Smart Connect on Wi-Fi routers
Wi-Fi routers from the Wi-Fi 5 standard, have a functionality called SmartConnect or also known as “smart connection“. This feature allows us to unite the two or three WiFi frequency bands in a single SSID and access password. With Smart Connect we will see a single WiFi network (SSID) when we search for networks around us, and we will use the same WPA2 or WPA3 access password to access the wireless network.
This feature in routers allows us to have the functionality of band-steering, this function means that when a wireless client connects to the Wi-Fi network, the Wi-Fi router or access point will automatically place us in the best available frequency band at a given moment. If the WiFi client only supports the 2.4Ghz band, then the router will place it in this frequency band. If the WiFi client supports both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band, then it will place you on one frequency band or another depending on the following:
- Signal received by the wireless client. If the signal is low it will put you on the 2.4GHz band, if the signal is high then it will put you on the 5GHz band for maximum speed.
- Client sync speed. Generally, Smart Connects give priority to the fastest clients to connect on 5GHz and that slow clients do not harm the fastest ones. On the other hand, slow clients will connect on the 2.4GHz band so they don’t “disturb” the fast ones.
- Number of clients connected in a certain band. If in the 5GHz band we have many wireless clients connected, then the router will automatically place us in 2.4GHz so as not to saturate the frequency band.
All these parameters, in general, are not configurable, the firmware of the WiFi router has an internal configuration and cannot be modified. However, manufacturers like ASUS do allow you to configure the behavior of Smart Connect in detail. In addition, the routers incorporate a system to prevent a client from “jumping” from one frequency band to another continuously, which will cause cuts in the WiFi connection and a disastrous user experience.
As you can see, ASUS routers have a very complete menu to configure the behavior of Smart Connect in detail, ideal for advanced users to configure everything in detail as they want.
In the case of using Smart Connect, you will not be able to configure a different password for the different WiFi frequency bands, in fact, you will not be able to configure different SSIDs, everything must be exactly the same so that clients can move from one frequency band to another. another in the most transparent way possible. If you disable Smart Connect on the routers, then you can use different passwords, one for each frequency band.
Use a different WiFi key
Once we are clear that with Smart Connect it is not possible to use a different SSID and passwords for each frequency band, if we deactivate this functionality we will be able to “separate” the WiFi frequency bands, defining an SSID with its corresponding individual configuration . However, after trying many routers, we are going to find two scenarios:
- There are WiFi routers that allow you to create different SSIDs with their corresponding password, for each frequency band. In these cases, you can put a different key for each frequency band. The vast majority of routers allow this feature.
- There are devices that allow you to create different SSIDs, but we must use the same WiFi password for the two or three frequency bands. That is, in these cases we can change the SSID (WiFi network name) but we cannot change the access password.
Next, we are going to explain what the graphical user interface of routers is like where it is allowed to put a different password for each frequency band.
Routers that do allow a different key per band
Most Wi-Fi routers that are simultaneous dual-band or tri-band allow you to set a different WPA password. In the case of ASUS, just go to the “Advanced Settings / General” menu where we will be able to disable Smart Connect, and then put an SSID and personalized password for each frequency band. As you can see below, we have a specific menu for each frequency band:
In the case of the 5GHz band, we will also be able to put the password that we want, it can be exactly the same key in all the bands or different, depending on what you want.
Operator routers also usually allow you to set a different password for each frequency band, for example, Movistar’s HGU router allows it without having to go to the advanced firmware menu. In the main menu we will have a specific configuration for “WiFi” which is the 2.4Ghz band, and another configuration for the 5GHz band called “WiFi Plus”.
However, not all WiFi routers allow you to have different passwords to the frequency bands.
Routers that do not allow different keys
There are routers that allow you to separate the frequency bands into different SSIDs, however, they do not allow you to set a WiFi password for each SSID. For example, the German manufacturer AVM allows us to separate the bands without problems, however, we cannot set two different passwords, one for each WiFi frequency band, it is common for both frequency bands, whether they are configured with Smart Connect or not. configured with this function.
It is possible that other routers also have the same problem, where we can only put a password that is shared between the different frequency bands. In these cases we have no choice but to put the same key.
All Wi-Fi routers from Wi-Fi 5 onwards have the Smart Connect function, to provide us with band-steering functionality and move from one frequency band to another transparently. If your router has this option activated, it is an essential requirement that we have the same SSID, security and password in all WiFi frequency bands, directly the router configuration menu will not leave us another option.
In case of deactivating Smart Connect, all routers allow us to separate the WiFi frequency bands into different SSIDs (WiFi network names), however, some models will not allow us to set a different password for each SSID that we have previously configured. Depending on the firmware of the router, it will leave us without any problem, or it will not leave us.
What reason is there to use different keys? If you want to use different passwords to connect Smart Home devices such as cameras and other devices on the 2.4GHz band with a simple password, and use the 5GHz band for the rest of the devices with a stronger password, you should know that this is very dangerous for the security of your wireless network, because an attacker could easily gain access. In these cases, it is better to enable a guest WiFi network that is separate from the main network, but never weaken the security of a frequency band.