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While I was doing research on wireless connection limits, I stumbled upon this question. Zypher's answer seems to suggest connection capacity benefits of wireless access points over wireless routers. Is there actually a connection capacity benefit to using a pure access point? It seems that the connection limit for a router is based off of mechanical limitations (interference, etc), so does the router attached to the Access Point make a difference?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Let's straighten some stuff out first. A "wireless router" is usually a SOHO device that typically contains a router, a switch, and an access point all in a single piece of hardware. Generally speaking, these exist for small networks like a home, or an office with 10 or fewer computers, since there's no need to break these devices out separately. Very rarely on the high-end do you see an AP that also routes - they are typically layer 2 devices.

George's answer wasn't necessarily saying that APs are better than wireless routers, but the OP there was asking about deploying 60+ access points. You definitely don't want 60 extra routers on your network - your routing should be centralized at that size on a core L3 device like a Cisco Nexus or other chassis-based product (Or at least on a set of stacked workstation switches).

If you get a cheapo Linksys wireless AP, it will probably perform very similarly to a cheapo Linksys wireless router. If you've only got 50 bucks to spend, you're not going to really see a difference between the two. On the high end, like a Cisco LAP 3600 series, there is no all-in-one device that is similar, because the people deploying them have no use for such a combo device. When you get into the high end, people have a complex and established routing infrastructure already. They probably have a single VLAN for wireless that traverses their entire switching infrastructure. There's just no reason for someone to want these devices to route as well.

TL;DR - Wireless routers are typically SOHO combo devices. If you're deploying serious wireless equipment, it's all L2, since no one in their right mind would deploy 60 additional routers in their infrastructure.

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it seems that the answer referred to 1 router and 60 iPads. Is the reason why pure AP's are better simply because they make higher end AP's beyond the level of combo routers? – Snakes and Coffee Dec 31 '12 at 23:48
Oops, seems I misread that question - but yes. That's the case. When you get above entry-level equipment into enterprise grade stuff, there really just aren't router/AP combos (and there usually isn't a need). If you're spending $600+ USD on an access point, you're going to get great performance from a purpose-built device and you've probably already invested in a separate robust routing solution already. – MDMarra Dec 31 '12 at 23:49
Just as a point of reference, I deployed about 400 Cisco LAP1142s at the university that I used to work for. They were spec'd for optimal performance at 50 concurrent users or less, with a maximum of 100 connections per AP. We had lecture rooms with a 90 student max, and had to put two APs in, because of the capacity of the room even though the coverage from one was more than enough. – MDMarra Dec 31 '12 at 23:59
In regards to your last comment, did the devices connect in a more or less load balanced way by themselves or was something configured to spread them across the two APs? – John Gardeniers Jan 1 '13 at 2:44
@john Cisco APs with a controller appliance can auto-balance – MDMarra Jan 1 '13 at 3:08

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