Best Practices for WiFi Throughput Testing (iPerf, WiFiPerf) #WLPC

Best Practices for WiFi Throughput Testing (iPerf, WiFiPerf)

The Wireless LAN Professionals Summit 2014 was held in Austin, Texas from Feb 10 – Feb 12 and was organized by Keith Parsons of The goal was to have a conference by Wireless LAN folks, for Wireless LAN folks. The entire event was vendor neutral and was a gathering of like-minded folks hanging out and talking about WiFi related products, technologies, and projects.

I enjoyed attending and speaking at Wireless LAN Professionals Summit 2014. My session was about throughput testing and is summarized below along with video.

The primary goal of this session is to share best practices around performance testing of wireless LANs in lab and production environments. The discussion will focus on how to measure access point and client throughput using free and/or low cost tools. All components of the typical wireless LAN: access points, laptop clients, and mobile clients will be covered. At the end of the session, participants should be able design and setup testing environments to aid in the equipment evaluation phase of projects and to validate wireless LAN performance post implementation.

WLAN Pros Summit 2014 | Zaib Kaleem Best Practices for Throughput Testing.

All the conference sessions were recorded and are available free-of-charge with the goal of sharing technical knowledge with as many people as possible. I recommend everyone check out all the WLAN Pros Summit 2014 videos.

WiFiPerf Downloads

Note: iPerf3/WiFiPerf is not the same or compatible with iPerf, iPerf2 or jPerf.

Compatibility: WiFiPerf is based on iPerf3 version 3.0-BETA4 (2 Aug 2010) source code. Future updates to WiFiPerf will be compatible with iPerf 3.0.1 or newer. WiFiPerf should work with other operating systems that support iPerf3 but has only been tested with iPerf3 for Mac OS. (iPerf3 is the program upon which WiFiPerf is built)

WiFiPerf for Mac OS

WiFiPerf for iOS

WiFiPerf for Android

Free iPerf3 Downloads

Free Command Line / Terminal Version of iPerf3 Version 3.0-BETA4 (2 Aug 2010)

Mac OS iPerf3 version 3.0-BETA4
Windows iPerf3 version 3.0-BETA4

Free Command Line / Terminal Version of iPerf3 Version 3.0.1 (Jan 10 2014)

Mac OS iPerf3 version 3.0.1
Windows iPerf3 version 3.0.1 (will be posted here soon)

Stadium WiFi List #StadiumWiFi

Stadium WiFi List

Stadium WiFiThere are many reasons for why stadium and team owners are installing WiFi but most boil down the larger goal of improving the “Game Day Experience”.

Below is text from professional and collegiate American football websites about the Game Day Experience. I guarantee every major team knows that focusing only on the game is not the best way to grow a fan base.

“The Notre Dame Game Day experience is unlike any other. While many fans come to campus for the football game, all quickly realize that Game Days at Notre Dame are about more than Football.” — University of Notre Dame

“There is nothing quite like a fall Saturday in Auburn. From Tiger Walk to Toomer’s Corner, our fans and our traditions make Auburn’s gameday experience the best in college football.” — Auburn University

“Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti and team President Dick Cass know that fans pay a premium to attend NFL games each year. With the cost of tickets, parking and food, attending a game at M&T Bank Stadium can be an expensive venture. That’s why the Ravens have been aggressively reinvesting money from ticket sales revenue into the gameday experience.” — Baltimore Ravens

70+ inch high definition televisions, amazing camera angles, and multi-game packages make watching a game from home a pretty good experience. Sports leagues understand this and they are doing everything possible to improve the game day experience in hopes that it results in additional ticket, merchandise, and concession sales. An improved game day experience is also easier to market to business customers who are willing to pay a premium for business entertainment.

My goal with this blog post is not to over analyze the why of stadium WiFi but to simply summarize information about sports stadiums with public WiFi or planned WiFi networks.

If I have incorrect or missing information about a venue please let me know via Twitter

I’m using the generic term stadium even though some venues may be called fields, domes, arenas, or parks. Also, I fully understand that American football, basketball, and baseball are not as popular in other countries as international soccer/football, cricket, or ice hockey but I believe the US teams are leading they way with stadium WiFi so my focus will be sports that are popular in the United States.

NFL Football Stadium WiFi

Per NFL CIO, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, WiFi for all NFL stadiums is not mandated by the NFL. “It’s a recommendation. We’ve outlined a plan for how to get there including an RFP to tweak and point out specific things. The next step is for us to meet with clubs to see where it is in the priority list.” [link]

Stadium Capacity Team(s) Opened WiFi Vendor AP Count Notes
FedExField 85,000 Washington Redskins 1997 Cisco select areas $27 million renovation planned for 2014 to include additional WiFi
MetLife Stadium 82,566 New York Giants/New York Jets 2010 Cisco 700 Super Bowl 2014
Lambeau Field 80,750 Green Bay Packers 1957 Yes select areas no WiFi in bowl, only perimeter areas
AT&T Stadium 80,000 Dallas Cowboys 2009 Cisco 885 Super Bowl 2011
Arrowhead Stadium 76,416 Kansas City Chiefs 1972 Cisco 600  
Sports Authority Field at Mile High 76,125 Denver Broncos 2001 Cisco 250 (my guess) designed to accomodate 25,000 concurrent connections
Sun Life Stadium 75,540 Miami Dolphins 1987 Cisco 1100+ of which 600 are in seating areas
Bank of America Stadium 73,778 Carolina Panthers 1996 Yes 460+ AT&T Wi-Fi
Mercedes-Benz Superdome 73,208 New Orleans Saints 1975 Cisco 600-1000 Superbowl 2013 WiFi designed for 30,000 users
FirstEnergy Stadium 73,200 Cleveland Browns 1999 Yes select areas $62.5 million from the NFL for future “technological improvements” to include WiFi
Ralph Wilson Stadium 73,079 Buffalo Bills 1973   $130 million future renovation to include WiFi
Georgia Dome 71,228 Atlanta Falcons 1992 Cisco 498  
Reliant Stadium 71,054 Houston Texans 2002 No   Super Bowl 2017
M&T Bank Stadium 71,008 Baltimore Ravens 1998 No   M&T Bank Stadium does not have Wi-Fi capability”
Qualcomm Stadium 70,561 San Diego Chargers 1967 Yes limited older stadium with limited funding options
LP Field 69,143 Tennessee Titans 1999 Yes   $500 million investment in cellular voice and data (may be a typo)
Gillette Stadium 68,756 New England Patriots 2002 Extreme Networks 375  
Lincoln Financial Field 68,532 Philadelphia Eagles 2003 Extreme Networks 600 handle “45,000 simultaneous users”
Levi’s Stadium 68,500 San Francisco 49ers 2014 Aruba Networks
AP-225 w/outdoor enclosure
under seats in bowl
“up to 1500”
1000+ total based on newest info
Super Bowl 2016
600 in bowl
48 IDFs
66 miles WiFi cabling
8 controllers
2 lab, 6 production (2 master, 4 local)
EverBank Field 67,246 Jacksonville Jaguars 1995 Yes   $1.5 million investment in 2012 for WiFi
CenturyLink Field 67,000 Seattle Seahawks 2002   full stadium WiFi planned for 2015
Edward Jones Dome 66,000 St. Louis Rams 1995 Yes limited stadium is part of America’s Center complex that has 28 access points based on 2010 article supports “4,000 concurrent users throughout the facility” (eeek!)
Raymond James Stadium 65,890 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1998 Yes   Free stadium WiFi added in 2012
Paul Brown Stadium 65,535 Cincinnati Bengals 2000 Yes limited  
Heinz Field 65,050 Pittsburgh Steelers 2001 Yes select areas  
Ford Field 65,000 Detroit Lions 2002 Cisco   Verizon DAS
University of Phoenix Stadium 63,400 Arizona Cardinals 2006 Cisco 100+ [source]
Lucas Oil Stadium 62,421 Indianapolis Colts 2008 Cisco 669 Super Bowl 2012
Soldier Field 61,500 Chicago Bears 1924 Yes $1.99 per day through Boingo Wireless Coliseum 53,200 Oakland Raiders 1966 No   [source]
TCF Bank Stadium 50,805 Minnesota Vikings 2009 Yes select areas

NBA, MLB, and NHL stadium list coming soon…

WiFi Direct

Wi-Fi Direct

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Wi-Fi Directâ„¢ is a certification mark for devices supporting a game-changing new technology enabling Wi-Fi devices to connect directly, making it simple and convenient to do things like print, share, synch and display. Products bearing the Wi-Fi Direct certification mark can connect to one another without joining a traditional home, office or hotspot network.

Mobile phones, cameras, printers, PCs, and gaming devices can now connect to each other directly to transfer content and share applications quickly and easily. Devices can make a one-to-one connection, or a group of several devices can connect simultaneously. Connecting Wi-Fi Direct-certified devices is easy and simple, in many cases only requiring the push of a button. Moreover, all Wi-Fi Direct connections are protected by WPA2™, the latest Wi-Fi security technology. With Wi-Fi Direct, you do not need an access point or internet connection – your personal Wi-Fi network goes with you wherever you go.

Learn more here.

How Does Airplane WiFi Work?

Airplane WiFi Internet

How Does Airplane WiFi Work?

Airplane WiFi works like WiFi at free WiFi at coffee shops and book stores. The main components of an airplane WiFi system are below.

  1. Computer/WiFi enabled device (laptop, iPhone)
  2. Airplane WiFi network (access points)
  3. Air-to-ground wireless data connection (satellite or EVDO)
  4. Ground Internet service provider

The technology to make the entire system work is transparent travelers. All that is required is an 802.11 WiFi enabled device and a method to pay for the service. WiFi on airplanes is available on most major airlines.

Airplane WiFi Configurations

There are two companies, GoGo Internet and Row 44, that most airlines are using to provide airplane WiFi service. GoGo Internet uses a ground based cellular data network for data communications and Row 44 uses satellite communications.

Row 44 Airplane WiFi

Satellite antenna atop of plane to communicate with satellites and other electronics inside cabin.

Row 44 Airplane WiFi Equipment

Southwest Airplane Row 44 Satellite Antenna

Row 44 Airplane WiFi Service

GoGo Inflight Airplane WiFi Configuration

GoGo’s airplane wifi configuration is similar to Row 44 except that they rely on a ground based EVDO network (like cell phone data networks) for communications to airplanes.

GoGo Aircell Airplane WiFi EVDO Network

Aircell Airplane WiFi Equipment

GoGo Internet Airplane WiFi Service

Installing Airplane WiFi on an American Airlines Plane

WiFi and Satellite Internet

WiFi Satellite Internet

WiFi combined with satellite based Internet access is very common in developing countries where it isn’t practical to run wire or fiber optic lines to homes and business. Even when wire lines do exist, the only option available is slow dialup Internet access requring customers to pay for a local telephone line plus the ISP for a slow service that is only usable for basic web browsing or email. Also, the local telecom infrastructure is usually not engineered for data communications and users constantly dropped connections and busy signals when dialing the ISP.

Even where institutions and individuals have Internet access, the connection often has little practical value for more than a few elite users. Our tests of actual Internet speeds indicate that, while users at large European or American universities enjoy Internet connections which deliver 17 million bits per second, users at African institutions operate at speeds that are 500 to 600 times slower (~30 thousand bits per second). We also routinely test hundreds of Internet servers at African institutions and find that the typical server is online only about six hours per day and has frequent disconnects lasting days or weeks. As a result, it is impractical for instructors at these institutions to require students to discover information on the Internet. Also, these instructors rarely use resources like video, audio and multimedia tutorials because downloading these items is expensive, slow and unreliable. [World Health Organization]

WiFi Community Networks

By combining low cost commodity WiFi hardware satellite Internet connections very large community networks can be built without any special tools or heavy equipment that would normally be required to connect users via wires or fiber optic cable. Once enough users are connected together via an 802.11 network the cost of a satellite dish, installation, and recurring free can be shared by the community or provided by a local business acting as the ISP.

Dedicated Satellite Bandwidth vs. Usage Based Internet Access

Dedicated satellite Internet links are still very costly in most developing countries, especially those in sub-Sahara Africa (see above). Even 128/64 kbps links that may seem slow to many Internet users with premium broadband services are priced so high that most communities and ISPs cannot afford them.

The costs of Internet connectivity in Africa can be hundreds of times higher than those in Europe or the United States of America. For “free” information on the Internet, institutions in developing countries must often buy larger-capacity connections than they can realistically afford. For example, some universities in Africa are spending as much as the equivalent of 20 full-time faculty salaries for a 2-megabit Internet connection that is then distributed to 500 to 600 computers, resulting in a costly and painfully slow connection for everyone.
[World Health Organization]

A more practical approach is to get service from a usage based satellite provider that provides tiered pricing so that as the community network expands or contracts the cost of accessing Internet can be adjusted. Another benefit of a usage based satellite Internet provider is that they usually support higher burstable speeds which is beneficial when using interactive applications like VoIP or interactive video.

Grid Power vs. Solar Powered WiFi

Another issue in developing countries is the lack of reliable and clean power. To overcome this hurdle most community networks power the WiFi satellite Internet system with a hybrid solution combining the local grid power, solar panels, and batteries.

Enterprise Wireless LAN Design

Enterprise Wireless LAN Design

Designing an enterprise class WLAN is not a trivial task. If designed incorrectly the WLAN will have coverage gaps and capacity issues. Outlined below are steps that should be followed when designing an enterprise class WLAN.

  1. Requirements Gathering

    One of the biggest mistakes made by IT professionals is to focus on WLAN signal coverage instead of WLAN capacity. Many WLAN projects start with a wireless site survey without any information about why the WLAN is being deployed.

    The first step in any WLAN design should be to sit down with the future users/owners of the WLAN and determine where WLAN coverage is needed and what applications will be used. Focusing on WLAN capacity requirements of applications first will usually result in a WLAN design with proper coverage too.

    Also, this is a good time to start discussing the security requirements of the organization and any special compliance requirements or integration issues related to wireless LAN security that may need special attention.

  2. Physical Site Survey

    Request electronic copy of building drawings and conduct a physical site survey to verify that the information in the drawings is correct. Note any changes not reflected in the drawings, such as new additions or construction material that would significantly attenuate or reflect wireless signals.

    Another goal of a physical site survey is to determine the locations where access points should not be installed such as bathrooms, lobby areas, or elevator shafts.

    During the physical site survey start thinking about cable paths in relationship to telecom closets and possible mounting locations for access points. Note any special requirements that would impact deployment phase such as high ceilings, outdoor coverage requirements, or historical building regulations.

    If allowed, take digital photos of facilities to help with predictive RF WLAN design step and deployment phase.

  3. Predictive RF Design

    Using information from requirements gathering step and physical site survey use WLAN predictive RF design tools to determine the number of access points that will be needed and potential placement locations.

    Focus on meeting the capacity requirements of the design and disregard any budgetary limitations. In addition to capacity design verify the placement of access points will also meet WLAN coverage requirements. Compare these access point placement locations to information gathered during physical site survey and adjust placement as needed to avoid placing access points in areas where they can not be mounted.

    Regarding coverage, design proper overlapping coverage to allow for seamless roaming and redundancy.

    Predictive RF Design

  4. Wireless Site Survey

    The goal of a wireless site survey is to validate the predictive RF design and to avoid having to survey the entire facility. Focus on areas that are different from floor-to-floor or very radio frequency (RF) unfriendly.

    Verify the predictive design by taking test measurements at various locations. When possible, use the same access point and client hardware that will be deployed. Measure RSSI (received signal strength indication) and noise levels. The wireless site survey should also include information about neighboring access points and any other 802.11 or not 802.11 device that may cause interference issues once the WLAN is deployed. Also, any special antennas needed for access points or clients should be noted here and if possible test measurements taken with special antennas.

    Identify and record access point placement locations and cable paths back to telecom closet on building drawings. Also note network switch port capacity and power availability per telecom closet.

    Wireless Site Survey, WLAN Site Survey

  5. Wireless Network Design

    With information from the requirements gathering, physical site survey, predictive RF design, and wireless site survey designing the wireless LAN should be very pretty easy.

    Decide on configuration related items such as SSIDs to be used, VLAN assignment per SSID, channel plans, transmit power, and naming schemes for devices. Regarding channel assignment and transmit power, do not assume that WLAN equipment will correctly “auto configure” these settings. In almost all cases, it is best to define exact channel scheme and transmit power and later validate that the “auto configure” capability of WLAN equipment is able to do same dynamically due to network conditions.

    A very important WLAN design consideration is the security architecture of the network and any special client software requirements. It is very important to communicate the details of security solution to the network owners/operators and have them provide any potential issues with existing client software (personal firewalls, virus scanners, etc). Also, outline how the WLAN and security architecture will integrate with the existing wired network.

    Lastly, document all steps of the WLAN design process and communicate roles and responsibilities to all parties. As with any network or device operating in the ISM band, make sure all parties understand that an 802.11 based WLAN is a shared and best effort network. The design is only as good as the 802.11 protocol and FCC regulations related to the ISM band. Set the correct expectations regarding performance, security, and management requirements.

Following the five WLAN design steps above should result in proper coverage, capacity, and security controls that are typically desired in enterprise class WLANs.