp] Reddit), I get/find another explanation that contradicts the first. In some cases the people posting get really snippy with each other. Some people are just really passionate about their WiFi I guess. Thought I'd ask here, since folks here are generally pretty knowledgeable...and polite. I usually try to figure things out on my own rather than run for help, but my head is spinning.

My Planned Updated Home Network:
  1. A pfSense box (firewall/router)
  2. Two Access Points. Both will have their own individual wired connection back to the router.
  3. Two managed switches, one behind the pfSense box, and one in the room with the rack.
So, trying to assimilate a bunch of conflicting info and reading between the lines, I think these statements on the AP part of things are correct? Or am I still seriously confused? o_O
  1. Because my backhaul is wired: my setup won't technically be "mesh" even though I'll probably be using mesh capable hardware, since its a pretty common feature these days?
  2. Because backhaul is wired: if the AP can be set-up without a controller, I should be able to get them both operating by specifying the same SSID, Key type, and key? In some cases, I've read that each AP needs to be on a different channel? Not sure if that's a "sometimes"/only with certain hardware thing, or just isn't always mentioned?
  3. To have "seamless" handoff between APs though, I'll need to enable "Fast Roaming" (802.11r)? Some brands/models that will do basic operation without a controller could still require a controller to enable Fast Roaming, or other features like VLAN? As an example (if I understand the documentation correctly): Two Engenius APs from the "On Premises" product line (e.g. EWS357AP) can do Fast Roaming together without a controller. But, two TP-Link Omada APs (e.g. EAP620 HD) won't be able to do Fast Roaming (apparently won't work at all) without a controller?
The Goal: Want to get two APs with decent signal strength and quality, capable of VLANs in the future, and that will allow roaming in my ~2700sf, 2 story frame construction house. :)
 
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elvisimprsntr

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May 9, 2021
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  1. Because my backhaul is wired: my setup won't technically be "mesh" even though I'll probably be using mesh capable hardware?
  2. Because backhaul is wired: if the AP can be set-up without a controller, I should be able to get them both operating by specifying the same SSID, Key type, and key? In some cases, I've read that each AP needs to be on a different channel? Not sure if that's a "sometimes"/only with certain hardware thing, or just isn't always mentioned?
  3. To have "seamless" handoff between APs though, I'll need to enable "Fast Roaming" (802.11r)? Some brands/models that will do basic operation without a controller could still require a controller to enable Fast Roaming, or other features like VLAN? As an example (if I understand the documentation correctly): Two Engenius APs from the "On Premises" product line (e.g. EWS357AP) can do Fast Roaming together without a controller. But, two TP-Link Omata APs (e.g. EAP620 HD) won't be able to do Fast Roaming (apparently won't work at all) without a controller?
The Goal: Want to get two APs with decent signal strength and quality that will allow roaming in my ~2700sf, 2 story frame construction house. :)
1. Wired backhaul it better. Unless the APs have a dedicated backchannel for MESH, your bandwidth will effectively be cut in half.
2. I have two Engenius EWS377APv3, wired backhaul, without a controller, both bands and APs have the same SSID and passphrase. One AP is fixed on one pair of channels (11,149), the other AP is fixed on a pair of completely different channels (1,40). This is necessary to prevent collisions, i.e. clients sending/receiving information from two APs at the same time. This is typical for any deployments with multiple APs on the same SSID (hotels, businesses, etc.) A controller will help you manage all the APs and automatically select the best channels for each AP given the next nearest neighboring AP with the same SSID or from overlapping SSIDs from neighbors. I'm not managing 100's of APs that would require a controller. With Engenius, if you want a central or cloud based management, Engenius offers a free, no license required application or you can buy a Skykey, or simply buy the cloud managed versions of their APs. I prefer local management. Once again, I'm only managing 2 APs. I can't justify the additional expense of a controller or the cloud version of the APs.
3. The EWS377APv3 has built in band steering (if enabled) and fast roaming (latest firmware doesn't even give you the option to turn fast roaming off.) Clients automatically switch between bands and APs without any dropped connections. This is even without a controller. I can't speak to TP-Link

If you do go with the EWS377APv3, don't buy a used one off evilBay. The v1 and v2 have a smaller heat sink. v3 has a much larger ribbed heat sink. Unfortunately, most, if not all, the sale sites still include pictures of the plain heatsink. I bought mine on Amazon (shipped and sold) and got the v3 units. There are a number of OEMs that sell the exact same rebranded hardware at higher prices and/or with crippled capability.

IMG_0050-1536x1152.jpg
 
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Markess

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@elvisimprsntr , thanks for the detailed response & recommendations!

Thanks also for your other recent posts. I got all excited after finding the Netgear WAX218's FCC ID was the same as the Engenius EWS377AP, but was only $109 at Newegg. Then I found your post about how its hobbled and missing some of the features I really wanted (including proper roaming), so was able to avoid that mistake!

With Engenius, between my house's layout (and my budget), I'm considering if three EWS357AP might work better for me than two EWS377AP. The house is roughly split down the middle by tight collection of closets, bathroom fixtures, in-wall plumbing, microwaves, and other large metallic kitchen/laundry/steel core door bits that tend to ruin WiFi penetration. So, an AP on each floor on one side of the house, and a third on the ground floor of the other side (its a split-level) may work better than two APs with a theoretically longer range & penetration. Yes, the EWS357AP is AX1800 instead of AX3600, and gigabit on the LAN port. But, I don't even have any AX gear (except the Wife's iPhone) or 2.5G capability right now, and don't see having any for a while yet, plus its about $100 less for three of them vs two EWS377AP.
 
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elvisimprsntr

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May 9, 2021
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The 357 is essentially the same hardware as the 377 with less antennas and runs the same firmware. I think the 357 uses a different internal Ethernet switch, thus why it’s only 1Gb. I bought and installed a 357 at my parents place. I tested it for a couple of weeks at my place before deploying it. Works well, but WiFi speeds are definitely lower. Still suits my parents needs well.
 
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