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IETF attendees re-engineer their hotel's Wi-Fi network

Extreme network makeover at Paris hotel boosts performance

By , Network World
March 28, 2012 05:49 PM ET

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A lot of attendees apparently saw immediate improvements.

"[M]y network connectivity all of a sudden got a whooooole lot better," emailed James Polk, also from Cisco. "I'd guess in the 12:30-1 a.m. timeframe. It was quite a surprise. Course, I expect a lot of folks are asleep (like I should be), so the contention should be less. That said, I was up at this time last night and the network was probably the worst yet."

"On a very quick check, it seems much better for my iPad and iPhone," wrote Ben Campbell. "Will check the laptop shortly."

Others reported no change.

"Happy to see that things appear fixed for some. It's not at all fixed for me on 5, though the problem could be me," reported Adam Montville, apparently with Tripwire, an IT security software company. "I am unable to join either wireless network (timeouts on both) [referring to the hotel Wi-Fi network proper and the IETF Wi-Fi network configured over it]. Not (yet) critical as I have a LAN line in the room and the appropriate adapter."

For some, the changes appear to have made things worse. "Connectivity was fine on the 32 floor for me on Sunday and on Monday morning," wrote Pat Thaler, of Broadcom. "After the message about the stuff they had done to make things better on the hotel networks, it has been very variable. Network strength goes from very good to very low or disconnected without moving my laptop. It's varying all over the scale. Finally pulled out my AP to use the wired connection so my VPN would stay up."

In a reply, Elliott reported the hotel was having power problems with network equipment of all types above the 27th floor.

Another variable was U.S.-made clients connecting to a French network, as Elliot alerted attendees in an email on Wednesday. "A quick note--some laptops will not associate to channels that are not allowed in the country they were built for," he said. "For example, US Apple Macs won't associate to channel 13. This is something that we've argued with Apple about--I believe it should be up to the AP to set the allowed channels and clients should be able to use them. I'm not worried about this in this case--folks should see other channels at acceptable signal strengths, and the Europeans, for example, will get a bit of a speed advantage."

Midweek "radical" changes

Elliot introduced additional changes early Wednesday morning.

"I've remapped the channels and frequency bands for all the APs on floors 2-33," he emailed his IETF colleagues. "This is a radical change, so please let me know how it works for you now."

Elliot noted that France lets Wi-Fi use channels 1-13 in the 2.4 GHz band. "As three channels are very limiting in a very 3D structure, like this hotel, I've chosen to go with 4 channels, using 1, 5, 9, and 13," he said. "This is a layout that is well respected by others, and one [that] we've considered using at the IETF on numerous occasions--and very similar to what we used in Hiroshima. You get a slight bit more of cross-channel interference, but the additional channel is worth it, especially in this hotel's environment."

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