UniFi- Feature Guide: Wireless Uplink

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Table of Contents


  1. Overview
  2. How it Works
  3. Requirements
  4. Compatibility Matrix: UniFi Access Points
  5. Compatibility Matrix: Legacy Access Points
  6. Step-by-Step Guide
  7. Best Practices
  8. Related Articles


Overview


UniFi introduced Wireless Uplink to help make wireless deployments more flexible and convenient for network administrators. Wireless Uplink allows an access point with a wired data connection to act as a Base Station (Uplink AP) for up to four other access points on 5GHz (or 2.4GHz for some legacy APs)- which can extend Wi-Fi coverage to inaccessible areas, as well as pull down any configuration and settings changes from the controller via the upstream AP.

wireless_uplink.png

To understand how the wireless uplink feature can be used, it's important to know the terms used in UniFi/this article:

Base Station (Uplink AP): Access point with a wired data connection that is configured to relay data to and from Mesh APs (Downlink AP).

Mesh APs (Downlink AP): Access point without wired data connection, that functions as a normal wired AP would by sending/receiving client data wirelessly to/from the base station, or an intermediate AP by use of the wireless uplink feature (the second option is only supported with UniFi Mesh product line as intermediate AP). Is sometimes also called "island" AP.

Multi-hop Wireless Uplink: A deployment that uses a base station but has more than one level of wireless uplink with intermediate APs relaying data to and from the base station. When using multiple levels of APs, the uplink tiers can be referred to by root (base station), first hop, second hop, etc. See the example below:

multi-hop_wuplink.png


How it Works


Once enabled, the wireless uplink feature allows access points without a wired data connection to communicate with pre-configured wired access points on a network. This offers a number of benefits:

  • Factory default or unadopted devices can once powered up via POE, connect to an AP in range and make itself available for adoption within the UniFi controller.
  • These devices can be adopted and configured in the controller via the Wireless Uplink connection.
  • Once configured, these devices can broadcast SSIDs and relay network traffic to and from the network through the uplinked AP.
  • Additional devices without wired data connection can be booted up and installed via Wireless Uplink by communicating with the first hop UAP-AC-M or UAP-AC-M-PRO.

Note: With each additional AP communicating with a single AP via Wireless Uplink, wireless speeds on the Uplink AP and downlink APs will be lessened to some degree. When extending network coverage to remote areas, this is typically of little consequence as accessibility is the primary function of the Wireless Uplink configuration. Still, when using many devices via Wireless Uplink consider the limitations on network speed. 


Requirements


  • In order to use the wireless uplink feature, the wireless uplink option must be enabled in the Uplink Connectivity Monitor option under the Services section in Settings > Site. 
  • The "Allow meshing to another access point" option must be enabled for the mesh AP but disabled for the base station AP. Do so by clicking on the access point in the Devices tab to open the AP properties panel, then navigate to Configuration > Wireless Uplink.

 

IMPORTANT: This option should be enabled for all wireless access points and disabled for all wired ones. If this is disabled on a downlink/wireless AP, the AP will be disconnected from the network and require further action (including physical access).
  • The "Allow meshing from other access points" option must be enabled on the base station (uplink) access point. Enable this on a mesh (downlink) AP also only when using it for a multi-hop; in other words when this mesh AP is the uplink of another mesh AP.
  • Do so by clicking on the access point in the Devices tab to open the AP properties panel, then navigate to Configuration > Radios.
  • At least one wired access point that supports wireless uplink (see compatibility matrices below.)
  • Power source for non-data wired AP i.e. PoE injector.
  • (Recommended) Most current stable firmware.

Certain models are able to use 2.4GHz, while most use 5GHz by default. Keep the following guidelines in mind: 

Dual band base station AP to dual band mesh AP: will uplink on 5GHz.
Dual band base station AP to single band mesh AP: will uplink on the supported frequency of the single band model.
Single band base station AP to single band mesh AP: will uplink, as long as the same band is supported on both sides of the link.
Single band (2.4GHz only models) base station AP to dual band mesh AP will not be able to uplink. 
  • Single band APs can act as a base station only within the band in which they operate
  • Dual band APs can act as a base station in 2.4GHz for legacy single band access points, and 5GHz for all others. 
  • Dual band APs can act as a mesh AP only in 5GHz band

See the following compatibility matrices for information on supported devices:

UniFi Access Points - Wireless Uplink Compatibility Matrix

Model Supports Wireless Uplink Supports Multi-hop Wireless Uplink
UAP-HD/SHD  *
UAP-AC-PRO  *
UAP-AC-LR *
UAP-AC-LITE *
UAP-AC-IW/IW-PRO *
UAP-AC-EDU *
UAP-AC-M
UAP-AC-M-PRO

*Support for non-Mesh non-legacy APs has been added in AP firmware v.3.9.1 and later. 

Legacy UniFi Access Points - Wireless Uplink Compatibility Matrix

Model Supports Wireless Uplink Supports Multi-hop Wireless Uplink
UAP  
UAP-LR  
UAP-PRO  
UAP-AC    
UAP-AC-Outdoor    
UAP-Outdoor  
UAP-Outdoor+  
UAP-Outdoor5  
UAP-IW  

Note: Single-band APs only support Wireless Uplink on the band they operate on.


How-to/Instructions


Enable Wireless Uplink:

1. Open your UniFi Controller

2. Go to Settings > Site

3. Verify “Connectivity Uplink Monitor & Wireless Uplink” is enabled. If not, check the box, then click Apply Changes. 

Adopt Devices via Wireless Uplink: 

1. Power up the mesh access point that will be communicating with the Base Station (uplink) AP via wireless uplink and ensure it is within range of the Base Station. You will need a source of PoE to power the device without a wired data connection.

2. After the device boots up, it will appear within the Devices page of your Controller, with the status "Pending Adoption (Wireless)".

3. Click Adopt to adopt the device.

4. Once adoption has begun, the Base Station will provision, then again show as connected. After this, the Mesh AP device status will change with each step of the process:

  • Adopting
  • Provisioning
  • And when finished, Online (Wireless).
  • After device boots up, it will appear within the Devices page of your controller, with the status Pending Adoption (Wireless). 

This process will take longer than a wired adoption, it should take roughly 2-3 minutes to show up as adopted within your Controller. Once adoption has finished your device can be managed within the Controller in the same way as a wired access point.

Configure/Modify Existing Wireless Uplink Connections

Occasionally, administrators may want to change the way in which their Wireless Uplink devices are communicating, for instance, changing one AP to use a different uplink. This can all be easily done through the UniFi Controller. To do this: 

1. Open your UniFi Controller.

2. Click on the Device in the Uplink Setup that you'd like to configure.

3. Click on the Configuration Tab in the Device Pane.

4. Select “Wireless Uplinks”

wu1.PNG

5. Once in this menu you can choose a different device to act as the Uplink. To do soselect the desired AP to act as uplink, and click the link icon.

6. You can also manually configure the uplink priority. This allows you to have a primary wireless uplink connection, but in the case that the uplink priority degrades or is insufficient, the secondary priority will be used. 

wu2.PNG

To remove the existing uplink:

1. Open the device configuration pane for the UAP acting as the wired base station, go to Details > Downlinks, and click the trash icon next to the undesired uplink connection.

2. The device will then re-provision and will no longer use the selected AP as uplink.

wu3.PNG

Using Map/Topology Views

The Map and Topology views are very helpful ways to manage your Wireless Uplink configuration as they help visualize the deployment. Carefully labeling devices and placing them in the appropriate location on your map can help save a lot of time when managing a Wireless Uplink deployment. 

topology.PNG

To access these views: 

1. Open your UniFi Controller.

2. Click the Map Icon on the left toolbar.

3. Select either Maps or Topology from the dropdown menu in top left of display. 

Once in this view you can manage devices by clicking on the device and clicking the configuration icon. 


Best Practices


The wireless uplink feature is most helpful in extending network access to less accessible physical locations within the network. When LAN connectivity is not viable in a particular location/setting, wireless uplink can help take your network wherever it is needed. The Mesh product line can be particularly helpful in extending network with multi-hop functionality and an outdoor-suitable enclosure.

Also, to ensure that network speeds are optimized with wireless uplink, we recommend when designing a network to balance wireless uplink load from wired APs (base stations) as to not create unnecessary delays on any devices connected via the overused AP. See example below:

Note the example on the left has not balanced the load between the two UAP-AC-MESH and is unnecessarily burdening the one AP, when the other could also be used as a Wireless Uplink AP, as has been done on the better example on the right. Also, the first example on the left added an unnecessary level of Wireless Uplink- while the example on the right eliminated this.

Unless your network needs to use wireless uplink or benefits from the use of this feature, we recommend you disable the Connectivity Uplink Monitor & Wireless Uplink setting. To do so, in your UniFi Controller:

1. Click Settings icon.

2. Go to Site Settings.

3. Under "Uplink Connectivity Monitor", uncheck the box next to “Enable connectivity monitor and wireless uplink.

Disabling this setting can offer some improved speed and is often suggested when network speeds with UniFi are less than ideal.


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