Sanity Check on my Unreliable WiFi: Do I Need More Access Points?

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TLDR: ZD1200 with 9 r710 APs covering 21K sq ft macOS-dominant biz, constant connection issues. Would more access points actually fix the problem?

Long form: I took over an existing enterprise network, consisting of an Untangle, 1Gb switches of various makes and models, and Ruckus for the wireless. The Ruckus consists of a ZoneDirector 1200 and 9 r710 Access Points, on a dedicated switch connect to the Untangle by 1Gb ethernet. The office is a rectangular 21,000 square foot space in a dense mixed-use urban area, with over 100 different wifi networks in range (I'm counting 2.4ghz and 5ghz separately here). We are a macOS-only shop with an average 100-150 devices on our primary wifi, and the same on our siloed guest wifi (total wireless device count rarely tops 300 devices). 

I get daily complaints about wireless not working. The most common issues are failing to connect after waking a laptop from sleep, AirPlay not working, and wifi appearing as connected but not transferring data. None of these are reliably fixed by toggling the antenna or restarting devices. 

Here are some of the more significant changes I've made in an attempt to reduce connection issues:
  • Reduced channelization from 80MHz to 40MHz
  • Reduced channelization from 40MHz to 20MHz
  • Capped the maximum devices on any AP to 50
  • Physically moved a couple of the APs to improve coverage
  • Disabled the 2.4GHz spectrum on all APs except one for specific devices (did it by disabling WLAN service on the 802.11b/g/n radio)
  • Modified every Mac's default connection preference to be the AP with the strongest signal, not the last AP accessed (which is the default)
  • I added a script to the most afflicted computers, which keeps the antenna turned off for 5 seconds after waking from sleep
  • Note: TX Power is configured to Auto, but all radios always run at Full power anyway
There are some other specific tweaks done for increasing compatibility with Apple products, but I've been working on this for over a year and I can't recall every detail. And as it's been over a year, the boss had demanded a permanent fix regardless of cost. That opens up my options in terms of adding access points or even switching to a different vendor. 

BUT: I have enough hardware on paper to completely control my airspace, and I don't think more access points will "solve" anything. If I succeed in fixing my network just by overpowering my neighbors, they'll be forced to do the same. I do not want a wifi arms race. 

Any suggestions?

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Big` Spaceship

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  • frustrated

Posted 1 year ago

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David Black

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Sounds like you have more than enough APs. Here’s a few things to check:
- definitely do not enable 11r (ZD default = disabled)
- as previously mentioned, 11d should be enabled (ZD default = enabled)
-11k don’t care, that’s not your issue
- turn off client isolation
- if you’re using auto channel, make sure it’s background scanning (definitely don’t use channelfly)
- reduce 5GHz transmit power by 6dB to 9dB. Start at -6, then test, -7, test some more, etc.
- if you decide to re-enable 2.4, start at -9dB and potentially reduce to -10 or “min”
- verify that the wlan is set for ofdm only
- I’m not sure how many wlans you’ve deployed, but 3 or less would be a good range.
- verify that the wlans are not tunneled
- once things are stable, consider re-enabling all 5GHz channels except 120, 124, 128; and increasing channel width back to 40.
I hope some of this helps. Please let us know.
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Bway NOC

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If your moderator thinks any of that is spam, they have a screw loose. :)  This forum is about sharing info and tools.

Even if you're uneasy about mentioning competitors, whoever wrote the blog post was not trashing Ruckus, just noting that Cisco and Aruba have a specific mechanism for dealing with "sticky" clients. It's a real problem - we have coworking space clients who have to take time to tell customers to "disconnect and reconnect" their macs even when they're sitting 30' from an AP because their laptop is still stuck on some AP out in the lobby sitting at -74 db...

I have no interest in that wifi app, it's just literally probably the only thing out there that gives you not just an easier to read wifi status menubar, but OS-level notification popups that you're roaming. It seems like it would be an invaluable on-site tool for any place with a bunch of mac (like the OP).
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Michael Brado, Official Rep

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We appreciate your sharing of info and tools, thanks.
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Interesting setup David Black, but why you say " (definitely don’t use channelfly) " ??
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Interesting setup David Black, but why you say " (definitely don’t use channelfly) " ??
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David Black

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Channelfly is one of those things that looks a lot better on paper that it performs in practice.  The theory is that a channel could be so heavily congested that moving to an adjacent channel and tolerating a high level of ACI can be the lesser of the evils.  We tried it when it first came out and we still continue to try it on later releases to see if it's improved.  Our opinion remains that the cure is worse than the disease.  It's best to just let the protocol work the way it was designed to work.