By John Epeneter, product manager
This question has existed since the dawn of Wi-Fi and the question has led to hot debates ever since. The answer is a bit complex, hence the contention. And like most complex questions, the answer is, “It depends.”
The number one factor whether you should or should not name the SSIDs the same is the capability of the devices that connect to the network (more on that later). The close second factor is the network design (environment + network equipment).
In the end, making things easier for the customer and reducing support calls is the goal.
Let’s break it down:
Pros of naming the SSIDs the same:
- Your customer will be grateful, as it will make his list of SSIDs very simple (e.g. Home, Guest). In other words he’ll only have to remember one SSID and passphrase for his devices and only one guest SSID and passphrase for his guests.
- Of course, above means fewer support calls to you!
- Almost all current wireless devices support both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies. Devices can seamlessly roam to the frequency that is strongest for their current location. Keep in mind, this doesn’t guarantee you won’t still have problems.
- 5Ghz Wi-Fi allows for faster throughput, and if your network design allows for comprehensive 5Ghz coverage, your devices may favor the 5Ghz frequency and stay connected to it, and that is good. There are some environments that are more favorable for 2.4Ghz (2.4Ghz travels farther outdoors or where there are many walls and obstructions), and in those environments, devices may connect to that frequency instead of 5Ghz. As long as your network design is good, your devices should choose the best frequency for the circumstance.
- Older 2.4Ghz only devices will just connect to the 2.4Ghz frequency and not even see the 5Ghz frequency, so having the same SSID will work fine for them.
Cons of naming the SSIDs the same:
- Different brands of devices may behave differently between 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies. Apple products are known to favor 5Ghz, so even when the 5Ghz signal is weaker than 2.4Ghz, Apple products may connect to the worse signal. Android devices often don’t care which frequency they choose, but there are many different brands of Android devices, and they don’t all work the same. So, to make things consistent and predictable, you may want to configure different devices to go to one frequency instead of another. In that case, naming the SSIDs the same will make it very difficult to choose the right frequency. Additionally, this solution adds a lot of micro-management to the network, and once you leave the jobsite you can’t guarantee the customer doesn’t connect devices to both frequencies. Plus, you are not on the jobsite all the time, so how will new devices connect? It’s tough to keep consistency.
- You may also find less sophisticated wireless devices on your network. Those devices may struggle connecting to one frequency or the other and therefore may roam back and forth constantly. Under that circumstance, you may want to name the SSIDs differently to allow you to be more discriminate as to which frequency each device will connect. In this situation, if the SSIDs had the same name, you couldn’t easily configure/force to which frequency the device would connect.
In the end, the decision falls to whether you want simplicity for the end user (name the SSIDs the same) or whether you want to have discrete control (name them differently).
Naming the SSIDs differently gives discrete control, which allows you to choose instead of allowing the device to choose what frequency is best (2.4Ghz for the distance/coverage, or 5Ghz for speed). Naming the SSIDs the same makes things simpler for the user. If you have a well-designed network with good wireless coverage, then you can take advantage of using the same name for the SSIDs and have few, if any, technical challenges. If your network design does not have comprehensive coverage, or you have less sophisticated wireless devices, the SSIDs should be named differently. For most situations we recommend you name them the same.