Networking & Wireless forum


Optimal settings for a wireless network with mixed clients

by maxidico / November 24, 2011 6:24 PM PST


I have a new 802.11n dual band router (Netgear WNDR4000) and clients with different wireless capabilities (wrt 802.11 specification):
- some clients support 'a/b/g'
- some clients support 'b/g'
- some clients support 'n' on 2.4 GHz (iPhones)
- some clients support 'n' on both 2.4 and 5 GHz (e.g. iPads)

I wonder how to configure the wireless router so that those clients that support 802.11n maximum speed don't get affected by the slower clients.
(For the iPhones I could live with lower speeds eventually, but not for those 'n'-devices that I use for media streaming e.g. iPads, TV, AppleTV, media server)

My questions:

1) AFAIK the recommended setup for a dual band router is to define 2 separate SSIDs for the 2 frequency bands and let the faster 'n' clients use the 5 GHz band, while the slower (non-'n') clients share the 2.4 GHz band.

2) I noticed that some older computers with 802.11a/b/g adapters also detect the 5 GHz SSID. Initially I was surprised but I assume this is because 802.11a uses the 5 GHz band.

3) Is it possible to lock out 802.11a clients from the 5 GHz network?
(So that the 5 GHz band is available only for the 'n' clients and the 'a' clients don't even detect it/display its SSID)

4) Is it possible to ensure that 802.11n clients that support both 2.4 and 5 GHz connect to the 5 GHz band automatically when both bands are available?
(I've read somewhere that according to the 802.11n standard that's the default behavior of such clients. Is this true?)

5) Tests with my iPad confirmed that the 5 GHz network has less coverage than the 2.4 GHz network. At a certain distance from the router and behind 3-4 walls I couldn't access the internet anymore on the 5 GHz network. But apparently the iPad didn't loose the wireless connection entirely as the wireless symbol was still there but indicating minimal (zero?) signal strength. When I switched to the 2.4 GHz network I had good signal quality again and internet access worked, too.
Q: Is it possible to configure an iPad so that it switches to another wireless network (SSID) automatically when the signal strength gets too weak?

6) Is there a way to find out which clients are connected to which band/SSID?
(I thought that the router would show this under 'attached devices' but it doesn't unfortunately.)

7) The WNDR4000 router supports 3 different wireless modes for the 2.4 GHz network: 'up to 54/145/300 MBit/s'. The default setting is 'up to 145 MBit/s' (= so-called 'neighbor-friendly mode'). What's the advantage of this mode vs. 'up to 300 MBit/s'? (apart from being friendly to the neighbors...? Wink )

Cool What's the easiest way to find out which wireless settings (channels, modes, advanced settings) are the best for a given environment?
(Is there maybe a free software that can be used to analyze the wireless conditions?)

- maxidico

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All Answers

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you have all the answers
by bill012 / November 24, 2011 9:01 PM PST

1. tends to work the best
2. yes it will see the ssid on the 5g band even if it does not support N
3. You should be able to turn off A support in the router your different SSID plan should force the 2.4 anyway
4. It tend to always connect to the strongest, not sure there is a standard it seems to be very inconstant in real world
5. You have signal strength and signal errors and interference. The quality is much more important than the strength, unfortunately some device do not show the bad packet rates. I have no knowledge of IPAD. This one is tricky even on a PC when you use 2 different SSID. You in effect define 2 networks and allow it to fail over. The trick it to get the first connection to be marked as a fail. You will drop all your session when this happens, your IP address will more than likely change which will drop all the nat mappings in the router. Most things will just reconnect after a glitch.
6. That is strange the router does not display. Some keys to look for is that you should be able to see which mac is \on which network. You can also see them in the ARP table on the router, I assume you use different IP pools per ssid
7. Mostly the friendly part but if your neighbors have a strong signal on the channel they can cause you so many errors you are better off not using both.
8. Spectrum analyzer will be the only way to find baby monitors,cameras etc etc that interfere. They make some very limited ones for about $200 which is much better than commercial ones costing many thousands. For home use it is much easier to just try the options. Some nic cards will show all the AP and all the channels and the signal strength. BUT they only see the AP announcements. You won't see 802.11 clients or any other junk that uses the radio band. Your best bet is to just keep a eye on your error counts. You can have excellent signal strength but have huge errors caused by say a cordless phone

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Less setting possibilities on Netgear routers?
by maxidico / November 25, 2011 7:44 AM PST

Thanks for your answers.

3) It seems the Netgear WNDR4000 doesn't allow to switch off 'a' for the 5 GHz. In the wireless settings of the router the 2 bands are named "2.4 GHz (b/g/n)" and "5 GHz (a/n)". To me this indicates that the 5 GHz is per definition meant for both 'a' and 'n'. Which is exactly what I want to avoid because I'm afraid the 'a' clients would slow down the speed of the network.
The only wireless settings available on the WNDR4000 are
- wireless isolation on/off
- SSID broadcast on/off
- channel
- mode ("up to 45/145/300 MBit/s" for the 2,4 GHz band and "up to 54/217/450 MBit/s" for the 5 GHz band)
No setting to enable or disable any specific 802.11 versions.
Therefore I wonder how to avoid that 802.11a clients connect to the 5 GHz network?

6) Using different IP pools for the 2 bands is a good idea. Unfortunately this is also not possible with the Netgear WNDR4000....
There is only one DHCP pool.

Are these limitations usual for wireless routers in the $100-$200 price range or are these specific limitations (weaknesses) of Netgear routers?
Honestly before I bought this router I thought that there would be more flexibility in the wireless settings...

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"I wonder how to configure the wireless router so that those
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 25, 2011 4:34 AM PST

"I wonder how to configure the wireless router so that those clients that
support 802.11n maximum speed don't get affected by the slower clients."

I see a fine answer to most questions but your one comment means you never want to enable 802.11b support. I'd enable g and n support and if possible use a second router as a WAP for a high speed 802.11n only access point.

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About IP pools.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 25, 2011 7:47 AM PST

I'd ignore that. No gain except for IT guru control types.

As to:
- wireless isolation on/off
- SSID broadcast on/off

Folk complain about shares and printers and more if isolation is on.
Folk complain about dropped connections if SSID broadcast is off.

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These settings are useless for me
by maxidico / November 25, 2011 2:27 PM PST
In reply to: About IP pools.

Wireless isolation means clients are 'isolated' from each other i.e. can only access the internet but not communicate with each other. This is totally useless for me.

SSID broadcast off makes it just more difficult for clients (users) to find the network. Nothing for me either.

Different IP pools (maybe even on the same subnet) though would be an advantage in my view. Because it would allow me to check if any slow 'a' clients are connected to the 5 GHz network that I want to reserve for the fast 'n' clients only. With the Netgear WNDR4000 I don"t see a way to ensure via settings.

How else can I check if the 5 GHz network runs at optimal speed?

I think my question comes down to: How can I ensure a fast 5 GHz network (= running at 'n' speed) if the router doesn't allow to reserve this band for 'n' clients? In my opinion this is such a common requirement for dual band routers that I can hardly believe this can't be accomplished with the Netgear WNDR4000...

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How else can I check if the 5 GHz network runs at optimal sp
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 26, 2011 2:30 AM PST

1. By testing.
2. By limiting the number of clients that can connect.

Item 2 has been spotted on most wifi routers.

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