Researchers Dig into Common Wi-Fi Issues

Although Wi-Fi connectivity is ubiquitous in most parts of the developed world, it is not without its issues.

Many users may experience problems when using Wi-Fi, whether during the initial process of connecting to a hotspot or after they are online. Now a report conducted by a team at Tsinghau University in China has outlined the prevalence of such complications, according to the Guardian.

In the study it was revealed that around 45% of people who attempt to connect to Wi-Fi will suffer issues during the initial phase of accessing a network, with some having to wait longer than others before a connection is established.

Setup times vary, but in 15% of cases it can take more than five seconds. Researchers were also able to identify some of the key causes for these complications.

Almost a tenth of connection attempts which failed were caused by the user themselves, whether as a result of hitting the wrong button or entering an invalid password for secure hotspots.

A similar proportion of failures were put down to deliberate user decisions to cancel the connection before it was established, presumably because they realised that the target network was incorrect. This is to be expected in places where multiple Wi-Fi hotspots overlap with one another.

Technical issues not under the control of users were also regularly encountered, with connection time-outs afflicting 15% of those covered in the study. In 9% of failed connections, problems stemmed from the fact that the router did not correctly assign the device with an IP address, meaning it could not make use of the available internet access.

This wide ranging study included figures gleaned from more than five million mobile users spread across seven million hotspots, for a cumulative total of 400 million connections to Wi-Fi. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was quickly concluded that the first step of the connection process is the one which leads to the biggest delays.

When smartphones attempt to connect to Wi-Fi, they first take note of any data packets being sent out by nearby access points. The less regularly this scanning takes place, the harder it is for networks to be identified even if they are close by, which is one of the reasons that the first phase can be prolonged.

Researchers pointed out that the amount of other wireless traffic in the area around a handset can have an adverse effect on its ability to establish an initial connection, drawing out the process even further.

One solution suggested in the study is to endow smartphones with the ability to sort Wi-Fi networks more effectively and present users with options based on metrics which will minimise the likelihood of a connection being dropped. This not only comes down to keeping tabs on signal strength, but also checking the speed of a network and ranking those available accordingly.

When taking this approach it was possible to cut the number of attempted connections which fail to go through to below 4%, which could have a significant impact as a result.

Observers have pointed out that this could ultimately relegate certain Wi-Fi access points to the bottom of the pile and make it significantly less likely that users would see them at all, let alone choose to connect to them.

Security is also relevant in this instance, as the fastest available hotspot is not necessarily the safest to be using, especially in a public place. Experts are therefore suggesting that while changing smartphone behaviour is an option, in reality it would be better to address the issues with the Wi-Fi networks themselves.