Monthly Archives: December 2023

Why speed tests aren’t always the answer when troubleshooting Wi-Fi networks

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    In my current role, we sometimes receive complaints about the Wi-Fi being slow or not working properly. When we ask what the issue is, we’re often sent responses referring to speed test results only that are supposed to serve as the definitive proof that something’s wrong with the Wi-Fi. What our user base often doesn’t understand is that there are many variables when it comes to speed tests in general, but when running these speed tests while connected to Wi-Fi, even more variables exist. Let me try to explain.

    Whether it be wired or Wi-Fi, there are theoretical and real-world throughput maximums in networking that are affected by a number of things. For example, even when you have a 1 Gbps wired connection, chances are you’ll never get full 1 Gbps line-rate speeds in a raw throughput test due to at minimum, the overhead needed to put bits onto the wire, not to mention whether the latency and TCP Window Size (if using TCP) can support the line-rate speed. Latency and the TCP Window Size are two things I’ll come back to in more detail later.

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    When is a client problem also an AP problem?

    My employer is currently building a new home office (HO) campus. In every building except two infrastructure support buildings, we are installing Mist AP45s which are 6E capable. The two support buildings received AP43s which don’t support 6E, but are Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) capable and still very capable APs.

    Why is that important? Well, as most if not all of you out there know by now, WPA3 is mandatory in 6 GHz. We haven’t deployed the AP45s in many places yet, so the new HO campus is an opportunity to really get our hands dirty with not just 6 GHz, but also WPA3-Enterprise on our corp WLAN and OWE on our guest WLAN to see how some of our client base would respond and operate. But Keith, didn’t you just say the support buildings had AP43s which don’t support 6 GHz operation? I did, but as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, they are 802.11ax capable and 802.11ax does support WPA3 which isn’t something we had broadly enabled yet in our environments up to this point!

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