WiFi Requirements and Performance with Maestro

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We've been receiving some questions about WiFi networks and Maestro so I want to explain some of the requirements for Maestro.  Most of the applications you use over WiFi do not require low latency -- the exception would be a VoIP or video app like FaceTime.  When you watch YouTube or Netflix, for example, you need the application to "keep up" with the speed of the video, but the application has been programmed to know that you as a consumer understand that buffering is a necessary part of watching the video.  When you launch the video, the application buffers at as fast a rate as it can, measures that rate and then starts the video only when it is assured that it can keep up through the end of the program.  This results in a brief start-up period while the buffering occurs.  

For Maestro, we assume that there is a high likelihood that you will actually want to communicate with the folks on the other end of the path.  They're not going to be tolerant of a 10-second buffering period nor are you.  How weird would it to be to call CQ and then hear someone respond 5-seconds into your conversation with another ham?  Because of this, we buffer very little and expect that the WiFi router will be able to provide good streaming service.  In other words a steady stream of packets with low loss and data that is not bursty.

We've tried a number of routers and have found that some work much better than others.  The ones we've had the best success with are the newer 5GHz AC3100/AC3200 etc routers.  We've also had good luck with the AC1900 routers.  When at hamfests, we've had issues with all of the other vendors and convention centers on 2.4GHz so we often stay away from that band.  Unless you run VoIP, FaceTime, etc. over your WiFi router, you probably have little visibility into whether it offers good coverage or not.  What seems like a slow site or slow Internet could be your WiFi losing a large number of packets and having to resend them.  So with all this in mind, here are some recommendations:

If you experience WiFi issues:
  1. Check the performance of your router or look up a review to see how it should typically perform.  Routers that advertise they are for "gaming" are best suited to a low latency environment since this is a requirement of gaming
  2. Check your Wifi channels to ensure they are not shared with another router.  Often times everyone in a neighborhood will end up on a default channel on 2.4GHz like channel 6.  Scan the neighborhood and be sure you are not on a channel with others if possible.
  3. Switch to using 5GHz if your area is crowded on 2.4GHz.
  4. Check your settings in the router to ensure they are setup for "gaming" or other low latency applications.  This can include disabling features like packet coalescing that hold packets to be sent only after larger quantities of data are received at the router.  On the newer routers we've had good luck taking all the defaults.
  5. Check forums on your router to see if there are specific settings that could help with any issues you encounter

If you decide to upgrade your WiFi router:
  1. Check reviews for the routers from reputable sources to verify if the router performs well.  Some companies rush to get their router to market first and have performance issues on specific bands/etc.  Often the reviews report these problems
  2. If possible, use a router that has both 5GHz and 2.4GHz so that you can use whichever is less congested in your area
  3. If you use both 5G and 2.4G, name the SSIDs differently in the router so that you can be aware of which you are connecting to.  For example, name one "MYROUTER" and the other "MYROUTER_5G"
  4. Read the manual looking at all the options to ensure that you have the lowest latency settings enabled.

We have several routers that give us excellent performance and no dropped packets.  We have also used routers that are horribly misbehaved and cause many many lost packets.  We've seen one recently that dropped over 30% of the packets it should have sent.  Having a good WiFi router capable of streaming is a requirement for Maestro due to our requirements as hams that we are able to communicate with folks on the other end of the connection.
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

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Posted 2 years ago

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Bob - W7KWS -

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Steve,

My Maestro is due here this afternoon sometime.  Thanks! 

Now, onto my points.  I'm hoping for a smooth transition to Maestro as I've been using an 8" Lenovo Windows tablet running SSDR for several months and have generally found what works and what doesn't.  I'm hoping that experience will prove to be useful guidance for setting up my Maestro.

One clear vulnerability I've seen using 2.4 GHz. WI-Fi is interference with Bluetooth which uses the same frequencies.  It seems this will be particularly troublesome if a Bluetooth headset is used with Maestro at the same time it's using 2.4GHz WI-Fi.

Another item, I've had great luck using the tablet & SSDR over WI-Fi at a couple of McDonald's restaurants using SoftEther as the VPN server at home and the stock, Windows L2TP/IPSec PSK function in the tablet. 

In another thread it was asked if there would be provision in Maestro for responding to the splash screen that McDonald's presents before providing access to WI-Fi. I've never seen the answer to this.

I also use cellular hotspot tethering using my cell phone over Cricket Wireless, which is now an AT&T subsidiary and uses the AT&T cellular network.  This doesn't work very well as, I think, the data is routed in such a way so that they can measure my usage.  The resulting ping times rise to over 100 MSec. In this environment the RX audio is heard but the spectrum and waterfall information never show in the display.  I only see the background.

Using a Straight Talk cellular hotspot, their model specifically selected to run on Verizon's network, the ping times fall to around 65Msec. and things work out a lot better with full audio & display.  The Straight Talk model that runs on AT&T suffered the same fate as my cell phone.

I hope these tidbits are useful to others.

73
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

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Bob, good points.  We have discussed the splash page support for hotel/hot spot WiFi networks, but have not made a decision to support this yet.  I suspect it will be a common request and I suspect we will react to this by scheduling the work to add this capability, but we've not done this yet.
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Rob Ravlin

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Steve, I purchased the Netgear AC3200. Everything was fine until I started getting this message. Am I doing something wrong?
Thanks K1SR Rob
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

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This looks unrelated to WiFi and I'm not certain what the issue is here.  You should open a help disk ticket and work with support for a resolution.
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Jd Dupuy

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Wondering why with all the testing that went on, there was no mention of this prior to shipment?
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Steve - N5AC, VP Engineering

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No mention that you need a good WiFi router?  Honestly, we've been very focused on finishing Maestro and getting it out the door.  We really haven't seen that many issues from our Alpha team in this respect and it takes time to look at what we are hearing to determine if there is a specific issue with one router, if it's a larger problem, what causes issues (us or the router), what works well, etc.  What you're reading is the crystallization of several months of working with Maestro on WiFi.  I wouldn't have known what to say, exactly, three months ago.  I suspect that anyone here that is a video gamer over WiFi knows this well, but my video games are wired ;-)
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Jd Dupuy

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The market is flooded with good routers. I'm talking about all the requirements and settings you mentioned above. This will be new to some of the plug and pray users. But it's good that you have come out with a good guideline to follow. This will help provide a starting point if one has issues.
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Gary F

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I am using a Linksys E1200 router, 2,4 Ghz, with no problems. I am also using a Netgear W3000 range extender at the other end of the house. All is working fine between the Flex and Maestro.
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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Steve

Are there some brand/model numbers we can buy that you know works well?
73
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Lewis Cheek

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@Neal, guess I can expect problems, same model I have :(

Lew N4CO
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Steve (N9SKM)

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I have an Asus Rt-N66U that i have had for a couple years and runs like a champ for games. i guess ill see how it does with the maestro. My bridge to another house may cause issues if i eventually want to remote but ill cross that river when i get there.
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Lou

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I agree...I have had excellent results with this router.....and my Maestro likes it too!

73

Lou N2TU
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Clay N9IO

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Me too, Asus makes a great router. Dual band is great.
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Guy G4DWV/4X1LT

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A good plus with the Asus router is that one can use both 2.4 and 5GHz bands at the same time. Another big plus is the good range of third party firmwares.
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Gerald - K5SDR, Official Rep

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Bob - W7KWS -

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I use an Asus RT-AC66U wired as a dual band access point to a low end, enterprise class router & an Arris TG826 cable modem in bridge mode (routing disabled). My ISP is Comcast.


My router is a Peplink Balance 20. I've become so comfortable with its setup screens & the way it works, I'm reluctant to take it out in favor of the Asus or the Arris routing functions.


UPS just arrived with my Maestro. BYE!
(Edited)
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Cal Spreitzer

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I received my MAESTRO today and have it up and running on my home network with zero issues.  It's been running for three straight hours without any hint of dropouts.  I'm running it on a Polanfo Power Bank 12000mah USB battery using 5 Ghz WIFI.  My network router is a D-Link DIR868L.  Everything is running great.  I'm very happy so far!  I should also mention my wife is in the other room streaming Netflix  at the same time on the same router.  My Flex 6500 sits in another room and is connected via a switch to the router. 

Cal/N3CAL
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Jd Dupuy

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Thanks for the report!
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K1UO - Larry

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(Edited)
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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Guys,

My experience with wifi routers (going back as long as there were consumer wifi routers) tells me they are some of the most perishable of equipment. I am not sure I have ever had one last more than 3 years and almost all didn't survive 2 years. It could be purely a matter of lightning/static fields/whatever but they die more often than any other device in my network.

How can you justify 300 USD and higher investments in these?  Is there performance, vis-a-vis the 110 buck D-Link router mentioned above really worth a 3+x investment?
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Internet at a previous location was so bad that I compensated by subscribing to both cable & phone Co. DSL. The Peplink is a dual WAN router plus cell backup. Thus the reason for the expendature on my part. It did the job well & has been going strong for six years.

On another note, Flex 6300 upstairs, maestro in living room. It took five minutes to install the legs & another five to start it up. So far it's perfection on 5GHz Wi-Fi.
(Edited)
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Norm - W7CK

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I have a few of the really old Linksys WRT54G wireless routers all of which are running the Tomato software.  I know these things are old, but I love them.  I've picked several of them up over the years for between $5 and $10.  Other than me accidentally bricking one of the routers a few years ago while changing the OS over to Tomato, I've never had one single failure.

I regularly use a laptop from my garage and various other places in the house to access my 6700 with no problems at all.  I normally have 1-2 panadapters and 2-3 slices open at the same time and still no problems. For my eyesight the screen is just a tad too small for anything more than 2 panadapters.  I use a LG wireless headset for communications while using the laptop.  I've heard bluetooth can interfere with 2.4Ghz wifi, but I haven't seen that either.  My house isn't very large so for the most part I'm usually not more than say 60-80 feet from my access point.  The only time I have had trouble is when my wife gets on her tablet via wifi and starts playing some youtube video.....   Since she doesn't get on very often, I usually let her win and have at it for a while.

As far as latency goes, I do experience it, but it isn't all that bad. It is especially noticeable when I'm on a net or talking with a group of friends.  I have a tendency to double with others because I don't immediately hear someone transmitting due to the latency and I occasionally will talk over top of them.

From what I'm hearing though, my old Linksys routers may not work very well with the Maestro.  I'm going to wait and see.  I have several of these old routers and I can't tell you how happy I've been with them.  The ones marked with V1 thru V3 have plenty of on-board memory, you can run full blown VPN thru them and with the Tomato firmware, you have a lot of control over the configuration parameters.

I recently set one up for use in my camper.  I haven't tried it out yet but the idea was to put the Flex in the back and tucked out of the way.  Then use the Maestro from anywhere I have wifi back to my Linksys router.  I'm hoping to be able to sit out under the awning in the shade and play radio!  We do a lot of dry camping so I've put solar panels on the roof and run everything off of 12v dc.  No noise at all from anything.  The low low noise floor while out boon docking is pretty amazing.

Got to go - 6 meters is open again today!
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John-K3MA

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This site is useful to investigate routers before purchase and has enough test results to even keep the high tech users informed.

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/

John
(Edited)
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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John that is  a killer site! I just ordered the 97 buck Archer C7 router and will get it tomorrow. I will let everyone know how it goes!
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GI4FZD

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is the Archer C7 working well with the Maestro
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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So far yes indeed but make sure you have the latest firmware loaded!
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Norm - W7CK

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For the past year or so, I've been running a laptop into a very old Linksys WRT54G wireless router running on 2.4Ghz.  I've been able to go anywhere in my house without any issues at all.  I also use a wireless headset to interface to the laptop.  Its given me the freedom to work out in the shop and still be on the air.

Are you guys telling me that the wifi requirements for the Maestro are going to be greater than my Laptop?
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Neal - K3NC, Elmer

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Norm, based on what is written here, I would guess so. It might not necessarily be a question of speed but latency (delays)   caused by queuing in the router.
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Dave - W6OVP

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Thanks for the info Steve. It is very helpful. I'm due here to replace my classic "souped up" Linksys WRT54G that has done yeoman service at a busy location for many years.

But remember the old saying "I don't want to know how the clock works, I just want to know what time it is?" I suspect many of us just want to know WHAT TO BUY (very specifically!) so we can go to our favorite seller, click on it, pay for it, and hook it up when it arrives. <GGG>.

You have a gold mine of research experience to share so why not give us your 3 favorite routers by specific model number? (And which ones to avoid by specific model number. )

I want to run my new Maestro when it arrives, not waste time replicating your tedious research. Be brave Steve! Go ahead tell us.

TNX. -Dave.
(Edited)
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Dave - W6OVP

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>Please refer to Steve's post above:

C'mon, Tim. That why I wrote "I don't want to know how the clock works, I just want to know what time it is?"

What is so complicated about this? This is not a school assignment --- I don't want to know where to go for more information. Just make some recommendations with a simple caveat and move on...
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Guy G4DWV/4X1LT

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Can you imagine the probs Flex would get into if they recommended a router and a customer had problems with it? They ain't going down that road I'm sure.
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Steve (N9SKM)

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Perhaps instead of asking a manufacturer to tell you what router to buy you should start another topic so we can as a community keep track of what ones work well or not.
Their recommendation for looking up one with good reviews and possibly catered towards gaming seems reasonable. There is already another thread where some people have started discussing this, I have an asus rt-N66u that someone else who has already received their maestro said works well.
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Guy G4DWV/4X1LT

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Steve, I do not think that that would work. Everybody would have their favourite routers and what works well in one environment would not work well in others.

There is always be situations in which poor routers will work well and others where a top-hole router will be awful. My N66U may work well as I use third party firmware and have highly configured it. At default, it could be a useful paperweight
(Edited)
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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There are a LOT of reasons to have a specification, rather than a recommendation:


  1. Until you get to enterprise-grade gear the performance of several units of the same router can vary. 

  2. Product Specifications are not static.

  3. Otherwise identical copies can vary by both known and unpublicized differences in Firmware.

  4. Lastly so many variables in the rest of the individuals network, shack environment, interaction from other devices on network, level of other WiFi signals, and things like other software, network of things, other streaming users (think TimeCapsules and Sonos type background loads as well as other users) can affect performance.


WiFi quality and Network Issues will not go away with everyone rushing to brand-X model-z routers.  YMMV is reflected when you look at things like Amazon ratings for consumer routers - even the good ones have people who have ended up with bad experiences.

73

Steve K9ZW



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Norm - W7CK

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Well, I received my Maestro this morning, put a battery in it, 12v power line to my battery bank, set up the wifi to my old Linksys WRT54G router running 2.4 GHz and I've had it turned on non-stop for 12 hours strait.

I just went into the Menu and selected the Network tab to see how things were doing.  Network Status: Excellent, Latency (RTT): 1 ms, Max Latency (RTT): 25 ms, Dropped 0 out of millions of packets....  Total RX Rate: 874 average with 2 slices.  I've walked all over the house with it and no dropouts or issues.   When I look at the different Wifi routers out there I see around a dozen of them although none of them have extremely strong signals.

For now I'll keep my old WRT54G running Tomato....
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Craig K9CT

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Clay N9IO

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Good article Craig,
I had issue with a Firewatch deviceat work 8 stories up talking to road digital signage.
The POE and device died after some years,  by the time I received replacement it was off the air long enough MANY new wifi's in the area went on to and next to the channel we were using and I could not connect any longer.   After monitoring the local wifi landscape it became apparent to change to a much higher channel (for that app anyway).  The Firewatch tech says that most home wifi's want to congregate in the lower channels (not terribly smart devices).  Now at home I intentionally select a high channel even though I am out in the country just to avoid potential issues.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I need to investigate further on my own setup but I am getting better network performance on the Maestro if I am connected to WiFi than connected directly with ethernet cable.... and that just makes no sense. I am using a Smart Gigabit switch and the ethernet cable supplied by Flex.

Ver 1.8 fixed it!!
(Edited)