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Any single router is limited in the Wi-Fi coverage it can provide. The typical options for expanding the range of a Wi-Fi network are Access Points (APs) and Mesh systems. Access Points connect to the router via an Ethernet cable and they are, as a rule, cheaper and simpler than a mesh system. That said, all APs are not the same, some can also form a mesh network. This lets you start small and expand later, if necessary.

Another issue is the software for managing and controlling APs. Some APs have a web interface for configuration, some require external controller software. Peplink Balance routers include controller software for managing Peplink APs. Thus, if buy Peplink APs this means not having to deal with controller software from a different company. The Pepwave Surf SOHO does not include controller software.

Peplink APs for many years were not mesh capable. This changed late in 2020.

Ubiquiti is a big player in the AP market. However, after what we learned about the company in early 2021, I would avoid all their products.

Electricity can be a problem with some Access Points. Rather than simply plug them into an electric outlet, many APs are designed to be powered by the mandatory Ethernet cable. This, in turn, requires a device that sends electricity over the Ethernet cable. Normal routers and switches do not do this.

Two high end but still reasonably affordable APs are the Ruckus Unleashed line and the Aruba Instant On line. They are similar in not requiring dedicated controller software. Both are sold individually, so you can start with a single device. And, when using multiple devices, each is said to support a self-configuring (aka self-clustering) mesh network where one of the APs controls the operation of the others. I have not used these APs, the information below is just an FYI cheat sheet, based on what I have read.

What I am not sure about is whether these devices can function totally on their own. That is, whether a cloud service from the manufacturer is mandatory. It is far better, not to be dependent on a cloud service. I am also not sure about whether there is an ongoing cost for software updates.

Aruba Instant On

Aruba Instant On Access points support 8 SSIDs and VLANs. Like Ruckus, they are normally sold without a power cable. They can be managed directly via a web interface or a with a mobile app. They can also be managed with the cloud service at portal.arubainstanton.com where accounts are free.

Instant On APs can schedule the availability of SSIDs, support Layer 2 isolation (which blocks clients from seeing each other) and they can enforce different per-client bandwidth limits.

The AP12 is a mid-range model. In April 2021, it was available with a bundled power cord for $160 from both B and H Photo Video and from Connection. It was reviewed by Dave Mitchell in December 2020: Aruba Instant On AP12 review: An outstanding SMB solution. The lower end AP11 model was $105 with a bundled power cord at B and H in April 2021.

Aruba is owned by HP.

Ruckus Unleashed

Ruckus specializes in Wi-Fi and their Access Points, while somewhat expensive, are universally praised. The Ruckus "unleashed" line of Access Points have controller software built into them. See the data sheet (pdf). The first installed Ruckus unleashed AP becomes the master/controller. When another AP is added, it inherits the configuration from the master automatically.

The 9U1 firmware models are "unleashed," other AP firmware requires separate controller software. I do not know the rules for Ruckus tech support or for ongoing firmware updates to the Access Points.

The cheapest Ruckus AP is the R310. For home use, this should be fine. The next step up is the R510 and it is a big step up. Going any higher up the line makes no sense for home use.

As a high end company, Ruckus does not sell directly to consumers, you are supposed to buy through an authorized reseller. You can also buy from Amazon.com, but doing so means no support from Ruckus. The only thing you get with an Amazon purchase is a 30 day guarantee that the AP is not dead on arrival. Since APs have no moving parts, buying a used one on eBay makes sense too. Prices from April 2020: An R310 at Amazon was $145, from Zones, an authorized reseller, $217. An R510 at Amazon was $260, at Zones it ws $387.

Ruckus is now owned by Commscope which broke the links that used to be here when they retired the ruckuswireless.com website. I think this is the second company that bought out Ruckus.

Ruckus APs are normally powered via the Ethernet cable. This requires a specialized device called a PoE injector which costs about $60. They can be powered normally, but you have to buy a 12 volt DC, 1 amp power supply on your own. I think this costs about $10.



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