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June 15, 2017 by Ben Chan

How Do You Address the Number One Wi-Fi problem?

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Have you ever wondered why your subscribers struggle with unreliable Wi-Fi? The fact is, Wi-Fi technology operates within an unlicensed spectrum (2.4GHz and 5GHz bands) and uses an uncoordinated protocol known as the Collision-Sense Multiple Access (CSMA). This is a cost-effective approach, but vulnerable to interference when any wireless devices are using the same spectrum. They include nearby Wireless Access Points (WAPs), microwave ovens, cordless phones, Bluetooth headsets, etc. Since Wi-Fi is a shared medium, it is not feasible to restrict other networks and/or devices from using it. A newer wireless router with more antennas might increase capacity but will not fix the interference issues. With the proliferation of Wi-Fi devices, interference becomes the top problem and one of the main sources of trouble for support calls.

When a Wi-Fi channel with several networks has a lot of active users, the speed decreases for everyone. The speed deterioration will accelerate when more active devices are added to the networks. Eventually, it will become unusable. Like carrying a conversation in a conference, the most desired place is a less populated room where everyone speaks softly. When more people join the room, the background conversations get louder and forces you to move closer to your counterpart. When the situation worsens, you will need to change rooms (like changing to a different channel) to complete the conversation. If all rooms become too noisy (like many WAPs on the 2.4GHz band), you will need a bigger facility with more larger rooms (like the 5GHz band). The goal is the same in Wi-Fi communication: to ensure data is sent and received to devices with minimum interference.

Traditional methods only measure Wi-Fi interference with the signal strength of nearby WAPs and assume each competing device is equally active. This approach is no longer adequate for modern usage. An improved benchmark must incorporate weighted channel utilization in addition to the number of WAPs and their relative signal strength. Calix Cloud solutions use analytics to enhance its Site Scan with Channel Busyness feature. In turn, this provides a more effective input for the Calix Cloud recommendation engine.

With more devices being built with integrated Wi-Fi, and more use cases for Wi-Fi that require high-performance connectivity, interference issues will be even more significant and must be remediated to ensure reliability. For service providers, it’s critical to deploy Wi-Fi services with proper diagnostic and analytic tools that customer support representatives (CSRs) can use to shorten resolution time and reduce support calls. Learn how Calix Cloud and GigaCenter solutions help CSRs improve subscribers’ experiences with diagnostic and automation tools.