(ARCHIVED) UniFi - What is Zero-Handoff?

This article has been archived. Applies to UAP versions prior to: 3.7.X

This article is no longer supported and will not be updated further. Please see the warning below. We recommend to always upgrade to the newest firmware release to prevent security issues.


This article describes Zero-Handoff which was used in older firmware, before the release of the Fast Roaming feature.

Zero-Handoff is not recommended for use in UniFi deployments and is only supported on Gen1 UniFi APs. Roaming without ZHO/Fast Roaming enabled should be adequate for most environments. In cases where faster roaming is required, Fast Roaming is advised for use over ZHO as it offers similar benefits without the severe cost to performance and scalability. Some advantages of Fast Roaming over ZHO are:
  • ZHO only works for extremely light densities, Fast Roaming can be used in the densest environments.
  • ZHO requires same channel on all APs, Fast Roaming allows for channel planning—no requirements on channels selected.  

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Non-ZH Roaming
  3. ZH Roaming & Implementation
  4. Related Articles


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UniFi has always supported roaming according to base 802.11 standards. However with Zero-Handoff Roaming enabled, clients can freely roam between UAPs without incurring any latency penalty as a result of the roam. The basic premise is Zero-Handoff enabled UAPs appear as a single AP from the perspective of the client, thus eliminating disconnection.

Zero-Handoff Roaming is available starting with v3.x. The APs that support Zero-Handoff are the following: UAP, UAP-LR, UAP-Pro and UAP-Outdoor5.

Non-ZH Roaming

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When Zero-Handoff is disabled, a UAP doesn't do anything to assist or influence the station's roaming decision. In testing (v2.x) using WPA-PSK, UniFi developers sent flood pings from the laptop to a PC on the wired side, with the following results:

  • From the last ping to the original AP until association completion to the new AP is 45-155ms
  • From the last ping to the original AP until the first ping to the new AP is ~1s

For most internet applications (i.e. web-browsing), mobile activity would be seamless. For VoIP, observable delays may be noticed.

Seamless roaming as described by IEEE 802.11r (fast BSS transition) is AP-assisted client roaming. Some vendors require software-solutions for assisting in a fast-handoff solution.

ZH Roaming & Implementation

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Zero Handoff Roaming works with any type of 802.11a/g/n client. However, all UAPs in the ZHO-Enabled WLAN Group must be on the same layer-2 network (same subnet) and use the same wireless channel (e.g., Channel 1). Listed below are a few things to expect / avoid when deploying ZH-enabled UAPs.

RSSI Readings

RSSI readings of the AP arriving at the client may appear sporadic. In a non-Zero Handoff scenario where a client is associated to an AP with an RSSI of -75 and "sees" another AP in the same service set at -50 RSSI. The client decides to associate to the other AP. WIth Zero-Handoff Roam, the client sees the same SSID from both APs and may report differing RSSI values (first -75, then -50, back to -74, -51, -75, -49, etc.). Although this can be confusing from the perspective of the client, recall that with ZH-Roaming, the APs themselves handle roaming, not the client.

High Density

ZH Roaming should not be enabled on High-Density WLANs. This is because ZH requires the same channel be used on all access points across the BSSID. In addition, all associated wireless clients are using the same channel. So in a high density environment, when ZH is enabled, the channel faces overuse. Stations will experience higher latency and lower throughput. When planning a wireless network, decide whether the environment needs High Density, Zero-Handoff or Fast Roaming (refer to this article).

Related Articles

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UniFi - Fast Roaming

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