Using Tomato as Wireless Repeater (sort of)

Discussion in 'Tomato Firmware' started by ChuckHL, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. ChuckHL

    ChuckHL Serious Server Member

    As we know, Tomato does not support running as a Repeater or Repeater Bridge like DDWRT (for now) and the only way to make it work like a repeater is to use it as an AP + WDS. The downside with WDS is that it forces you to downgrade from WPA2 to WPA, it does not take full advantage of Wireless N, and it wont work if your main router does not support WDS.

    My workaround does not require that the main router supports WDS. It only requires that the main router can broadcast two SSID at the same time. This workaround (and granted its not the best but it works fine) is to create one SSID in my main routers that only the repeater routers will connect to, and then have all routers broadcast another SSID that all clients will use.

    The steps to make this work are the following:
    Step 1: On the Main router, set a unique and different SSID from the one you plan to use and set a good encryption level (i.e. WPA2). Dont broadcast this SSID.
    Step 2: Connect all client routers to the Main router as Wireless Ethernet Bridge using the SSID and key from Step 1.
    Step 3: On all routers (Main and Repeaters) create a new Virtual Wireless as AP and use the same VSSID name and encryption key on all routers (use a different key and SSID name from the one on STEP 1 or your repeater routers will selfconnect and become pretty much useless).
    Step 4: Use the VSSID and key from Step 3 for all your clients and only use the SSID and key from Step 1 to connect more repeater routers.
    Step 5: Disable DHCP on the repeater routers and set the gateway and dns to point to the main router.
    Step 6 (not sure if it makes a difference): Change the repeater routers to work in Router mode rather than Gateway mode.
    Step 7 (optional): If you use Static DHCP/ARP and you hook a device that requires static IP to a repeater router, you need to remove the Static DHCP configuration from the main router and put it instead on the repeater router it is connected to.

    I know this configuration is more complex than with ddwrt but with this you can reach full wireless n speeds of up to 300 mbps ( 2 channels ).

  2. Mangix

    Mangix Networkin' Nut Member

    That configuration is practically repeater bridge. A few questions though:

    In Step 1 you mention to not broadcast the different SSID. Why? Not broadcasting the SSID is less secure than broadcasting it.
    In Step 3 you say to create a virtual AP for the main router. Why? I've had success just using the regular SSID. The encryption key does have to match between everyone though.
    Steps 5 and 6 are useless. Once a router goes in bridge mode, DHCP traffic goes not go from the router to the clients. DHCP requests go to the main router because of the bridge.
  3. ChuckHL

    ChuckHL Serious Server Member


    Regarding step 1: hiding it is not necesarily. If it broadcast or not it does not make it more or less secure. Security depends on your encryption level so if you dont want to hide it, its fine either way.

    Regarding step 3: I suggest creating a different virtual SSID because the repeater routers can self-connect if you have them repeat the same ssid that they are connecting to as wireless ethernet bridge. In addition, if you have more than 1 repeater, your repeaters can connect to each other and not connect to the main router if you set up the same ssid and password.

    To clarify: Assume the main router broadcasts SSID "Hello". You have your repeater router connect to "Hello" using Wireless Ethernet Bridge (so far your repeater is just connected as a client and not repeating). So to rebroadcast the SSID you have to add a VSSID as an AP to broadcast SSID "Hello" as a VSSID (wl0 is in Wireless Ethernet Bridge Mode (client) and wl0.1 is in AP mode (host)). The problem is that the repeater router will see "Hello" much closer from itself at wl0.1 and self-connect at that location. So you can end up with wl0 from the repeater router which is running in Wireless Ethernet Bridge connect to itself at wl0.1 which runs in AP mode. This will make the repeater router useless since it will be connected to itself and it wont be connected to the main router.

    Now, assuming that your firmware version is smart enough to avoid such self-connection, you can face another problem when you have 2 or more repeaters. Let say you connect repeater 1 and repeater 2 to the main SSID "Hello" using wireless ethernet bridge (wl0) and have them rebroadcast the signal (wl0.1). If your repeater routers can also see each other (asume a triangle formation or L-shape formation) you could end up with repeater 1 connecting to repeater 2 and repeater 2 back to repeater 1 and both broadcasting a SSID that won't connect you to the main router.

    Regarding steps 5 and 6: I agree it works if you skip them. It is just a matter or having it all neat and in order.
  4. jumplower

    jumplower Reformed Router Member

    I followed the steps, but found out there is no much point doing this. Since the slave router is in WET, it does not really accept wireless client. If the VSSID is not added to main router, the wireless client can not connect to slave router. Even the wireless client gets the MAC from slave router as if it connects to the slave router after VSSID is added to main router as well, the signal level is weak if the client is far away from main, no matter how close it is to slave.
  5. Marcel Tunks

    Marcel Tunks Networkin' Nut Member

    Repeaters definitely have pluses, but I wouldn't disregard WDS. In the more recent mods of Tomato WDS works fine with WPA2 and N speeds. FAQs and Wiki's are likely out of date. In dd-wrt the N speeds work but some clients don't stream content properly. Haven't tried others...

    Biggest downside of WDS is lack of standardization or interoperability between manufacturers/models and finicky connection and reconnection between nodes. Otherwise works well in current Tomato mods.
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