Network Access Points & WiFi

We live in three story house and the ISP supplied Vodafone Modem/Router (100Mbps Fibre) is on the 1st floor - which is where the main HiFi is located and the Naim streamer is connected directly to the Modem/Router using a Cat5e Ethernet patch lead.

I am therefore, able to control the Naim streamer using iPads and iPhones through the WiFi connectivity.

On the 3rd floor, we have a MuSo and the NAS (all music storage) which are connected to an Apple Time Capsule (using Cat5e patch leads) and the Naim can be controlled via the Apple WiFi connection.

I have connected the Apple Time Capsule (in Bridge Mode) on the 3rd floor, to the Vodafone Modem/Router (on the 1st floor), using Cat6a network cable.

All is working well, but I want the iPhones to automatically switch WiFi networks, depending on the strongest possible WiFi signal.

When I set up the Apple Time Capsule in bridge mode, I did it as a ‘New Network’ (as opposed to ‘Existing Network’) and so it had a different Wifi SSID to the Vodafone device downstairs.

As such, the iPhones didn’t automatically switch between these networks.

I did a little research and it was suggested that if the SSID name on the ISP supplied Vodafone device was change to the same name as the SSID on the Apple device, that the iPhone or indeed MacBook etc; would automatically switch to the strongest WiFi signal in the house.

Since both devices now have the same SSID, I have no way of actually knowing if this is the case (how would I know what it was connected to?)

The question is; have I set this up properly and if not, what do I need to change?

The Time Capsule should be set to “extend wireless network.” With that setting you’ll have one network that your iPhones will connect to. Two different wifi networks in the home is not the right solution if you want devices to work on both rather seamlessly.

I was not aware that a Time Capsule (really just an Airport Extreme with extra data storage functionality and a hdd) could extend a wireless network that did not originate with another Apple device (Airport). But perhaps it can.

We have our Virgin hub set as a modem. The router is an AirPort Extreme. There is a wired airport express upstairs and the two work as one. The iPhones switch seamlessly between the two WiFi points and you’d never know. Something like this might work for you.

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Bart … I might be wrong, but I thought that it had to be two Apple Devices for the ‘’Extend Existing Network” option you work … which is why I used a Cat 6a to connect the Vodafone ISP fibre modem:router to the Apple Time Capsule (in Bridge Mode) and set up the Apple device as ‘New Network’ … albeit this created two WiFi networks in the house … I then renamed the Vodafone SSID to match thss ast of the Apple device … as per my Google finding (which may be wrong!!!)

I may have an unused Airport Express lying around somewhere, so perhaps may look at Hungryhalibuts solution :grinning:

I don’t think that iDevices switch to the stronger access point automatically in your configuration, whether the SSID is the same or not… this isn’t like your phone automatically scanning and searching out the best cell tower. When I had something similar set up, the iPhone wouldn’t switch access points for a stronger one until it actually loss signal on the weaker one: you can test this by widely spacing them out and watching your signal strength drop as you move away from one toward the other; then switch off wifi or disconnect, reconnect, and see that you join the stronger one with a manual “push” like that.

This feature, hopping automatically to the best access point for connected devices, is built into the Ubiqiti UniFi access points and it works really well. In addition, the network monitor app can show you which iPhone is connected to which AP. It’s really great, rock solid and high throughout with seamless handoff. I have two AP Lite units on the main floor (overkill, but easiest way to site a point at the rear of my house) and one on the second floor. I’ll put one in the basement rec room at some point, “just because “… read the Ars Technica article on getting carried away with prosumer networking gear in your home to catch the flavour of what I mean here!

Since you have Ethernet cabling between your two existing wifi points, you could just drop these AC Lite units in and disable the wifi on both your Vodaphone modem/router and your AirPort Extreme. You need a configuration application running on your network to get it all going, but it’s really straightforward and is only needed when you add new kit, update firmware, or feel like looking at the network connection and performance dashboard.

I can’t speak highly enough about these UniFi AC Lites, or their UniFi Switch 8 brothers. The router is good too, but I couldn’t replace my ISP modem/router and get the tv over internet to work properly… but that is a completely different story!

Best wishes whichever way you decide to jump.

Regards alan


You are correct, in this scenario, you do not set the Apple device to extend an existing network. You configure it as a new network, but making sure that all settings are identical to those used on your main non-Apple network, including the network name and password.
You may find that using an all Apple setup gives you better seamless transfer from one WAP to the other, and they are easy to set up, but I would now consider buying something like a Mesh network using those BT Discs or similar.
The Ubiquiti APs would also be good, but each one requires a wired Ethernet connection.

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Thanks Chris, I might deactivate the wifi on the Vodafone device and simply use it as a modem - connecting the Apple Time Capsule to it, to act as both wired router and WiFi downstairs

I could then connect it to the Cat6a which terminates upstairs and connect an Airport Express. Using a Netgear GS 108 switch, would provide more ethernet ports for both the NAS and MuSo on the 3rd floor

Presumably this will need to be set up to extend “existing network” … since they are both Apple devices :grinning:

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Yes, if you move to an all-Apple setup, the AE wired to your router would be set to ‘create’ a network. I would leave the ISP supplied router as DHCP server, just disable its built in WiFi.

In this scenario mesh would be the answer as detailed above just having the same name won’t help your devices will cling to the access point until it no longer can and you will have a flaky device then. Been down this road before

I have a UniFi network now with ap pros, great pieces of hardware

I’ve contemplated updating from my all-Apple wifi (Airport Extreme wired to my switch creating a wifi network, and another in a remote part of the home ‘extending’ the wifi network), but what I have now just works. All the time.

Except it’s a bit slow in my wife’s office . . . and she complains a bit about that . . . so maybe sooner rather than later we’ll move into the 2020 era.

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In an all Apple wi-fi setup, your phone will not seamlessly switch to the strongest signal available. It will hang onto the weaker signal until it loses it.
In our apartment it’s a pain and the very reason I have re-named each of my wifi access points so that I know which I am connected to.
The Ubiquiti solution is probably the way I’ll go when I get fed up of manually switching to the strongest wifi.

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I never notice the switching, and honestly don’t care which piece of hardware the phone’s connected to so long as I have good service – which I do.

Think your wrong, maybe try using the wifi scanner in the Airport utility.

It’s a common fallacy that the APs decide how/where the clients connect, however some now do band steering.

I’m a unifi user.

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Thanks for this. , nice summary. I think this is an evolving situation and / or the -70 dB trigger threshold to switch AP was too low for convenience on my previous iPhone model 6 and / or the pair of ancient Asus routers I was using in wifi access point mode did not support all the appropriate 802.11xx standards (they were .g or .n 2.5GHz only). Anyway, I used the connection strength and site testing as you correctly recommend and it didn’t function as a seamless handoff… but that was then and this is now! I have no experience with the Apple wifi devices in an all-Apple ecosystem. I used an Express to join an existing wifi network to provide a wired connection for a gen 1 Qute… and that was streets ahead of the in-built wifi, so a success in its own right.

For those with no issues, staying with what you have is awesome. For those addressing a challenge, including the OP, I have found the price and performance of the UniFi access points to be outstanding - both in terms of implementing all the auxiliary protocols to enable seamless handoff and load balancing among the set of APs and for really good sustained throughout (including wifi connection for streaming to an Atom and an older Sonos).

Regards alan

I’ll have to read up on this as I wasn’t aware that one could configure the overlap between Airport Express or Extreme wifi access points.

I can’t find any such scanner in the Airport utility. Where is it and how do I access it?

I have now found that I needed to activate wifi scanning in settings.
Having done so, I can confirm that I am getting in the region of -80 to -90dbm from my two far away access points, whereas the local one gives -47 which I imagine is much stronger. (reverse numbers?)
Looking at the Apple web site referred to above, my devices should switch automatically to a stronger access point when the signal drops below the threshold of -70dbm
Is this correct?
If so, for some reason, mine doesn’t do this, instead hanging on to the weaker access points, which usually results in losing service.
I’ve just renamed my AP’s to seperate names again so that I know for sure which I’m connected to and avoid losing signal.

Hey Blythe … I can’t fathom how to activate the wifi scanning either… could you please assist

Go to Settings -> AirPort Utility -> enable Wi-Fi Scanner.

Then if you open up the AirPort utility there’s an option top right that says WiFi Scan.

Are all the devices the same Wi-Fi standard, i.e. 802.11AC, nope or maybe.

Express -> 802.11a/b/g/n

Extreem 2013 -> 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Extreem 2011 -> 802.11a/b/g/n

You also need to remember 2.4Ghz will stretch further than 5Ghz.