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Wireless LAN roaming

ITKnowledge Exchange member "benbje" wanted to know how to set up a wireless LAN so his client could move between access points and not lose connectivity; fellow techies jumped in on the conversation and helped out. Here is a portion of the conversation. Read the rest of the thread.

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ITKnowledge Exchange member "benbje" asked:
I need to set up a wireless LAN (ADSL router with 3-4 access points). The client wants to be able to move between the access points without being cut off from the Internet. Which products will do the job? Any special design considerations?


As a design consultant, I would recommend that you use Cisco Access points (1200 series are excellent) with a BlueSocket front end. This will allow them to seamlessly roam between APs as well as create a secure connection between the client and the network. All wireless communication is basically run through a VPN-type connection, fully encrypted and secure. The basic model of BlueSocket is the 400, this would support up to around 50 concurrent users encrypted with a maximum throughput of around 30Mbps.


If this is going to be a standalone WLAN with no Windows Server 2000/2003 Active Directory and a separate Radius server to go along with it, you could use the Gateway 7001 APs. They offer a built-in Radius server in addition to enterprise-level encryption and authentication. They also work well with Active Directory and external RADIUS authentication.

They sell for $300-$500 with a three-year warranty, but that depends on the sale running at the moment. They have been recommended by various IT periodicals for their enterprise feature list while being priced at 1/4 to 1/3 of other enterprise-class wireless solutions. Being able to get clustering (up to 8 APs share settings to make administration a breeze), built-in Radius or external Radius, power-over-Ethernet, WPA with AES encryption, 802.11a/b/g compatibility, guest interface using a separate LAN or VLANs and so on at that price point was very attractive. This worked well when we used an external Windows 2000 Radius server with EAP/PEAP certificates and Active Directory Group Policy for authentication and WPA/AES or WPA/TKIP for encryption.

Another great choice that is also enterprise quality, but is much more attractively priced than Cisco is Proxim. Their AP4000 runs about $470 at CDW and is loaded with all of the encryption and authentication offered by Cisco APs.


Get a Belkin ADSL router, model F5D7630. It's easy to set up. If the secondary PCs connected by wireless have two or more brick walls between them or there are steel joists around, the signal will be reduced. Enable encryption for wireless.


I'd suggest using Cisco/Linksys WRT54G. They can be set up as wireless repeaters with one antenna talking to the ADLS router AP and the other antenna acting as an AP for the roaming PCs. There is a lot of information about that all over the Internet (just enter "wrt54g" in Google). It is one of the most hacker-friendly pieces of hardware that I have ever seen. My team has set up a configuration like the one you are looking for in a condo with several buildings.




This was first published in June 2005

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