[FAQ] Using two routers together/ Extending Wi-Fi

jeffsayhi!

Standard Member
Hi all and good going on this HIGHLY detailed thread!

I have a situation which I am hoping will be a pretty easy one for most people on here!

I will shortly be moving into a new-build house which will have a BT Fibre point already installed but I will not be able to get it actually switched on for a few weeks after I move in. I do however make a lot of use of my home network currently (film & music streaming etc from a NAS drive) and would like to set this up if possible before the internet gets switched on.

The house is fully cabled with ethernet and has a network switch next to the BT point already so that should hopefully simplify matters.

Basically, my plan is to buy a router before I move in which i can plug into my network switch and use to create a home network with wi-fi. Obviously this will be a home network without internet. The aim being to stream films and music from my NAS drive around the house and have it controllable wirelessly from iPads etc. I'm assuming this won't be an issue?

Then when the internet gets switched on and I receive a BT/SKY/Virgin/whatever router, i would like to plug that into the switch and move the one I had been using to another room for use as a switch/access point/wi-fi booster.

I guess what I would like to know is that i'm not making any rookie mistakes, if all the above checks out and if there are any potential pitfalls I could fall into. Also, any recommendations for a reasonably priced router to buy to use as a main router for a few weeks and then as a secondary router once the internet is up and running would be great.

Apologies for the long post. Any advice would be hugely appreciated!
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
As you have concluded, there's no problem using a SOHO router to build your network before the Internet service gets turned on. Waaay back before the Internet became a thing, this is what "LAN's" were - albeit that the kit we used was a little different to a "network in one box" SOHO router.

In the scenario you describe, the SOHO router is essentially functioning as "just" DHCP Server to automatically assign IP addresses to devices, combined with Wi-Fi AP if you choose to enable such. However, if you use the router "crippled" as described in this FAQ, then the DHCP Server will be disabled and your clients will not be receiving any IP addresses from the router. Instead, in your scenario, use the "temporary" router as it comes out of the box (which will almost certainly have DHCP Server enabled) until the "proper" one arrives, then you can cripple the temporary router if you want to use it as an extra Wi-Fi AP. If you use the router without Wi-Fi and with DHCP Server disabled, it will literally be doing nothing apart from acting as an ethernet switch.

APIPA is a mechanism whereby in the absence of a DHCP Server, devices on the network literally "make up" IP addresses for themselves, check that nothing is conflicting with them and off they go. The telltale as to whether devices are creating APIPA IP addresses is that they are all 169.254.X.Y addresses. If all you clients are APIPA capable, you may not even need the "temporary" router at all.

If you could bear the pain, you could even manually assign IP addresses yourself, you don't require a "router" to make a LAN. Most clients will let you "statically assign" IP addresses, as we call it in the business. But that will mean you've got to plan out your own IP address regime, then visit each device to set it up, then when your ISP router turns up, disable it all again (set all clients back to DHCP mode.) Again, way back when, we used to have to do it all manually, so whooped a collective cheer when DHCP got invented to automate the process.

However you go about assigning IP address initially, you will be in for some pain when the ISP router arrives as IP addressing will need to be re-assigned, even if the DHCP Server in your ISP router serves the same address range as your temporary router as the DHCP assigned IP address leases time out and the clients apply for new ones from the "new" router. It'll sort itself out automatically if you wait long enough, (typically 24 hours) though it may expedite a bit if you power cycle everything.

Regardless, when your permanent router does turn up, I suggest you proceed as follows: (If you statically assigned, return all clients to DHCP mode.)

Power everything off.
Set up the new router, connect up and let it do it's thing to initialise and gain it's Internet link. If you want to, use a single directly connected client (either wired or Wi-Fi) to check it's working, but try to resist turning everything on until it is.
Then start powering up your kit in this order:
Network Switches (if you have any)
Wi-Fi Acccess Points (if you have any)
NAS's and other "server" devices such as network printers.
Anything else that doesn't "move" much such as TV's, PVR's, etc.
then all the mobile stuff such as tablets, laptops, phones, game boxes, etc. etc.

Proceeding in that order is not absolutely necessary, but hopefully will "group" the server type devices at the lower end of the DHCP range (simply as a matter on admin convenience, it makes no difference to functionality.) Then go into the "DHCP Leases" page of your new router and tell it to "always assign this IP address to the same device" or however it's phrased (nomenclature varies) for your NAS, AP's, PVR's and so forth so they never change IP address (unlikely as that is.)

You might even care to print off some labels and stick them on the servers - it's surprising how quickly one forgets.

Of course, any problems, post back here.

As to what to buy for a "temporary" router if you forego APIPA and/or static assignment and prefer to use DHCP - literally anything will do that has a DHCP Server, which in SOHO routers is all of them - the cheapest you can find. Beg or borrow an "old" one from friends, familyor colleagues if you can - DHCP won't work any "better" because you buy an expensive router and spending a lot of money would be a needless expense for a short period.

An alternative might be to see if you can find a DHCP Server app to run on your NAS (or some other box that's "always on") temporarily, and again you won't need a "temporary" router at all.
 
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jeffsayhi!

Standard Member
Wow. Thanks very much for taking the time to post that! Gives me plenty to look into to try and work out what will be best.

No doubt next week when i'm trying to set this up i'll be back! Haha

Again, thanks for the help!
 

Kailash

Well-known Member
hi
i'm now with talktalk (using their router). i have 2 old sky routers and a BT one
is it likely i can extend my wifi using any of those or are they going to be locked?

i'm tempted to take these to recycling otherwise 🤔
 

tom 2000

Well-known Member
I failed with a BT Homehub 5.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
hi
i'm now with talktalk (using their router). i have 2 old sky routers and a BT one
is it likely i can extend my wifi using any of those or are they going to be locked?

i'm tempted to take these to recycling otherwise 🤔
Don't know. Just try it - it'll either work of it won't, it shouldn't damage anything to try.
 
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Toon Army

Well-known Member
I added a BT whole home mesh setup to our TalkTalk router in the end. Hardwired under the floorboards etc to the mesh extenders and great coverage around the house now.
 

tom 2000

Well-known Member
I added a BT whole home mesh setup to our TalkTalk router in the end. Hardwired under the floorboards etc to the mesh extenders and great coverage around the house now.
What are the benefits of the likes of that over multiple access points like what I have?
 

Kailash

Well-known Member
I added a BT whole home mesh setup to our TalkTalk router in the end. Hardwired under the floorboards etc to the mesh extenders and great coverage around the house now.
any links for that?
my house is quite small so i was also just considering wifi extenders that plug into the sockets. i think they can create wireless access points too?
 

Toon Army

Well-known Member
any links for that?
my house is quite small so i was also just considering wifi extenders that plug into the sockets. i think they can create wireless access points too?
You can buy a setup for the number of dishes required. They can relay the signal from the router wirelessly as repeaters but that signal will diminish the further you get from the router. If you can hardwire them with Cat 6 cable directly from the router, the speeds will be the same as the router, hence we get 76mbs throughout the house. I did have the develo system using the ring mains, however they were not as powerful. You can manage the network through an app which is especially useful with kids.

 

Toon Army

Well-known Member
What are the benefits of the likes of that over multiple access points like what I have?
As my post above. I found that the Sonos Ones in the kitchen loved the stable strong connection in particular, as the router is in a bedroom upstairs on the opposite side of the house. We also have Sky Q, a mini box ( in the attic ) and 2 kids hammering a PS4, Netflix etc. The mesh network copes admirably.
 

gg13533

Well-known Member
Another vote for the BT Whole Home Wifi - just got it delivered this am, easy set up and very good wifi signal all around the house. It's raining, so I haven't tried the signal in the garden yet1
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
Wi-Fi "Repeaters" AKA "mesh" AKA "Discs" and their various other names don't relay "signals." What they bascially do is listen out for Wi-Fi transmissions, copy them, wait for the airwaves to go quiet (in Wi-Fi "only one thing at a time can transmit") then broadcast and almost verbatim copy of the original transmissions.

Because the "repeats" and the original transmissions cannot occur at the same time, this can clobber the throughput ("speed") and of course the more "hops" this relaying has to take between your router and you client (the more "mesh"/"disc"/nodes etc.) the worse the performance gets. At worst, perceived "speed" at the client could literally be halved for one hop, 1/4 for the second, 1/8 for the third and so on as each additional hop introduces extra latency ("delay") to the time it takes to relay the message from source to sink.

Some of the better systems try to mitigate this by using separate radio chains and radio channels for the node-to-node ("backhaul") transmissions and the node-to/from-client transmissions - often these are called "tri-band" systems - but even then, there are only so many radio channels to play with, especially if "speed" is you thing.

The big advantage of using wired nodes is that all of the "backhaul" traffic gets taken off the Wi-Fi airwaves and onto the wires as soon as possible freeing up more "air time" for the node-to/from-client transmissions where it is most useful. It also means the nodes do not need to be "in range" of a good signal to/from each other.

On big sites where we're putting up dozens/hundreds of nodes, we always use wired ethernet backhaul links unless there is no other option for these reasons. It gives us the fastest and most reliable system.

All node-to/from-client Wi-Fi is achieved using "Access Points." It may be that an AP is built into myriad other devices such as SOHO Routers, SmartHubs, SuperHubs, HomePlugs, Repeaters, Boosters, Extenders, "Discs," "Mesh Nodes" AirPorts, Mi-Fi's and any other names the marketing teams might care to dream up. But an AP is and AP is an AP (albeit there's a lot of variation in functionality possible between different AP's.)

For the SOHO use case, generally the principal "thing" that differentiates one type of "thing that does Wi-Fi" from another is how each type of "thing" establishes a backhaul link to the rest of the (wired) network. This could be using radio, mains electrical circuits, wired ethernet, cellphone, lasers or piece of wet string if someone wanted to design such a thing. But at a fundamental level, there's nothing particularly "magic" about the way one thing functions as a Wi-Fi AP over another. It's all about the backhaul mechanism.
 
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