Wireless Networking 101 questions

Customer has a large facility.  We have installed Netgear N300 WAPs throughout the facility and we are having problems in one location.  The location in question is the only place in the facility that has Apple devices.

They are connecting to the WAP with Apple TV and a MacBook.  The are using the Apple software to connect the two through the Netgear WAP.  If they run a presentation to the TV, it seems to run fine.  If they then attempt to connect to the Internet on the MacBook, the audio and/or video stutters.  I have also noticed that simply streaming internet videos from the MacBook to the AppleTV can have stutter issues.  

The WAP is an 802.11n WAP.  Does the WAP act as a "switch" between wireless devices, or does the traffic flow from the MacBook, to the WAP, to the Ethernet switch, back to the WAP, to the Apple TV?  

I am trying to isolate the potential causes before we start throwing expensive wireless equipment in there, just to find out that the WAP was not the problem.

Thanks
LVL 1
tcampbell_ncAsked:
Who is Participating?

[Product update] Infrastructure Analysis Tool is now available with Business Accounts.Learn More

x
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Craig BeckCommented:
The WAP is an 802.11n WAP.  Does the WAP act as a "switch" between wireless devices, or does the traffic flow from the MacBook, to the WAP, to the Ethernet switch, back to the WAP, to the Apple TV?  
It's more like a hub than a switch, but yes, the AP will pass traffic between wireless clients directly unless inter-client communication is disabled - in which case it won't work at all.

Interestingly, some ATV gen3's seem to suffer from stuttering issues no matter whether they're wired or wireless.  The Apple forums are full of people complaining.
Davis McCarnOwnerCommented:
The easy test would be to use a wire on one of the devices and one of the lesser known facts is that ALL of the wireless devices connected are sharing one radio in the router.  The router will also change to use the connection type of the slowest device connected meaning that one PC connected at B speeds slows everyone down to 11Mbps.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
CraigBeck - The user in question has brought an Apple Airport Express from home, and the communication between the MacBook and the ATV is flawless.  The disadvantage is that if he needs to pull something up from the Internet, he cannot, since the Airport Express is not on the network.  I mention this, because I do not think it is an ATV issue.  Thank you, however, for the explanation on the "hub" configuration.  That tells me that the issue may be on the wired network, and not the wireless end.

DavisMcCarn - Wow!!! I surely did not know that.  That is very useful information.  In this case, however, it may not apply.  We thought there may be other traffic causing the problem, so we setup a dedicated WAP (different SSID and password) that is for the MacBook to ATV connection.  Again, when working with the presentation only, it was good.  Not great, but good.  Once we were running the presentation and reached our to the Internet, however, the performance went downhill quickly.  

So now I am really thinking the problem may be on the network, or the MacBook's connection to the network.  The facility has 100m Internet, and this portion of the facility is on 100M switches.  I would love to upgrade to Gb switches, but the wiring closet is connected via fiber with 100Mb transceivers, so this would involve replacing switches and transceivers and would get pricy.  I would hat to do all that and still have the same problem.  

Is it possible that the Netgear WAP is not well suited for the wireless to wired transition?  It is not a router, but a Wireless Access Point (Netgear WN802T - sorry was trying to remember the model number from memory in my first post).  Any suggestions on a WAP that is KNOWN to handle streaming video/audio from Apple devices?
SD-WAN: Making It Work for You

As bandwidth requirements and Internet costs grow, businesses naturally want to manage budgets by reducing reliance on their most expensive connection types. Learn more about how to make SD-WAN work for your business in our on-demand webinar!

Craig BeckCommented:
The router will also change to use the connection type of the slowest device connected meaning that one PC connected at B speeds slows everyone down to 11Mbps.
This is incorrect.  The slowest client will work at its speed while the faster client will work at its own speed.  The 'effect' is that the faster client slows down, however it just can't talk for the duration that the slower client is talking.  The faster client will still connect at 54Mbps (for example) while the slower client connects at 11Mbps.

Forgive me if you've already explained, but what happens if you take the ATV out of the equation?  Does the Macbook stream internet video without a problem?

I'd be interested to know if you are connecting to the two routers at the same speed, using the same authentication/encryption method.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
so we setup a dedicated WAP (different SSID and password) that is for the MacBook to ATV connection.  Again, when working with the presentation only, it was good.  Not great, but good.  Once we were running the presentation and reached our to the Internet, however, the performance went downhill quickly.  

CraigBeck - We can't take the ATV out of the equation.... it is the ultimate endpoint or target of all the output.  I guess we can test the streaming of the videos to the MacBook only, but I am not sure that is a good test.  Here is what I think may be happening.... please correct me if I am wrong.  

The MacBook pulls a video from the internet, though the WAP, into the MacBook.  It then (through Airplay) sends that video back to the WAP, which then sends the video wirelessly to the ATV.  So any internet video is actually passing, or streaming, through the WAP 3 times.  

Presently the only two devices on the WAP in question are the MacBook and the ATV.  Nothing else has access to that WAP.  I do know that both the ATV and the MacBook show a 54M connection.
Craig BeckCommented:
CraigBeck - We can't take the ATV out of the equation....
I'm not asking you to... I'm asking you to test the internet streaming quality without the ATV connected to the network.

The MacBook pulls a video from the internet, though the WAP, into the MacBook.  It then (through Airplay) sends that video back to the WAP, which then sends the video wirelessly to the ATV.  So any internet video is actually passing, or streaming, through the WAP 3 times.  
I know how to suck an egg :-)

The ATV and the Macbook should both be connected at 802.11n speeds, not basic 802.11g speeds, so I'd look at the encryption and authentication settings.  You need to use WPA2 with AES to achieve 802.11n speeds.  Sort that and it will probably improve things massively.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
I was wondering about that.  I thought 802.11n would show a faster connection that 54M.  We are set to open with 64bit WEP encryption.  So changing to WPA2 with AES is like a magical gateway to the promised land?

Also... I get it.... we can simply power down the ATV and run some Internet video to the MacBook.  I think we may have done that at some point and it was fine.  I will need to try that again, though, to be sure.
Craig BeckCommented:
Yes, AES is the magic ingredient needed for 802.11n :-)

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
Davis McCarnOwnerCommented:
WEP only supports connections up to 54Mbps.  You need WPA(2) and/or TKIP to get higher speeds.  Be a little careful; though, many older Apple devices won't do WPA2.
Craig BeckCommented:
I'll repeat... AES is the only supported encryption method if you want to use 802.11n.

WEP and TKIP do not work.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
OK.

I will be at that customer site tomorrow (Friday)

I will update at that time.  Maybe I will not have to replace any equipment.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
I will be at that customer site tomorrow (Friday)

.... but the person with the MacBook is not....

I'll try to conclude this some time next week when he is here.
Craig BeckCommented:
Ok thanks for the update.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
No Joy folks.

Setup it up today with WPA2 / AES security and the ATV's connection speed dropped from 54M to 39M.  Even my laptop would only connect at 39M.  The customer's MacBook, however, connected at 130M.  So something worked, but not everything.

I appreciate the input, but have decided that the best thing to do will be to install an Apple Airport Extreme, to segregate all the Apple devices to an Apple wireless access point, and hope that since it will be Apple devices talking to an Apple WAP, we can get true "N" or "AC" speeds.
Craig BeckCommented:
What settings were you using on your laptop?  There's something you're not doing right.

Did you delete the WLAN profile from your laptop when you reconfigured the SSID to use AES?
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
Not on my laptop, since my laptop does not really matter in the equation.  I was just mentioning that as a footnote.

We did on the ATV's.  Actually, one of the ATV's was never on that WAP, so I did not have to "forget" the WAP.  I simply think there is some sort of negotiation disagreement on the N side.  Everything shows full signal strength, but they will only connect at 39.  If I had something configured incorrectly, then I don't think we would have seen a 130M connection on the MacBook.... and the MacBook was sitting 3 feet from the ATV, so it was not a locational thing.

The customer had brought his Airport Express from home, and the Apple wireless worked flawlessly.  The Express, however, will not connect to the domain network.  So we are going to use the Airport Extreme and see how that goes.
Craig BeckCommented:
I was talking about on the client side.

Your laptop still tried to connect to the AP and only managed 39Mbps so you shouldn't ignore that.  Incidentally, was that the PHY rate (as reported by the WLAN NIC) or was that throughput?

If you can, on the APs set them to use 20MHz channel-widths on the 2.4GHz band.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
I will be back there next Monday.  I will try that just for future needs.  I know that the WAPs are presently set on 40MHz.  The other option was 20/40MHz, and I moved it to force 40MHz.  

The rates I was seeing  were found on the WAP, under "Wireless Station Monitoring".  It is not showing "throughput" but is showing the negotiated connection speed.  
 
I will run that test on Monday, before I replace the WAP with the Airport Extreme.  The other advantage to the Airport Extreme (according to what I have read) is that is supports the 802.11ac standard, as to the ATVs.  The WAPs I have in place are only good to 802.11n.  The drawback to the Airport Extreme is that I can't fully manage it from a Windows PC.  It has to be managed from a MacBook or some other "i" device.
Craig BeckCommented:
Using 40MHz channels at 2.4GHz is widely unsupported now and will actually cause more problems than it's worth, especially in crowded RF environments.  It's fine in the majority of 5GHz cases though.

802.11ac is 5GHz-only so just bear that in mind.  Your 2.4GHz-only devices will still connect to the Airport Extreme, but only at 802.11n speeds, so it may be pointless if your clients don't support 802.11ac (at the moment).
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the additional information.  I believe that the ATV's and the MacBook are all new enough to support the 802.11ac, but if not, we may do well at N speeds.  I was not aware the 40MHz was no longer supported.  The Netgear forums stated that to get the higher performance, I needed to go pure 40 instead of 20/40.  

That is probably the cause for the 39M connection though.
tcampbell_ncAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all the input.  The Airport Extreme allowed the ATV's and Macbooks connect flawlessly and stream all the video we wanted with no issues.  I do wish that the Airport Extreme would show some of the wireless statistics that most WAPs show, such as connection speed, but if it works, then it works.  I now have a much better understanding on configuring the WAPS I have at other sites.
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Wireless Hardware

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.