How do I set up separate wifi networks for two rooomates?
January 17, 2019 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Is a router with guest network capability the best way to give separate wifi networks to two roommates, each with their own individual devices who do not want to step on each other's toes? Or is there a better option? Is there a particular router that excels at this?

Each roommate has a computer, phone, Alexa or Google Home type thing, and various smart TV devices. The roommates do not need access to any of each other's devices nor are there any shared devices, and it's ok for one to be the "admin". Security is not a particular concern (neither roommate is technical at all) so this doesn't need to be impenetrable just hoping to avoid accidental/casual invasions of privacy. This is more about not having each other's devices pop up as Airplay or Casting options, and that sort of thing. The current router is ancient and doesn't appear to support guest networks, so I know I'm committed to buying a new one. Do I just buy any router with guest network capability or is there a better way, that doesn't require specialized expertise (I can follow instructions and that's about it).

No range issues that need solving (the current ancient router is adequate so I'm assuming any new router will be fine as well). DSP is Spectrum and modem is a Surfboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0, if that matters.
posted by acidic to Technology (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not sure this is the solution you want, since Airplay etc. operate over Bluetooth. The only issue with WiFi might be fighting over bandwidth, but that’s not going to be solved by splitting the same amount of bandwidth into two (which is what separate WiFi networks would do.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:17 PM on January 17


There are routers that have the ability to offer multiple SSIDs beyond just a guest mode. Unfortunately I can't figure out which one to recommend you - most are business-grade devices that are probably overkill for this one feature.
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on January 17


"Guest network" capability is typically designed to be fairly locked-down, with limited or no access to other devices on the same network.

The best way to do this is to set up two virtual networks (vWLANs) bridged to the physical network interface, which is something that has been available for a while. (Here's a writeup on how it's done in DD-WRT which runs on hardware as far back as the old Linksys WRT54G.) You set up a couple of virtual network interfaces on the router, managing their own private subnets, and give each a network name / SSID / password.

A quick and dirty alternative would be to separate out the 2.4 and 5GHz networks if the router allows, but that's more of a compromise.
posted by holgate at 2:19 PM on January 17


Ah, I think I found the one we use at work.

https://www.asus.com/us/Networking/RT-AC1750/
- the Asus RT-AC1750. You can set up three different networks that all have internet access but are isolated from each other.
posted by GuyZero at 2:22 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I would buy two routers and a switch. Plug the switch into the outside world (cable modem, etc) and the routers into the switch. Set them up as independent networks w/ different wifi channels (and different SSIDs) so they don't interfere.

Every other solution (except on preview the Asus router described above that might be the best solution) is going to be difficult to configure if you want to do it right and impossible for them to troubleshoot if something goes wrong.
posted by NoDef at 2:26 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Sorry, was confusing Airdrop and Airplay! Maybe two separate wifi's is the way to do that. Obviously it won't solve anything on Bluetooth, but would help with Apple TV or Roku remotes. IN SUMMARY IGNORE ME.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:26 PM on January 17


I would buy two routers and a switch. Plug the switch into the outside world (cable modem, etc) and the routers into the switch. Set them up as independent networks w/ different wifi channels (and different SSIDs) so they don't interfere.

I am, at times, a separate-wifi-networks-on-the-same-hardware consultant and professional, and this is the route I'd go for home use with people who don't already know how to set this up. This way you can even provide each person with a port to plug into and they could be responsible for everything after that point1. Something breaks? Great, it's either before or after the switch, and every knows who is financially responsible. 1 router with 3 networks could very easily end up with someone getting a part time tech support and/or bill collection job.

---

Long story short, buy a switch (TP-Link 5 Port Gigabit Ethernet Network Switch), plug it into the modem, and then everyone grabs a $70 budget pick router (TP-Link AC1750 via the Wirecutter) to plug into the switch.


1This is called the demarcation point in industry discussions.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:38 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I’m also an internet infrastructure professional that would buy two WiFi access points. You could get a switch to give them equal footing, but the lazy part of me would plug one router into the other if there were Ethernet ports on them.
posted by advicepig at 6:14 PM on January 17


Thanks everyone for the excellent advice! I bought the switch and 1 of the routers recommended by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug. Decided to hold off on buying a second router until I tested it out. The new router is working just fine when plugged in through the switch, but the old router (I believe it's a Belkin N150) only works when plugged into the new router's ethernet port (as advicepig recommended), NOT when plugged into the switch.

Is this just a function of how outdated the router is, and I should get a second new router as recommended? Or, any thoughts on advicepig's suggestion (which I'm effectively doing right now) would be appreciated. Other than the slight unfairness of one roommate having an older router is there any other practical difference?
posted by acidic at 7:31 PM on January 17


I haven't used a cable modem in a very long time, but I think you probably can't plug a switch directly into the cable modem. I don't think the cable modem acts like a router, and the cable service would not hand out more than one IP, so I'm not surprised at the result you reported.

But for your non-techie, not-very-demanding roommates, like advicepig suggests, just plug one router into the other. No need for a switch. I'd probably use the new AC1750 as the main router, so plug the cable modem into the AC1750's WAN ("Internet") port, and then plug the N150 into one of the AC1750's LAN ("Ethernet") ports. Configure the N150 with a static IP (for example,. 192.168.1.2; just make sure the AC1750's DHCP range starts higher than that). Make sure each router has a different SSID and wifi channel, of course.

The N150 wifi will be slower than the AC1750 because 802.11n is slower than 802.11ac. But if they were happy with the N150 wifi speed before, they won't notice a difference.
posted by odin53 at 8:51 AM on January 18


I don't think the cable modem acts like a router, and the cable service would not hand out more than one IP, so I'm not surprised at the result you reported.

Ooh, good call. That's probably it. acidic, probably instead of the switch after the modem you need a router, which is basically what you're doing right now (You can get routers that physically look like switches, just a bunch of ports, but your WiFi router does the trick as well). There's nothing wrong with plugging your routers into each other, but there could be a "risk" of networks seeing each other and running into address conflicts or smart devices acting odd. You can work around basically all of those issues by plugging into the WAN ports of any additional routers.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:19 AM on January 18


You can work around basically all of those issues by plugging into the WAN ports of any additional routers

Oh yeah, this. Connect N150's WAN port to one of the AC1750 LAN ports, in my example.
posted by odin53 at 2:07 PM on January 18


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