Wi-Fi Testing Now Includes Performance

Boston — Just because your Wi-Fi router complies with 802.11 standards and has passed interoperability tests doesn't mean that you'll be happy with its performance. That's why the Broadband Forum is developing WT-398. When approved, WT-398 will specify tests for Wi-Fi router performance. In parallel with that document's development, the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL) has announced testing services for Wi-Fi performance. 

The impetus for WT-398, which is not yet available publicly, came from service providers that deliver internet access and provide either Wi-Fi routers that are either integrated with gateways or are separate units. "Service providers found themselves providing support for home networking issues," said UNH-IOL senior engineer Lincoln Lavoie in an interview with EE Times. "The problem stems from so many devices now being connected to a home router." 

The top performance issue, according to Lavoie, is data rate versus signal strength. A router will drop data speeds when signal strength is weak. Plus, a router needs to connect to devices that support different standards such as 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac, each of which has a different maximum data rate. That creates an issue of delivery fairness, something that needs testing. "Only one device can communicate with a router at any given time," said Lavoie. "Slower devices or connections with low power need greater air time for a given data rate." The test plans written into WT-398 will standardize test procedures. 

In addition to fairness and quality of service, test plans will cover interference from other devices such as ZigBee and Bluetooth that use the same unlicensed 2.4 GHz channels as Wi-Fi. Plus, there is the issue of many 802.11 routers covering any given area. Ask anyone who lives in an apartment or in a house with close neighbors about that. 

Having standardized tests will let service providers differentiate the Wi-Fi products that they deploy. But will that help people to supply their own Wi-Fi router? Any manufacturer can test to the WT-398 standard or use the UNH-IOL for a testing facility. The WT-398 standard is up for a vote in June 2018, according to Lavoie, and the release is expected by the end of that month. 

On May 31, UNH-IOL will offer a webinar through which you can learn more about Wi-Fi performance testing. The webinar will begin at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time, or GMT −0500. Register here. 

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