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Old 02-12-2008, 02:42 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Successful UMA range extension using two AP's and WDS

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This is a long winded post about my nightmare to get my entire house covered for UMA. Just thought I would post all the details in case it helps any of you who are having issues with extending the range of your WIFI in your home/office to ensure you don't lose UMA coverage...

I live in NC where there is no UMA to EDGE handoff since Tmo has no service offering. Hopefully this will change as soon as their SunCom integration finalizes. Because UMA->EDGE doesn't work, I found that I was dropping my UMA connection (and the whole call) when I would walk anywhere near the front of my house.

I was on a Linksys WRT54G v2 running Sveasoft for a long time which worked really well for UMA but even with the output signal cranked up, I couldn't reach the front of the house. Finally after about 6 years, my WRT54G died.

In my quest to get more range with a new router, I went through three different routers and one repeater in the last week to see if I could find a router which had more range and still works with UMA. I tried the Netgear WPN-824 RangeMax G, Linksys WRT160N router, Linksys WRE54G Range Expander and the Apple Airport Extreme N.

All firmware were stock and up to date. I won't go into why each one of them failed but in general, the Apple didn't support UMA, the netgear range was not that great, the WRT160N signal kept going up and down, and the Range Expander doesn't support UMA and was a nightmare for a very literate technology person to setup.

I finally got everything working by buying two Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 routers from Circuit City. They are no longer being supplied as Buffalo is in some legal proceedings over some patents, but I called around and found a Circuit City that still had some in stock. You can check the status of their legal proceedings here: Buffalo Technology - Products - Wireless

The Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 has a switch on the bottom which switches from router/ap to repeater / bridge / ap. So I followed the directions here at http://www.buffalotech.com/support/g...guring_WDS.pdf (warning PDF) and got both the router and bridge / repeater working in about 20 minutes using WDS.

My laptop could then roam all around the house and yard and you could watch it switch between AP's without any issues. I was worried the 8320 wouldn't be as good at the switching.

I was surprised to find that the blackberry is just as good at the handovers. The 8320 won't update its network details page to show you that you have roamed over to the other AP in most cases, but if you watch the Client Monitor on the Buffalo stock firmware, you can easily see the 8320 moving from one AP to the other as you walk through the house while on a call. Really cool!

I have only been testing this for about a day now so I am sure all of this can come crashing down. I have my fingers crossed.

I played around with DD-WRT and Tomato firmware on the Buffalo and though they seem awesome, I reverted to factory firmware to see if I could get this working first on it. I don't really need to crank up the signal output now that there are two AP's but if I find uptime/reliability issues with the stock firmware I will definitely be changing over to either Tomato or DD-WRT.

Anyways, feel free to PM me if you want technical details of the setup.
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Old 02-12-2008, 04:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice write-up. I have the same issue at my house where I don't have good coverage on my front porch and my phone is constantly dropping calls. I currently have the T-Mo Linksys router, and I was weighing my options as to if I want to update the firmware to dd-wrt and up the power on it? Or get a second router and use WDS on it. However, it seems like your Buffalo routers already have that built in, which make my life easier. When I went to Buffalo's website, they said that they due to some litigation, they weren't able to supply any wireless equipment. So, I'd have to get a little lucky in finding them. Also, as far as the performance is concern, have you noticed any issues with UMA connecting? It seems that some people with stock routers without any QoS updates, seem to have issues with dropping their UMA connections. Thanks again for the info. It's good to see someone else with the same dilemma as me finding a solution.

Last edited by gatortone : 02-12-2008 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 02-12-2008, 04:18 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Gatortone,

I used to use a linksys wrt54g v2 with Sveasoft firmware which allowed me to crank up the radio output. It helped a little but still didn't get far enough for me. Also, if you crank it up too much, you risk a dirty signal as well as reducing the life of the radio.

You could try first putting something like dd-wrt on and see if the additional output power gets your coverage to where you need it. If that doesn't work then you could move on to looking into WDS. I found that WDS was the only way to go after trying a lot of other routers and realizing that none of them would get me enough coverage.

Only problem for you is that I am not sure if the tmo/linksys router supports WDS or dd-wrt, tomato, or Sveasoft firmwares.

As far as UMA goes, it connects just fine and very quickly. I also have almost no call quality degradation. The stock firmware on the buffalo doesn't seem to support WMM or QoS but my call quality is still very high, even when roaming between the access points. I don't do a bunch of high bandwidth downloading on the network so I guess the QoS isn't a big deal anyways. I will probably put dd-wrt back on if I start to see any issues.

As far as getting your hands on Buffalo equipment, try calling around to your local Circuit City's. They seem to have stock left over of these but it won't show on their website. You can also check ebay where people are selling them for around $100-$150 with shipping.
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Last edited by kd78 : 02-12-2008 at 04:21 PM.
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Old 02-13-2008, 12:06 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I too live in NC and like the OP and waiting for the merger to be completed, so that I can move my numbers over as T-Mo can't do it until the merger is completed. Enough though, I have the exact same WDS setup as the OP, except that I am using the Buffalos (bought 2 at CC on black friday when they were on sale) with DD-WRT as well. Have been running these since November with WDS set up and the power bumped. I now have coverage and handoffs all over the house as well as in the yard and all the way to the end of the street when I take the kids to the bus. Highly recommend the DD-WRT not only for the power increase, but for the QoS and WMM being implemented along with the new Bluetooth compatibility mode. If you can find Buffalos go for it (a while back they were able to be purchased through the DD-WRT website as they are outside of the US so not subject to the lawsuit constraints). If not some of the Linksys can be used as well. The T-Mo routers can only use third party firmwares with a JTAG and low level format of the eeprom, not really something for the inexperienced as it can yield one nice colored brick if not done correctly.
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Old 02-13-2008, 12:23 AM   #5 (permalink)
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The WRT54GS has increased range out of the box over the WRT54G and works very well for UMA right out of the box. I bought this for my mother-in-law's place and I get excellent UMA coverage there with few issues/drops. DD-WRT would likely even make it better.

Thanks for the great write up on the repeaters. Good info!

JC
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Old 02-13-2008, 11:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
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One thing to make sure people who are trying to do this are aware of: by default, when you configure a network on the Curve (or any of the other UMA phones, for that matter), they have "WiFi Roaming" disabled. To properly roam between WAPs with the same SSID providing access to the same network segment, you should edit the network profile after creating it and make sure that the "Allow inter-access point handover" option is checked.
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Old 02-13-2008, 11:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Cwichura, This is absolutely true. Make sure that the "Allow inter-access point handover" is checked in order to roam between AP's.

There are a lot of technical details I left out in my account of getting this to work. I also wasn't able to get a good stable UMA connection until I changed the WIFI channel to 3. I have about 5 networks in range and they already use 1, 6, and 11. I also turned off framebursting but didn't mess with the fragmentation threshold, cts, or beacon interval.
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Old 02-13-2008, 02:37 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Clark View Post
The WRT54GS has increased range out of the box over the WRT54G and works very well for UMA right out of the box. I bought this for my mother-in-law's place and I get excellent UMA coverage there with few issues/drops. DD-WRT would likely even make it better.

Thanks for the great write up on the repeaters. Good info!

JC
I never have any UMA coverage issues at the mother-in-law's place. I never go there, so no issues what so ever.

You might find even better results by setting the MAC to a permanent IP address and not allowing DHCP to assign it, and move it to the top of the list in the wifi list as that way it searches for and finds your main router/setup first.

Last edited by squeakr : 02-13-2008 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 02-13-2008, 04:38 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Yep....did that too!
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Old 02-19-2008, 04:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I have a 2wire 2701HG as my dsl, modem/router, and 2 linksys wap54gpe's connected with cat5e. my wireless gaming WAP hooked up instantly with a strong signal, but my 8320 does NOT consistenly find each WAP as i walk around my house. i have the handover box checked, my initial thought was the UMA doesnt work with WAP's, but maybe thats not true. any thoughts?
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Old 02-19-2008, 04:28 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Are your SSID, Channels, and encryption settings the same for all AP's?

I haven't messed around with that model of linksys WAP so I don't have any specific knowledge on if UMA is or isn't supported.

Does UMA work at each AP when you don't walk around?
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Old 02-22-2008, 11:10 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kd78 View Post
Are your SSID, Channels, and encryption settings the same for all AP's?

I haven't messed around with that model of linksys WAP so I don't have any specific knowledge on if UMA is or isn't supported.

Does UMA work at each AP when you don't walk around?
no, i have different SSID's for each WAP, but i do have each networked saved and checked to allow handovers. UMA does work, but only occassionaly.

how wud i dind out if my WAP's support UMA?
thanks
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Old 02-22-2008, 11:48 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I'm not an expert on multi WAP's but pretty sure they need the same ssid to handover like that.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:05 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Clark View Post
I'm not an expert on multi WAP's but pretty sure they need the same ssid to handover like that.
ok, i will try that
thanks
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Old 02-25-2008, 10:10 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Yes they must have same SSID's and Channel to hand off.
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Old 02-25-2008, 10:14 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kd78 View Post
Yes they must have same SSID's and Channel to hand off.
thanks for the confirm
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Old 02-26-2008, 03:18 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Yes they must have same SSID's and Channel to hand off.
Same SSIDs, yes. Same channel, no. In fact, you very specifically do not want them on the same channel.
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:57 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwichura View Post
Same SSIDs, yes. Same channel, no. In fact, you very specifically do not want them on the same channel.

Please explain why for the on the channel comment
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Old 02-26-2008, 07:26 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Using the same channel, you will experience radio interference when the two AP's radios overlap each other. Multiple APs are used to create a larger seamless roaming environment. Thus, there must be some overlap (usually shoot for about 10-15% overlap, depends on how fast a wireless node is likely to be moving when transiting the overlap area) between APs. You want the APs to be on different radio channels so that you do not experience radio interference. Wireless devices can roam between them so long as they share the same SSID. The channel doesn't matter when it comes to roaming handoffs, the client is switching from one BSSID to another BSSID within the same SSID. But if you use the same channel, you are creating radio interference in the overlap area that will result in a performance drop and in extreme cases might cause a wireless node to get knocked off entirely and have to re-associate.
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:04 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwichura View Post
Using the same channel, you will experience radio interference when the two AP's radios overlap each other. Multiple APs are used to create a larger seamless roaming environment. Thus, there must be some overlap (usually shoot for about 10-15% overlap, depends on how fast a wireless node is likely to be moving when transiting the overlap area) between APs. You want the APs to be on different radio channels so that you do not experience radio interference. Wireless devices can roam between them so long as they share the same SSID. The channel doesn't matter when it comes to roaming handoffs, the client is switching from one BSSID to another BSSID within the same SSID. But if you use the same channel, you are creating radio interference in the overlap area that will result in a performance drop and in extreme cases might cause a wireless node to get knocked off entirely and have to re-associate.
sweet, i am all over that
thanks
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