Factors Affecting Home Wi-Fi Performance

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Throughout the course of the research “From Managed Home Wi-Fi to Enabling the Secure Smart Home 2018-2023”, we interviewed a large number of individuals from both the service provider and vendor communities. One of the first questions we asked was what top 3 factors were affecting Wi-Fi performance. In what follows, these three factors are presented and discussed in further detail.

Poor Access Point Placement

According to our interviews, poor access point placement is No. 1 cause generating Wi-Fi related service calls. While there are many factors that can affect home Wi-Fi operation, the placement of wireless access points (AP) can be one of the most significant factors in performance. Good AP placement must provide not only adequate coverage for all clients on a network, but also provide adequate throughput, good connectivity, and minimal interference.

With the increase in low power devices, such as tablets and cell phones, and the increasing need for roaming service over nomadic use, efficient placement is critical to an operating wireless network. Poor placement of access points will result in numerous issues, including, but not limited to low data rates, signal bleeding, bad roaming coverage, and even overspending on additional APs.

Better informed customers along with more beautiful designs for access points can definitely contribute to curbing the customer tendency to hide access points in the closet or behind the TV set.

Dead Zones

To achieve a good connection, Wi-Fi has to overcome barriers and obstacles—some of which, such as dead zones—cannot be eliminated by simply purchasing a new wireless router. While a dead zone can be a result of the precious poor access placement, it is generally due to the structure of the size of the home, the walls or materials that block signals requiring multi-access points either in the form of extenders or repeaters which can be backhauled with a dedicated wireless link or with wireline.

Neighbour Interference

Wi-Fi networks interfere with each other. Older Wi-Fi standards are even worse in this respect, so old Wi-Fi hardware is not just hurting one’s network—it is also interfering with neighbours. When multiple Wi-Fi networks are close to each other, especially in the MDU environments, they should ideally be on different channels to reduce interference.

Therefore, modern routers often try to automatically choose the best Wi-Fi channel for the least interference. Older 802.11b/g/n networks use the 2.4 GHz range. While commonly used, these networks are not ideal for Wi-Fi channel interference. Given that there are 14 different available wireless channels designated for use in this range, there is a considerable overlap between them. Specifically, channels 1, 6, and 11 are the most frequently used, so Wi-Fi networks on adjacent channels do not interfere with each other. In the event when there are more than three wireless networks in the area, they are just interfering with each other.

Modern Wi-Fi standards operate on 5 GHz instead of 2.4 GHz. 802.11ac operates only on 5 GHz. 802.11n routers can operate on either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz, but not both — and they are typically be set up to operate on 2.4 GHz

Other Factors

Other factors that negatively affect Wi-Fi performance, according to our interviewees, are as follows:

• Low latency which could be either Wi-Fi- or layer 3 network-related

• Poor implementations or airtime fairness & the ability to identify and remedy ‘airtime hogs’

• Legacy clients, such as 2.4GHz-only devices causing congestion and interference

• Legacy gateways not supporting band steering

• Diverse housing stock with thick walls (in Europe) • Complicated network and device onboarding

There are 4 categories of devices in the home. Each category has its own latency, throughput, level of mobility, and Quality of Service requirements that must be managed dynamically by a smart gateway.

Categories of Home Applications 4 Single-radio 802.11n routers can only operate on the 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz range. However, there are multiple-radio 802.11n and 802.11ac routers that can create both 2.4 GHz interfaces for older devices and 5 GHz ones for newer ones.

Source: ARRIS

Overall, providing proper coverage and performance in the home is more complicated than it appears to be, so that, in most cases, throwing more RF energy to the problem will result only in aggravating of the same issues, such as a far legacy sticky client connecting to the right access points. In what follows in the report, we look at the elements of a managed home Wi-Fi network both in general (Sections 8) and from the analysis of each of the solution vendor (Sections 13, as well as select case studies from leading operators (Section 13).

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