Wireless Setup Slow Speeds

I take care of several sorority houses and I am having issues at all of them with wireless speeds. I use Charter Internet and have a 100MB line coming into the house. I have verified that after my firewall I am getting 95 - 100 MB speeds. When I plug in with my laptop to my switch my speeds are where they are supposed to be. I have a Smoothwall firewall that acts as the firewall and DHCP router at every house. I then have at least one wireless access point on each floor with good to excellent signal strength throughout the house. I do not use DHCP on the WAP and have that disabled. The only thing I do when I program the WAP is set the IP, SSID, security, password, and that is it. I have any where from 40-50 girls in each house. The speeds during the day when the majority of them are in class I get speeds of 35-40 Mb. When they are all home at night the speeds are worse than dial up and sometimes do not even work then. How do I program these WAP to put out more speed? What is the best way to setup a wireless network in a sorority house with 40-50 girls who have extremely high data usage? I have been taking care of these houses for over 7 years now and last year and this year I have had nothing but problems. The amount of girls in the houses are the same, but the data usage has escalated and I just can not get any speed out of these WAP. I use a business class Engenius WAP. I have attached a network diagram of how I set them up and the settings that I use in the routers. Please help as I have some very unhappy college girls!
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Natty GregIn Theory (IT)Commented:
Check the wireless channel sounds like, there is a lot of collision.  from microwaves, wireless phone and possible metal piping.
Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
Cisco has a white paper that shows that if you get enough wireless devices in one area, they will create enough interference with each other to essentially disable the system.  Wireless routers work on a polling system where they switch from one connection to the next to make sure they all get serviced.  If you get enough people trying to connect, you simply run out of time to service them all.

35-40 Mb is good for a router connected to a 100Mbps connection.  Wireless speeds are usually half of what is available to a wired connection.  But since it would not be unusual for each girl to have both a laptop and a cell phone connected to the network, it is more like 100 users per house.  Some probably have tablets too... and I'd guess they never turn any of them off.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
sorority house with 40-50 girls who have extremely high data usage?

If they are all watching movies or doing on line course work with video, they are probably saturating the line.

You may need to see if you can enable limits by account or some other method of reducing use.

I see this at my cottage resort and at nights, sometimes speeds are very low. I switch to my Nokia Internet stick.
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LANengineerAuthor Commented:
Nattygreg not sure what you are talking about with wireless sounds?? How do I test this? I have a WiFi manager app and I have my WAP on the least used channel. That's the only way I know how to test for interference.

John I thought about setting limits but I think that would be almost impossible since there are so many girls with about 3 devices each and they come and go each semester.

When the girls have issues they go to the library and the library has hundreds of students in there studying and online at one time. How do they get the high and consistent speeds?  There has to be a way to get a wireless network that will put out high speedsand be consist and reliable and be able to support 40-50 girls.
LANengineerAuthor Commented:
I am asked all the time why they never have problems at the library and can't we get what they have (meaning the library). Hospitals, hotels, libraries, big corporations, etc... all have wireless networks with hundreds of people on them so how do they do it?
Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
I would go ask the people who set up the library and see how it is physically arranged.  I suspect they have a lot more equipment and they have it set up so there is some isolation between areas.
Dash AmrSenior Specialist(PM)Commented:
FROM ALL what I have read here I guess the answer is a proxy Server so how you need first monitor the traffic and then Filter it to with time limits and session controls

ClarkConnect = ClearOs...etc
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
When the girls have issues they go to the library and the library has hundreds of students in there studying and online at one time. How do they get the high and consistent speeds?

I would find out how they do this. My guess is much higher over speed.

 big corporations, etc... all have wireless networks with hundreds of people  

The people are not necessarily watching movies and download high volume content all the time.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Another question to ask or consider is:  Are the people in the house using their computer as a television. This chews up bandwidth.
Craig BeckCommented:
Ok so you've set up the APs correctly.  One thing I would say is try to disable 802.11b, so go with 2.4GHz using G/N only.  That may improve things, especially where clients are using slower data-rates due to distance from AP, etc.  Also, I'd want more APs on each floor if there are more than 5-6 rooms per floor.

This issue may not actually be about what users are doing with their bandwidth...

How far could a client be from an AP on their own floor?  What you don't want is clients connecting to the AP on the floor above or below them.  That will force slower data-rates to be used and have a knock-on effect for users wanting to go faster.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I understand the above post and do not rule it out. However, it is also reasonable to surmise that the (young and carefree) people are consuming mountains of bandwidth.

Take a known good laptop (your own?) with known good networking to the house when the network is slow. Attach right next to a given AP. Do you see a difference at your machine?
Craig BeckCommented:
What good is that?  Would you then say that the answer is to stop people doing what they want?  That might not be acceptable.  And if they are, how do you stop it here?

In order for a system to perform well it must be designed well.  It must also be used within its capabilities.  While users may be trying to stream large amounts of data I wouldn't expect a modern system to choke that badly unless it was being stretched in one way or another.

Saying that, you must ensure that the system is being used as prescribed.  I would consider high-bandwidth usage to be as prescribed, whereas I would not consider a user who is connecting to an AP on a different floor or 50ft away through 6 walls to be as prescribed.

The kit itself seems to be configured correctly, but given my experience troubleshooting these types of issue I would certainly look at connectivity before individual users' usage.  Make sure the clients all have a good link to an AP at the fastest data-rates and I would put my house on the service improving.  That may mean adding another AP per floor, but if that lets users stream films all day and that's what you want, then so be it.

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Natty GregIn Theory (IT)Commented:
not channel sounds, sorry I put comma in the wrong place. I said it sounds like you have a lot of collision in the network,
use WiFi inspector or WiFi infoview it will show all wifi signal in your area and the channel they are using so that you choose the least used channel
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You have said a couple of times "I would consider high-bandwidth usage to be as prescribed, whereas I would not consider a user who is connecting to an AP on a different floor or 50ft away"

I assume you mean slow speed is because of access methodology or distance.

So then that is why I suggest a good laptop nearby. It will help get to the bottom of the issue (over saturation OR connection methodology).
Craig BeckCommented:
The OP says its fine before all users jump on... Your test would prove nothing.
LANengineerAuthor Commented:
nattygreg - I have checked wireless signals and have made sure I am on a good channel. Do you recommend auto channel so it picks up the best channel or set it manually? I have always set the channel in the WAP's.

John - I have done testing with my laptop right next to a WAP at night when the speeds are really bad and even standing right next to it, it is extremely slow. I always go up there during the day and everything is fine and then I finally went up there at night when they said it was bad and it was truly bad. We were lucky if we were getting speeds of 1MB and sometimes it would not even work at all.

I am only getting 35-40MB when no one is on the wireless. We are getting 100MB from Charter. Is there any way or a configuration in these WAP to make them perform better and get more out of them than the 35-40MB? I can add more WAP's, but the last time I tried to do this I could not get it to work. When I had them both plugged in the new one would not work. If I plugged one in at a time they both worked. I am thinking that when I had them both plugged in one was canceling out the other one. So, my next question is how close can you put these WAP's to each other? If I have 50 girls in the house how many WAP's should I have? No one has really given an answer to my problem and I really need help with this. The girls are screaming louder!
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
John - I have done testing with my laptop right next to a WAP at night when the speeds are really bad and even standing right next to it, it is extremely slow

Thank you for doing this test. I think this means that the house is suffering saturation of the line and the incoming connection is probably not fast enough at this point.

This seems now more likely than a bunch of connection settings.

I am only getting 35-40MB when no one is on the wireless.  <-- That is probably fine for wireless (if they could always get this).

I can add more WAP's, but the last time I tried to do this I could not get it to work <-- You need separate channels (even if the same SSID).

Finally, you may need to look at throttling connections to distribute the bandwidth more fairly.
Craig BeckCommented:
That's not the best advice you've ever given, sorry, John.  Suggesting that the incoming line is saturated when testing whilst connected to an AP is not something you should be saying, especially when you're also suggesting that users may be abusing the available bandwidth.   If the AP you're connected to is oversubscribed you will obviously see poor internet performance!  A far more definitive test would be to connect via wire to the network while everyone is connected wirelessly to see what the experience is like.

@LANengineer - It sounds like you're ignoring me, but I apologise if that's not the case.  In any event, I'll give it one last try...

Adding more APs is probably where the answer will be but before I can say that for sure I need to know what the environment is like.  What you're doing here is probably oversubscribing the APs, or at least stretching them.  The clients need to be close enough to the AP to get a strong enough signal to maintain a fast data-rate.  If the client can't sustain a fast data-rate, because of RF congestion or distance to AP, etc, the service will degrade for everyone, not just that particular user.  That means that each user takes longer to transmit and receive data, so the effect is slower speeds until it slows to a crawl in some cases.

How big is each floor?  Can you provide a rough floor-plan with dimensions, even if not to scale?  That will help me to tell you where the problem most likely lies.  I do this stuff for a living, every day, on a massive scale in some cases.  I can help :-)

How are you determining 'excellent' signal?  Are you looking at RF values, or just Windows' own indicator?  If it's the latter, ignore it.

Let's take the ground floor.  Can users furthest from the AP get a signal which exceeds -75dBm at 2.4GHz?  If not they'll never get a 144Mbps wireless connection (as per the device's specification noted at http://www.engeniustech.com/business-networking/indoor-access-points-client-bridges/16757-ecb600-coming-soon).  Remember that this is a negative value, so if a user's signal strength (or RSSI) is -76dBm that's not as good as -70dBm.  Also, can you see a SNR value (usually just in dB)?  If that's not over 20 don't expect an 'excellent' service.

What you also need to appreciate is that while your APs have great antennas and high output power, the clients may not be as 'loud'.  This isn't like a traditional radio, where you only listen.  This is more like two-way radio where one talks and the other listens, then vice-versa.  Both devices need to have similar output power and receiver sensitivity (or at least cover the same range) so that a conversation can take place.  If one end can shout but the other can only whisper you'll not get a good link during times of high-usage as the quiet devices just won't be able to shout as loud.

To add to that, the APs have 5dBi antennas, while most consumer-grade devices only have a 3-4dBi antenna.  This equates to just over half the gain at the client end.  If we combine that with typical output power values, a client can only talk at up-to around 100mW at 2.4GHz while these APs can do over 1W EIRP straight out of the box with the antenna they're packaged with.  That's over 10x the output power than the average client can achieve, so while your AP might reach the edges of each floor and your client can 'receive' the signal, it may not be the same story at the AP's end.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Craig and LANengineer  - I am not suggesting you ignore Craig. There are some good ideas there. I was posting out of my own known experience. Hopefully that might add to your thinking.

LANengineer  - If I were in your shoes and I thought the technical details of what Craig is suggesting, I would probably get a wireless specialist in to assist. Do you have a budget to do this?
Craig BeckCommented:
@John - I'm not suggesting that you're suggesting that LANengineer ignore me :-)

I am a wireless specialist, and I'm offering my assistance for free!  No budget required :-D
LANengineerAuthor Commented:
John and Craig I appreciate both of your inputs and can not thank you enough for trying to help me!!
Craig I think you hit it right on the head and I need to add more WAP's. I just emailed the house manager to see if I could get a floor plan emailed to me. Once I hear back from her I will let you know. Do you set the channels to auto or assign them? I was a little worried about installing more because the last time I tried that the new one I installed would only work when I turned the old one off and vice versa. I did not think they were that close to each other, but maybe I did not have something configured correctly. I give each WAP it's own IP and channel and just keep the SSID the same throughout the entire house. My object is to have them be able to walk from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor and not lose the connection. Is it also normal to only get 35-40MB from an access point when the incoming is 100MB? I know you lose some going through an access point, but that much??
Craig BeckCommented:
I would manually assign the channels.  That ensures that you know what channel is being used where, and that your kit isn't ever going to choose a channel which might overlap with one of your other APs.  Dynamic channel allocation is OK, but it doesn't work too well in dense RF environments, and if all channels are used the AP usually defaults to channel 1.

Unless you use a controller-based solution you won't get seamless roaming ever - you'll always get a brief disconnect.

To me it sounds like your clients are connecting to the 2.4GHz band at 72Mbps.  Generally we say that radio bandwidth is double that of data-throughput, due to Wifi's half-duplex operation, so where the NIC says you're connected to the network at 72Mbps, you're only ever going to be able to get less than half of that (usually about half, less 10-15%).  So, on your 2.4GHz 802.11n network if you're connected at 72Mbps to the AP you can only ever really expect to achieve around 32Mbps on paper.  That's best-case though, in a clean RF environment and under optimal conditions.

Of course, other factors can also affect throughput.  Other users connecting to the AP will slow you down and interference from other sources on the same frequency band can also cause your throughput to decrease.
LANengineerAuthor Commented:
Craig, I am still waiting for the house manager to get back to me with a floor plan. Once I have that I will let you know. I would like you to look at it and let me know how many WAP you would use in the house and where you might put them. I know placement is dependent on data jacks. Is there a WAP that you would recommend over the Engenius that I use?
LANengineerAuthor Commented:
What are the best channels to use for the 5Ghz WAP??
LANengineerAuthor Commented:
Adding additional WAP on each floor did the trick! Thanks for all your help!
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