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Top 10 Wi-Fi Performance Issues

In Wi-Fi network environments, users face many challenges with their experience. Workers are
increasingly mobile and want to bring their own devices (BYOD). The sheer quantity of wireless
devices on the network is stretching the boundaries of the original design intent. In addition, workers
want instant, anywhere, anytime access to the systems and applications that help them be
productive.
As a result, Wi-Fi troubleshooting has become an expensive and time consuming task. However, the
video below demonstrates how 7signal uses its Sapphire Analyzer software to quickly identify and
troubleshoot many Wi-Fi performance issues.

The Top 10 Wi-Fi Issues and Challenges network administrators face.


1

Wireless access point rate control is set too aggressively. When too high a rate is selected,
an increase in retries ensues, which leads to higher utilization and a lower signal to noise ratio.
As a result of this decrease in available air time, capacity and TCP throughput collapse. Our
recommendation is to make rate control dynamic, adjusting it based on observed radio
conditions.

Automated channel control algorithms need major improvement. We have observed that
the automated channel selection features provided by wireless access point vendors can
sometime be detrimental to the user experience. The continuous channel hopping that takes
place across the network creates an unstable network environment. Despite what your vendor
might recommend, we have observed that in certain situations a manual channel plan is more
effective.

Wireless radio settings are not understood, therefore, not set properly. These settings
include those associated with data rates, control traffic data rates, fragmentation process, Quality
of Service, Ack/block-ack schemes usage, RTS/CTS process, Long vs. short pre-amble
configuration, load-balancing.

Interference due to poor channel coordination and Bluetooth devices. Most channel plans in
public places are random resulting in packet loss and jitter on voice calls. Better channel
selection algorithms and coordination is needed. For example, when youre using the Wi-Fi at the
coffee shop, your experience suffers due to the noise generated by the Wi-Fi signals from the
restaurant next door. A central system that managed both would be optimal, if we could somehow
get these storefronts to collaborate in the name of better Wi-Fi experiences for all customers.

Dense beacon intervals loads up the air unnecessarily. The common beacon interval default
of 100ms congests the air significantly. In 100ms a person can move about 1 foot. Therefore, is
this kind of dense beaconing necessary? Increasing the beaconing interval to 200 or 300ms can
have a great impact on Wi-Fi performance and throughput.

Mobile wireless networks interfere with the WLANs 2.4 GHz spectrum. When celluar
network indoor antennas are within 30 feet of a WLAN access point, and/or Wi-Fi clients, the
signal may saturate the receiver with off-band signals and the receiver generates harmonic
distortion that lands in the 2.4 GHz band affecting Wi-Fi performance. One suggestion is to add
RF band-pass filtering to WLAN access points.

Supporting legacy 802.11 b devices seriously degrades Wi-Fi performance. The throughput
benefits of new standards, such as 802.11ac cannot be realized if network administrators are
overprotective of the old standards. Phasing out the old b devices helps the Wi-Fi experience for
everyone on the long run.

Access point interoperability issues may degrade Wi-Fi performance. When administrators
introduce new radio devices to the network (phones, tablets, laptops), average retry rates tend to
increase to about 70%. Its true that better requirements are needed for client/access point
compatibility and interoperability. Live Wi-Fi network performance monitoring and measuring
would certainly help identify and isolate these issues.

Wireless access point antennas need a little help. Todays WLAN radios have omni-directional
antennas with good vertical coverage, but poor horizontal coverage. Some RF energy goes
where it shouldnt and antennas try to receive it from directions where there are no clients. Beam
steering and more antenna gain in the direction of clients would be better as it would improve
throughput and attenuate interference.

10 No Wi-Fi performance management systems in place. As Dr. Deming, the grandfather of


quality, would most certainly say if he were here today, You cannot improve what you cannot
measure. Just as cellular networks are managed according to service level and key performance
indicators, the time has come for Wi-Fi networks to do the same. This is true because of the
mission critical importance of reliable Wi-Fi networks today in hospitals, universities, distribution
centers and enterprises.