Note: This is NOT a question for a specific router or brand of routers. It's a question about type of router or other equipment. What specs? That features will tell me if a router will work for this use case or not. Will a single router do? Do I need APs? How many? How will I know they won't exhibit the same problems as detailed below with the things I have tried so far?

This question fits serverfault. The guidelines say questions about answers related to managing computer systems in a professional capacity for Network routing, switches, and firewalls. I'm not asking for opinions. I'm asking given my requirements what specs/features will tell me some router equipment will handle my use case.

I have an application that requires users connect to the local wifi which is not on the internet. User's connect with the device of their choice, interact with the installation for 5 to 60 minutes and then move on.

I've tried 4 home routers with varying degrees of success so I'm wondering if I should be looking at some other kind of specialized routers and how I can go about knowing what will work and what doesn't. I don't have an unlimited budget so I can't just go out and buy 50 routers and pray one of them works. Beside, the only way for me to test it is at an actual event with real people trying to connect. I'd prefer not to have to make them my beta testers

I have one more requirement. I need to able to point DNS at a machine in the LAN. I bring that up because at least one router could not do this. It required DNS to be on the WAN.

So far I've used the following routers

A travel TP-Link TL-WR702N

Yes, I know it's a travel router. It's actually been not bad for certain situations but only supports ~15 connections. I only list it just to show more data.

A Netgear AC1600 (R6250)

This router didn't allow me point DNS to a machine on the LAN. It required DNS on the WAN side. I called tech support and they verified this. I reflashed this with DD-WRT but when I actually tried using it at an event it failed completely. Only around 4 people could connect, and after that I'd have to reboot to router to get anyone else able to connect. Whether that's the router's fault or DD-WRT with this particular router I have no idea but since it was unable for my needs with the default firmware this one's out

An ASUS RT-AC87U Wireless-AC2400

This router has some kind of internet detection software built in so it's not happy if it can't find an internet connection on the WAN. For my needs I'm not connecting anything on the WAN side. This made it unusable for me. Maybe there is a way to turn that feature off but I couldn't get past that.

An Apple Airport Extreme

This is what I ended up using. Unfortunately I had to reboot it every 3 hours as people would stop being able to make new connections. Someone suggested I set the DHCP lease time to some smaller number. I set it to 1 hour which would suggest it could clean out up to 2/3rds of the people given it lasted 3 hours at a go but setting the DHCP lease time to 1 hour didn't help at all.

Another frustrating thing about this router is that unlike other routers it requires proprietary software to setup. There's no web interface. You need custom software. Worse, that software doesn't seem to work well. While the system was running I'd try to use the software to connect the router and it often could not communicate with the router. This was even though the connection was WIRED (not wireless) and was clearly communicating over the router to the other machines (both wired and wireless). Not very confidence inspiring.

It did work but like I said I had to reboot about once every 3 hours.

On top of that I would often (10% of the time?) not be able to get a good connection from my phone even though I was no more than 20 feet from the router. I'd really like to know why that is and if it's fixable. Was it sunspots? The phase of the moon? What? Why? So frustrating.

To add one more "nice to have". Ideally I'd like to be able to kick people off the router when they're done with the installation. That assumes the router can only handle so many people and that even though they are finished with the installation they are still in range of the router and still taking up a communication channel (lower-level than taking up an ip-address I think). I suppose if the router (or combination of router + APs) handles enough connections this need would disappear. So, maybe you can suggest what I would need to get to a large enough number of people that there would always be enough connections for people that want to interact with the installation while be aware that lots of people in the same room or neighboring rooms are probably unfortunately still connected to the router.

Is there a specific router or type of routers I should be looking at? Is there some feature set or label "Good for conferences" or something that would tell me that having hundreds if different of devices connect and disconnect every hour is something that particular router handles well.

  • 2
    My suggestion would be to talk about your specific requirements with an expert so you can design a solution really fitting your needs (this is likely more involved than "buy the right access point"). That said, you will end up buying one ore more professional access points, e.g. from Cisco's Aironet series.
    – Sven
    Oct 28 '14 at 7:18
  • Do you know any experts? I'm afraid if I call Cisco I'll just get a salesperson who will try to sell me their most expensive stuff and which won't actually work.
    – gman
    Oct 28 '14 at 19:04
  • No, I am sorry, but I am sure [wifi|wlan|network] consultant would yield good results in Google, and I guess if you drop by in chat and ask about it, you might get good suggestions.
    – Sven
    Oct 28 '14 at 19:13

I would take the router with lots of RAM (for nat tables) and fast CPU. Break the chassis and add more cooling (like additional fan). Replace the power supply for the better quality one (in my experience it's the number one reason of cheap router problems).

Select router that would work without issues with openwrt. Original firmware may be not so secure, it may have limits for number of clients connected.

I would choose tl-wdr4300, but as you said, it's not a shopping thread.

  • 1
    That's all stuff you don't want to do in a pro environment. You want to buy a system that just works without firmware replacement or physical intervention (breaking the warranty along the way).
    – Sven
    Oct 28 '14 at 8:29
  • Sure, but if you are tight on budget, it may be a good solution. If you can afford for a Cisco, it's no brainer.
    – neutrinus
    Oct 28 '14 at 8:46
  • I'm happy to pay say $1k-$3k if the equipment WORKS 100%. If it's just as problem ridden as the home routers then it would suck to spend so much money.
    – gman
    Oct 28 '14 at 19:03

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