Why the world of WiFi is as murky as the HiFi market

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2017 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: wifi, networking

Our own Sebastian Peak has delved into the nightmare world of testing WiFi, specifically MU-MIMO and explained some of the difficulties you encounter when testing wireless networks.  It is now Ars Technica's turn to try to explain why your 2.4GHz router never delivers the advertised 1,000 Mbps as well as how to test your actual performance.  As with many products, the marketing team has little interest in what the engineers are saying, they simply want phrases they can stick on their packaging and PR materials.  While the engineers are still pointing out that even the best case scenarios involving a single user less than 10 feet away, with clear line of sight will not reach the theoretical performance peak, the PR with that high number has already been emailed and packages are printing. 

Drop by Ars Technica for a look at how the current state of WiFi has evolved into this mess, as well as a dive into how the new technologies work and what performance you can actually expect from them.

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"802.11n was introduced to the consumer public around 2010, promising six hundred Mbps. Wow! Okay, so it's not as fast as the gigabit wired Ethernet that just started getting affordable around the same time, but six times faster than wired Fast Ethernet, right? Once again, a reasonable real-life expectation was around a tenth of that. Maybe. On a good day. To a single device."

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Source: Ars Technica

March 6, 2017 | 02:20 PM - Posted by nwgat (not verified)

i expect less than gigabit speeds out of a 5.7Gbps wireless router
thats how i see it

March 6, 2017 | 03:28 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Wifi hasn't been exciting since N. Wired uber alles.

March 6, 2017 | 07:46 PM - Posted by HectorO

Kind of disappointed. No mention in that article that WiFi is half-duplex, which is where a lot of inefficiency comes from. It not only cuts speeds in half if transmitting and receiving at the same time; it introduces overhead because of all the waiting for collisions. It's like a hub vs. having a wired switch, then cut that in half due to half-duplex.

Also, WiFi stacks tend to have excessive buffering (bufferbloat) because of piss poor QoS and WMM classification. It's not so much that the bandwidth isn't enough for everyday tasks like web browsing or stream video. It's that a large transfer causes all the small packets we care about to wait forever. Then you have packet loss which kills TCP congestion control. Really WiFi needs congestion control based on delay times rather than packet loss like most TCP is default tuned for.

March 7, 2017 | 02:53 AM - Posted by PCPer (not verified)

Bonus points for WiFi/HiFi

March 7, 2017 | 04:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If you have more than one WiFi client device, the choice is easy:

- Get a dedicated business AP

- Have shitty WiFi

March 7, 2017 | 05:20 AM - Posted by Jann5s

Really nice article, worth the read. I live in Paris and you can imagine that my neighbors are really smothering my wifi. Like I'm smothering theirs, it is to the point that I'm not using wifi any more for all devices that have 4G.