WPS-capable access points and multi-access-point networks

Just about every wireless router or access point targeted at the consumer or, in some cases, SOHO/small-business market is equipped with Wi-Fi Protected Setup, commonly known as WPS. The obvious part of this feature is a button on the router that instigates a quick and easy enrolment routine for suitably-equipped wireless network client devices.

Here, you would instigate the WPS setup routine on the client device, which may be as simple as starting Wi-Fi network setup. In all versions of Microsoft Windows since Windows 7, you would have your computer searching for wireless networks through the “Add Wireless Networks” routine.  But you may find that you have to select the target network you want to connect to in newer versions of Windows and click or tap “Connect” where Windows will prompt for the passphrase but will tell you that you can use the WPS button on your router if the network supports this. Then you would press the WPS button which begins to securely transfer the network credentials to the client device. In some cases, if you unpack a new router and plug it in to the wall, you may be determining a new WPA-PSK passkey for that router.

But you may be wondering how this will affect those wireless networks that have two or more access points that have this feature yet are set up to extend a wireless network’s coverage.

Last Saturday, I had an opportunity to set up such a network by repurposing a broadband router with this feature as an access point to extend a wireless network past a corrugated-iron wall to the back of a newly-extended house. Luckily the house was wired for Ethernet as part of the renovation, so the wired backbone of this “extended-service-set” was the Cat5 Ethernet cabling. But most of you may simply use a HomePlug AV powerline network as your backbone for a similar network.

Both the network’s main ADSL modem-router and the broadband router, which was floating around as a spare, were recent-issue units equipped with WPS. They were configured with different channels but the same ESSID, wireless-technology and security parameters and the broadband router was set up as an access point with its DHCP server turned off and itself existing on a fixed IP address that was part of the network.

I had discovered a problem with this broadband router where it reset the wireless-network parameters after a WPS wireless-network-setup cycle. But you need to check that the settings stay by going to “Advanced”, “Wireless Setup” or “WPS” options in your router’s / access point’s management Web page and making sure that options to keep wireless-network settings are selected after you configure the device with your network’s SSID and security parameters.

This means that WPS-equipped access points and routers are capable of working in the “extended-service-set” arrangement. It then means that you can enrol new Wi-Fi client devices like Windows 7 laptops, Android smartphones or Internet radios to your wireless-network segment using that idiot-proof WPS “push-push” method at the nearest access point to where you are setting them up at. Yet the multiple-access-point network still does the job of extending wireless coverage in to the dark spot while allowing you to move the laptop, tablet or smartphone between the access-points’ coverage areas without reconfiguring anything.

Note: I have updated the article originally published on May 2012 to added some extra notes about the WPS setup experience for versions of the Microsoft Windows regular-computer operating system released since this article was originally published.

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