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What are the steps to properly setup a WiFi network with 4 or 5 Airport base stations? I have a mix of Airport Extreme and Airport Express base stations, a switch and a modem/router with VoIP and other features which require to keep the modem configured as a router.

Of course the modem/router is connected to the switch and so should be all the base stations.

Can I get a reliable roaming going between the base stations? What are the things I should configure to make the roaming as seamless and speedy as possible?

Airport Express X1 Airport Express

Airport Extreme X4 Airport Extreme

Switch Negear X1 24 ports switch (with some Gbps ports)

Livebox modem router X1 modem router

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

First, you will not receive adequate routing performance on network by way of the ISP's embedded router.

How to build WiFi 101

Log in to the AirPort devices and configure:

  • Internet set to DHCP
  • the Network to Bridge mode
  • the Wireless to create a wireless network
  • Enable an alternate name on the 5 GHz network (you could simply append "(5 GHz)" to the wireless network name)
  • leave the wireless channels set to automatic
  • Change Radio mode to 802.11a/n - 802.11b/g
  • Change the country to your own to avoid interconnection problems on 5GHz

Place the first AP at centrally in one extremity of the building. Join the AP on the 5 GHz network. Option-Click the WiFi menu to read the RSSI value. Determine the next AP location by by measuring where the signal dips below 65-70.

Once you've placed all the APs join all 5 GHz capable WiFI devices to the 5 GHz WiFi. Join all remaining devices to the non-5 GHz (2.4 GHz) network.

Protip: There's a great tool called WiFi Diagnostics in /System/Library/CoreServices. Check it out.

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Do you think the 5GHz network should be setup with a different name? There are numerous devices already configured for the currently existing network (on old APs) and some of the devices are 802.11n 5GHz enabled. So using a different name seems like a counterproductive move considering the users don't take the time to look into these matters. – Coyote Oct 8 '12 at 22:34
Is there nothing else to do in order to get the roaming to work efficiently? – Coyote Oct 8 '12 at 22:38
Most models of iPhone won't connect to a 5GHz band, so that's something to consider if you have any of those. They'll need a 2.4GHz signal. Just a small pointer to consider in your endeavor. – soxman Oct 8 '12 at 22:40
A 5GHz network should be a different name to ensure that 5GHz enabled device stay off the already cluttered 2.4GHz band. – Jordan Eunson Oct 8 '12 at 22:49
I added the step concerning the country selection as without it none of the computers will be able to connect to the 5GHz network (if they were bought in one country and the airport is setup for another). Made the step concerning the renaming of the 5GHz network optional as it is not necessary to the function of WiFi on this band. – Coyote Oct 9 '12 at 9:57

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