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Ubiquiti Wireless AP UniFi Problems!

Posted on 2015-02-02
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Last Modified: 2015-12-27
Hello everyone..

I've been at this for days, and I can't seem to get anywhere with this.  I get so many mixed results - this is frustrating!

Here's what we've got:

30 Wireless AP units made by Ubiquiti.  2 per floor in a 10 floor hotel.  

The problem:
Even though we get full bars of signal strength throughout the \hotel, throughput is aweful!  Pings swing from thousands of ms to tens of ms even when standing right near any access point.  

What I've tried:
1.  Testing from each ethernet cable feeding each AP.  Result: about 50 MBit up and down
2.  Leaving the settings on the AP's to auto channel, auto signal strength.
3.  Changing the channels to alternating channels 1, 6, and 11.
4.  Disabling several floors at a time (thinking signal oversaturation is my issue?)
5.  Testing throughput at each PoE switch (results = 50 mbit u/d)
6.  Replacing units
7.  Changing SSID's.
8.  Adding secondary SSID's to each AP and connecting to them individually to test speeds
9.  Re-Terminating CAT5 ends for uplink cables.
10.  Cursing and/or pulling hair out.

None of the above steps produced the desired results, however at certain points I did actually get 50 u/d out of some of the access points, but not consistently!!  Test again and it might be 1 mbit.. or .5 mbit.  AWEFUL.  I don't know what else I can try.

Experts.. please help!

 - Tim
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Question by:TimFarren
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 40585196
One AP only... What's it like then?
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by:VB ITS
ID: 40585410
How are they powered? Are you using a PoE switch to power all of the APs or are you using the PoE injector and a regular network cable to a non-PoE switch? Which specific UAP are you working with here?
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40585480
The AP is the UniFi standard AP.  We are using Ubiquiti's branded PoE switches to power them.  We have 2 switches powering all the AP's.  Craig - I had that same thought but didn't want to take down the whole hotel to find out.  I may have to do that.  Are you suggesting the interference from the others is screwing it up?

http://www.ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ap/

I believe we have a mix of the regular and the LR models.
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by:VB ITS
ID: 40585482
I'm familiar with the UniFi APs as I've deployed a bunch of them for my clients. Also have multiple UAPs at home :)

Is the Zero Handoff feature enabled firstly?
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40585483
I tried zero handoff.  As soon as I did that, it killed all the AP's from communicating.  So, I undid that.  At this point all the AP's are set to auto channel and signal strength, and zero hand off is off.  So, now most of them seem to work but the throughput is extremely low and unreliable.
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by:VB ITS
ID: 40586015
I tried zero handoff.  As soon as I did that, it killed all the AP's from communicating.
When you make a change through the controller it takes a bit of time for the APs to pick up the changes. While this happens, the APs go into a 'Provisioning' state where they aren't accessible. Maybe this is what you experienced.

I highly recommend enabling Zero Handoff, I have enabled this in a 20 UAP deployment and it worked flawlessly.

Are you up to date in terms of firmware? Can you also advise what the model of the Ubiquiti PoE switch is?
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40586169
I'll try to get the models of the switches - they were there before my time on the project. Yes all firmware is at the latest release. With respect to the provisioning time - I gave it several minutes and the state had finished provisioning. The wireless network was not functioning after enabling zero handoff. In my research, folks were discouraging it's use in environments with lots of access points due to channel overuse.
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by:VB ITS
ID: 40586237
It's recommended to disable Zero Handoff in a high density environment but yours doesn't sound too bad. As I don't know the physical distance between your UAPs though, there's every chance they're too close to each other which would cause this issue.

Where are the UAPs mounted location-wise? Are they physically mounted on the ceiling (they work best mounted on a ceiling similar to a smoke alarm) as well?

Try reducing the power on each device to medium or even low.

Are there other buildings around you? Only reason I ask is that the UAPs only support the 2.4GHz band which can easily get very congested by other wireless networks around your building.
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40586284
Ceiling mounted.  The other buildings aren't terribly close. I did try reducing the power to medium and then low. No change. The distance vertically between floors is probably about 12 feet but there's flooring between. Horizontally they're at opposite sides of the hotel. I forget how far that is. Probably around 100 feet?
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by:VB ITS
ID: 40586370
What about disabling the UAPs on say the even numbered levels (2, 4, 6) and keep the UAPs enabled on the odd numbered levels? Also try having just one UAP on and switch the other one off. Ubiquiti state that the UAP has a range of about 400 feet so range shouldn't be too much of a problem depending on the size of each floor.

I do suspect that you've got overlapping networks or just plain old congestion on the 2.4GHz band but you'll need to run a wireless site survey to confirm this (whole different query that will probably deserve its own EE question though I'd say). Ekahau Site Survey looks very good and is commonly recommended on the Ubiquiti forums but it isn't free. See here if you're interested: http://www.ekahau.com/wifidesign/ekahau-site-survey
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40586413
I didn't see a way to fully turn off an AP short of unplugging its cord.  I could assign the wireless profile to off and it wouldn't show an SSID, but does that turn off its radio?  Do I need to go extreme and unplug them?  I turned off the wireless profile on 3 floors below me while on the top floor and it made no difference.  I was sitting 4 feet under a brand new live AP at the time.  I tried reconnecting to the network several times in case I was attached to an AP on a lower floor.. but still no improvement.  Also I'm seeing stuttering ping times like this:

1 ms
4092 ms
5 ms
3000 ms
2 ms
1800 ms
4 ms
679 ms

etc.. these aren't actual numbers but it's close.  It's like every other ping is very delayed - or "request timed out".
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 40587086
That looks odd to me.  Interference is usually more constant than every other ping shooting up.  It looks more like you could have another source of 2.4GHz interference though - maybe something using FHSS.

If you don't show an SSID the radio is still up so you'd need to turn the APs off to be sure.
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40587111
Thank you Craig. Are there affordable tools that can isolate the causes of interference?  It's challenging because my wifi clients (iPhones etc) always show full bars but traffic does not pass reliably.  So I suppose signal strength is not my problem.
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 40587180
There are a few tools that can show you Wifi interference, such as InSSIDer, or Acrylic.  What they'll actually show is all of the Wifi in the area, then you can see how many other devices are visible, their signal levels, and whether they overlap with your kit or not.

You could use the Wi-Spy DBx card and Chanalyzer to locate non-Wifi interference, such as Bluetooth and Microwave, but it's not cheap.

If your iPhones, etc, show a good signal level in a bar format that doesn't necessarily mean the signal is actually good.  There are a couple of things to understand here - namely RSSI and SNR.  The RSSI is the received signal-strength indicator.  On its own that tells you how much signal you're receiving - but not whether that's usable signal.  The SNR value is signal-to-noise.  That tells you how much of the signal you're receiving is actually signal compared to how much is noise - hence the term ratio.  Generally if you have a RSSI less than around -75dBm and SNR less than 20 you'll not get a great service.  Unfortunately though devices such as iPhones only show a bar which shows the RSSI, not SNR, so you don't really get a clear picture.  You can download tools to show you the RSSI and SNR from the App Store though.
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40587203
I've checked the apple App Store for wifi testing apps. Not really finding much. Any suggestions?
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 40587329
I used to use WifiMedic but now you can only get the Pro version on iOS, and that's not free, nor does it show RSSI/SNR any more.  The Android version does though, but that's not free either.  Apple, for whatever reason, decided to tighten up the APIs for Wifi info.  Pointless in my opinion, but there you go.

If you can use Android instead though there are literally hundreds of tools in the Play Store which will cost you nothing.  I tend to use Wifi SNR or Aruba Utilities on Android.
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by:TimFarren
ID: 40587673
Welp.. I guess I need to find a used andriod phone?  I used to have my iphone jailbroken and had an app called wifi analyzer.  It was cool and helped with choosing the best channel for the area - it's vanished from the scene, and now with apple's relentless fight against the JB community I don't bother to JB anymore.  As you said, the apps on the app store are pretty useless with regard to any kind of wifi analysis.  Possibly because it requires they put the wifi adapter in promiscuous mode?

What about PC applications that can provide useful insight?  I haven't tried inSSIDer yet but I heard it was useful.
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TimFarren earned 0 total points
ID: 41382268
No resolution to this.  The client decided to gut the place and install a whole different system.
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by:TimFarren
ID: 41385875
No answer to the problem
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