In most cases, a traditional consumer router works best in only one scenario. It connects your wired/wireless LAN clients to an Internet service provider via a single physical WAN port on the router. In FreshTomato, this concept has been abstracted. Each physical or wireless router interface can be customized to work as WAN or LAN interface. This allows for some creative scenarios. Let's discuss some common examples.
Previously, we've discussed Wireless client mode, in which FreshTomato connects to another router/AP and FreshTomato and serves Internet access to its wired clients. In this scenario, the internal wireless chipset is used to provide connectivity and does not allow client devices of the client router to connect via wireless. This can be thought of as the reverse of the more common router installation. In the most common scenario, the router distributes Internet access from a wired connection to wired and wireless clients. In Wireless Client Mode, the router distributes Internet access from a wireless router/AP only to wired clients.
Wireless Client Mode can run on three types of devices:
Let's look at some real-world scenarios to understand how the above modes might apply in each scenario.
Extending WiFi signal (router in-the-middle)
You have access to an external WiFi service at the front of your property, but the signal doesn't reach your WiFi enabled devices.
You'll need at least a dual band device. Set up wl0 as wireless client and wl1 as an AP. On dual band devices, the wl0 interface is usually 2.4 GHz, and wl1 is 5 GHz, so there's no risk of interference between the two interfaces. Typically, a 2.4 GHz signal will travel further, so you'll want to use that band to connect at longer distances. If your device is tri-band, make sure the two 5 GHz interfaces (in whatever operation mode they might be) work on a non-overlapping frequency (channel). In this mode, your router will connect to the external WiFi and serve you an SSID to which you can connect from within the property.
WiFi as site-to-site connectivity
You have a wireless router/AP in one building and want to extend its LAN to a second building. Ideally, you would use a long Ethernet cable or fiber for this purpose.
However, this is not always possible. Both Wireless Ethernet Bridge and Media Bridge modes allow you to extend the LAN from one building to another. However, if you have a large number of client devices, and end-to-end LAN connectivity is not a prerequisite, you might want to use Wireless Client Mode. Doing so will stop broadcast packets, from crossing the wireless link. It will at least reduce them to a minimum. Of course, intra-LAN communication over the single wireless link is limited in capacity, but it works well enough for low bandwidth traffic. The wlanA/B if set to the same SSID name/password will allows clients to roam freely between buildings retaining WiFi connectivity on both sites.
Mixed DualWAN (ethernet and WiFi)
You have access to both Physical connectivity (for example, a wired ISP) and wireless connectivity (such as your generous neighbour). Here, you might want a Dual WAN configuration, where the ISP on the physical WAN port acts as your primary WAN, and where, say, wl0 might provide a backup connection. In this case, MultiWAN should be set with weight 1/0 (active/passive).
Pure WiFi DualWAN
This is a Dual WAN Wireless Client Mode scenario. Say for example you have a Dual/Tri-band router and have access to two different WiFi Services (say public, stree-based Wifi and a generous neighbour). You could configure wl0 as a wireless client for the public Internet and wl1 as a wireless client towards your neighbour's network. Then, if you have a Dual band model, you're left only with physical connectivity for your LAN. However, if you had a Tri-band model, you'd still have room to create a local SSID. Remember that Dual band models always have one 2.4GHz interface and one 5GHz interface. Tri-band models always have one 2.4GHz interface and two 5GHz interfaces. Consider this carefully during your planning, as some devices are likely to be 2.4GHz only. Another possible option is to add a second local device (FreshTomato or otherwise) to handle LAN WiFi.
WiFi 6 is a superior technology not currently supported by FreshTomato due to driver/kernel restrictions. If you need to cover a large estate (for example, with repeaters), it is advised to buy external WiFi 6 mesh equipment to handle LAN WiFi connectivity only and let FreshTomato with WiFi disabled perform all gateway (to the Internet) operations. if you will require functions like Guest WLANs or any sort of LAN separation, make certain that the WiFi 6 mesh system you select supports VLANs.
WDS is a relatively old protocol to establish direct wireless connectivity between APs where the usage of a physical calble is not possible. As of 2022, using WDS is not recommended however it cans still help in some peculiar scenarios. WDS also is vendor-dependent and might not benefit from the full intra-device airtime bandwidth. Also please remember that currently trunking over WDS is not supported, this means that to extend a SSID/VLAN from AP1 to AP2 would work only for e.g. br0. If you were to extend the secondary SSID/VLAN you would need to use a secondary radio (e.g. 5GHz). So 1 WDS link = 1 VLAN (max).