WiFi Fluctuation Question

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  • Updated 4 months ago

Over the years I've used a number of WiFi routers, expensive and cheap with Flex XCVRS. With countless WiFi adapters in the computers. They all seem to have one thing in common, they randomly drop packets.

It is frustrating to watch SmartSDR Network Status vary wildly between Excellent and Poor with no apparent cause. These swings between Green and Red have little apparent effect unless the connection is actually lost. Drop rates of 0.01% - 0.05% are typical but variations in distance show little effect. This happens when listening and with no strong RF in the air.

Why do line of sight WiFi paths of only 6 to 60 feet behave this way? Good connections like this should be rock solid hour after hour.  ???

TNX  Dave.


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Dave - W6OVP

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Posted 4 months ago

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Michael Walker, Employee

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Hi Dave

The indicator is a packet health indicator, not an RF strength indicator.

The packet delivery quality can be affected not only by your own network traffic, but by your neighbours network traffic as WiFi is a party line so to speak.  

If you neighbour is streaming NetFlix and the router or the client can hear your neighbours traffic, it has to give pause.  That is the easy way to explain it.  There are a bunch more moving parts than that, but it will give you an idea.  

You won't see it in other platforms like streaming video, as the clients buffer the video data.  That is something you can't do in live HF radio communications.  

I hope that helps a bit.  

Mike 
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Dave - W6OVP

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>If you neighbour is streaming NetFlix and the router or the client can hear your neighbours traffic, it has to give pause.

Is there a fix for this at my end short of moving?

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Ted VE3TRQ

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Switch to 5 GHz WiFi and pick a channel that shows as unused - then monitor occasionally to ensure it still is.
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Rocinante

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While running SSDR on my Mac via Parallels, I have also noticed that the packet health indicator improves significantly when I configure Parallels such that it allows Windows to consume unlimited resources.
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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Danny K5CG

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Another thing to consider is channel congestion. Make sure you are using WiFi channels that are not already in use. In fact -being a ham; you can use the lower channels that are not for public use which are less likely to be congested. That might take special firmware for your router but they will certainly be available.
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Dave - W6OVP

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>Make sure you are using WiFi channels that are not already in use.

Are there any specific 'default channels' that good to avoid?

TNX to all.
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Danny K5CG

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No defaults, just whatever everybody else in your area is NOT using. Some routers allow you to do a "site survey" but there are apps for phones that will tell you the same thing. Choose an open channel.
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Michael Walker, Employee

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Unfortunately, no.  If you search in the community on WiFi you'll see a few posts and studies I did on WiFi and performance testing for 2.4Ghz.

What makes 2.4G such a failure is its inability to support more than 4 clients streaming at the same time.  I just confirmed that when I attempted to hook up 5 WYSE 2.4Ghz security cameras.  3 worked great (at only 100kB/sec) and 4 failed hugely.  

There are alternatives to WiFi if you can't run a cable, but if you can run a cable or even IP over PowerLine (called PowerLine) your performance may improve.  

Your question is not an uncommon one and I wish I had an easy answer.  I take no less then 3-7 phone calls a day due to WiFi performance and it would be awesome if I had a magic button to push for those issues.  
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Craig Williams

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I am waiting for 2.5 so I can adjust my MTU. My router breaks up packets at 1500. At 1470 it does not. Hoping that fixes the Apple iOS stuttering issue..
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Michael Walker, Employee

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A bit of the challenge is that 802.11G (2.4Ghz) only has 3 channels, 1, 6 and 11.  While it does look like you have more, a 20 Mhz channel actually consumes more.

Channel 6 is actually 4,5,6,7,8 and you really don't want to overlap channels and cause more interference. 

If you can move to 5Ghz (802.11A), your range is less, which is good since it is less prone to interference from your neighbours.

Yes, WiFi as we know it is broken.

Mike  
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Dave - W6OVP

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TNX Mike. Switching over to 5 GHz was a good change.
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Martin Ewing AA6E

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You can roll your own WiFi using the ham-only channels in the 5 GHz band.  See https://www.arednmesh.org/ for example.  It's probably not what most Flex users want, but it would be an interesting experiment.  Maestro would not support it directly.
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Danny K5CG

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That sounds like a feature request. I mean why not? Hams using the Ham channels on the WiFi bands? What a concept!
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Ted VE3TRQ

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That only helps if you are running both ends of the WiFi circuit - AREDN uses a modified OpenwRT kernel and then puts a bunch of config around it. Flex would also need to provide your WiFi router if they were to allow use of Ham-only frequencies in the 2.4 or 5 GHz ranges on the Maestro :-(
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Martin Ewing AA6E

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Well, not exactly. You can use two AREDN nodes that bridge two Ethernet segments - or networks. Flex just sees Ethernet connections. I don't know if the latency and throughput will be good enough, however, especially with mesh routing.
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Ted VE3TRQ

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My comment was directed to the “feature request” comment above. I have a bunch of Ubiquity gear with AREDN software on it (and with AirOS), and it has good enough performance to route VOIP and, presumably, Flex audio. Just don’t expect a Maestro to work with it unless it’s in bridge mode with an Ethernet connection :-)
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Danny K5CG

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Hi Ted, I agree, it would have to be at both ends. But if the Maestro could operate on the lower two(?) channels (the feature request) then all you need is a router that supports it too.
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Ted VE3TRQ

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I believe the Maestro has a commodity tablet inside, and I suppose it does the WiFi (and the Bluetooth everyone would like :-). For it to support the existing AREDN ham-only channel assignments, it would need to have the particular Atheros chipset the AREDN drivers support - that's what allows channels -1 and -2.

Better, I think, to just use a free 5 GHz channel. There are quite a few. Not that it wouldn't be a neat idea to have a Maestro on 2.4 GHz Chan -2, but there are a whole lot of things I'd rather Flex added to the radio first!
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John - WA7UAR

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Without wanting to hijack this topic further I’d like to refer folks here interested in an alternative to ARDEN to read and consider this thread on HamWAN.
https://community.flexradio.com/flexr...
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Danny K5CG

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But you just couldn't help yourself?
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W9ILY

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I have similar indications but am using a hard wired connection to my router and not using Wifi at all. Why does the indicator occasionally go to yellow for a short time. Is this an indication of what might be happening IF I were using the Wifi access?
John W9ILY
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Martin Ewing AA6E

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This happens for me when I use Gbit networking. It goes away when I switch to 100 Mbs. Flex doesn't let you do that directly, so you may need to downgrade your router (not so easy) or insert a 100 Mbs switch between radio and ssdr/Maestro.
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W9ILY

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But my real question is...what difference does it make when the bars drop to yellow when using a wired gigabit connection? I suspect nothing but I'd like to be sure. Thanks for your input.
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Martin Ewing AA6E

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There may be a click when a packet is dropped, but I've never found it a problem. It's mainly esthetic: I don't like the radio telling me I've got a "serious" problem.