The Beacon

Field trial results show Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Vantage™ devices offer significant improvement to network performance

November 21, 2019 by John Bahr & Mark Poletti

This content was originally published on the CableLabs blog.

In a high traffic, high volume user environment such as subways, airports, and stadiums, maintaining a reliable connection and moving consistently across APs in a Wi-Fi® network has always been a challenge to users and operators. A solution to this issue is now commercially available in the form of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Optimized Connectivity™ and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Agile Multiband™ AP and STA devices. These are core certifications to the Wi-Fi Alliance® Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Vantage™ program. Wi-Fi Vantage™ devices contain features that optimize management and control frame transmissions, network discovery, authentication, and network transition. A field trial was conducted to measure the performance of a Wi-Fi network using Wi-Fi Optimized Connectivity™ and Wi-Fi Agile Multiband™ devices embedded in a highly congested urban environment centered around a busy subway station. Results show the following improvements over non-Wi-Fi Vantage devices:

Optimized Network Discovery

Without Wi-Fi Vantage, the inefficiencies of network discovery and response messages can severely disrupt existing client connections and make it difficult for clients to attach to the network. The optimized network discovery features in Wi‑Fi Vantage include suppression of, and broadcast of, probe responses by the AP and also include probe request deferral and suppression by the client. Field trial results show that the number of probe responses in a Wi-Fi Vantage network were reduced by 76% on the 2.4 GHz radios and by 72% on the 5 GHz radios. This resulted in a probe response airtime usage reduction of 67% in 2.4 GHz and 44% in 5 GHz.

Optimized Authentication

Without Wi-Fi Vantage, clients can experience long re-connection setup times when moving back into a previously-joined network. With Wi-Fi Vantage, this re-connection setup time is reduced using Fast Initial Link Setup (FILS) Authentication. FILS Authentication was tested in the Wi-Fi Vantage network. Results show the connection setup times decreased by 76% (from 228 ms to 55 ms).

Fast Network Transition

Without Fast Network Transition (FT), clients must perform a full Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) when roaming, possibly interrupting the end-user experience. With Wi-Fi Vantage, once a client device decides to roam to a different AP, band, or channel, the association and connection happen quickly and seamlessly. Test results show that FT roaming improved client re-connection setup times by 84%, reducing it from 203 ms to 31 ms. In addition, Fast Network Transition can be deployed with, and will work alongside, FILS Authentication to further optimize client connections and roams.

A full-featured Wi-Fi Vantage network will provide benefit to overall network performance and user experience, especially in high traffic, high user environments. Some Wi-Fi Vantage features may already be included in operator-managed Wi-Fi networks using vendor-specific implementation and nomenclature. Field trial results will allow operators to assess the value of a partial- or full-featured, certified Wi-Fi Vantage network. CableLabs’ joint leadership with the operator community (cable and mobile operators) created the vision and roadmap for the Wi‑Fi Vantage program while partnering with the Wi-Fi ecosystem, and will continue these efforts for the next generation of Wi-Fi Vantage.

You can find more information about Wi-Fi Vantage here. For more information about this project or CableLabs’ involvement please contact John Bahr (j.bahr@cablelabs.com) or Mark Poletti (m.poletti@cablelabs).

View the field study highlights

 

The statements and opinions by each Wi-Fi Alliance member and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions or views of Wi-Fi Alliance or any other member. Wi-Fi Alliance is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information provided by any member in posting to or commenting on this blog. Concerns should be directed to info@wi-fi.org.

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Frequently Asked Questions
  • How does Passpoint support service provider branding and customer relationships?

    Passpoint enabled mobile devices can choose networks based on a list of preferred (direct or partner) providers, specific services and/or the best performance characteristics. For service providers offering a managed experience, seamless authentication is a valuable element, and Passpoint networks also support deployments where a click-through screen is essential for acceptance of terms and conditions or branding.

  • How does Passpoint equipment support Wi-Fi roaming?

    Passpoint devices use industry-agreed uniform mechanisms for discovering and creating secured connections to hotspots. This allows a subscriber to experience seamless Wi-Fi connectivity to a hotspot anywhere in the world a user’s provider has roaming agreements. Passpoint is specified as a requirement for the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s industry work on Wi-Fi roaming.

  • What standards does Passpoint draw on?

    Passpoint is based on Hotspot 2.0 technology and makes use of elements of IEEE 802.1X, 802.11u, 802.11i, WPA2-Enterprise and WPA3™-Enterprise security, as well as some Wi-Fi Alliance defined mechanisms.

  • Who created the Passpoint program?

    Members of Wi-Fi Alliance created the program. The group which developed Passpoint includes service providers, mobile operators, fixed line operators, and makers of mobile devices and infrastructure equipment.

  • What does Passpoint mean for end users?

    In short, Passpoint provides a better Wi-Fi user experience while mobile. Users with certified Passpoint devices can enjoy the benefits of streamlined network selection and secure connectivity at Passpoint enabled hotspots. Passpoint-enabled devices operate based on user preference.

  • What does Passpoint bring to hospitality?

    Hospitality chains may own many brands but a single consolidated rewards program. Without Passpoint, either the rewards program SSID needs to be added at every hotel or users’ phones must be configured with several SSIDs. Passpoint can function with a single profile that identifies the rewards program instead of a hotel SSID. When a user visits an associated property, their device will automatically identify the access point and connect.

  • Can existing equipment be upgraded for Passpoint?

    The hardware and software platform of a given device determines whether it can be upgraded in the field. Equipment that has previously undergone certification testing can be updated and resubmitted for Passpoint certification.

  • Does Passpoint support voice over Wi-Fi?

    The scope of Passpoint testing is to ensure that the mechanisms for seamless discovery and creation of a secured link are implemented correctly. It is application-agnostic.

  • Are Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products protected by security?

    Yes. All Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products are tested for WPA2 or WPA3. The only way to be sure that a product meets the latest security standards is to purchase only Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products.

     

  • Which Wi-Fi Vantage technologies help quickly connect to another AP or another network?

    Wi-Fi Agile Multiband: Fast Basic Service Set (BSS) Transition, also known as Fast Transition, is based on IEEE 802.11r. Fast Transition enables devices to reauthenticate quickly with WPA2 security when roaming within the same Wi-Fi network, improving experience with latency sensitive applications such as voice over Wi-Fi.

    Wi-Fi Optimized Connectivity: Fast Initial Link Setup (FILS) Authentication is a mechanism defined in IEEE 802.11ai to enable fast authentication to APs using WPA2-Enterprise security.

  • Why should end users purchase Wi-Fi Vantage devices?

    Devices that are certified for Wi-Fi Vantage represent the most recent and interoperable Wi-Fi technologies for managed networks. Users will experience fewer connection interruptions during calls or video streaming, even while traversing through a transportation hub like a large airport. These devices, when used in a Wi-Fi Vantage enabled network, bring a more seamless and consistent connection and therefore a better mobile experience.

  • How does a Wi-Fi Agile Multiband device help the user experience?

    Wi-Fi Agile Multiband devices enable the exchange of information. This exchange enables access points (APs) to guide client devices toward the best Wi-Fi environment for that device. In addition to steering client devices to another AP that is underutilized, APs can steer clients to other, less congested frequency bands or channels. The result is a more balanced network which in turn improves performance and user experience.

  • Don’t devices already do this?

    Many device makers and operating systems vendors do employ some of these capabilities. However, Wi-Fi Agile Multiband is standards-based, ensuring interoperability across vendors.

  • How do 802.11k and 802.11r contribute to reduced latency in Wi-Fi Agile Multiband enabled networks?

    Both technologies reduce the time it takes a client to roam between APs in the same network.

    • 802.11k reduces roaming time by allowing the client to rapidly determine which AP it should roam to next so when the client is ready to roam, it has a better idea of where to roam.
    • 802.11r also enables faster roaming by allowing encryption keys to be stored on network APs so the client does not need to perform the complete authentication process every time it roams to a new AP within the network.
  • What is the difference between fast transitioning offered by Wi-Fi Optimized Connectivity and that offered by Wi-Fi Agile Multiband?

    Both enable faster roaming. Wi-Fi Agile Multiband uses Fast Basic Service Set (BSS) Transition Management (also known as FT). FT functions within the same Wi-Fi network (Extended Service Set, ESS), while Wi-Fi Optimized Connectivity utilizes Fast Initial Link Setup (FILS) Authentication to enable fast authentication within the same network, or two different networks.

  • What are some consumer applications for Wi-Fi Agile Multiband?

    Wi-Fi Agile Multiband is for any Wi-Fi device because it enables more intelligent use of Wi-Fi network resources to help the device maintain the best connection – whether the device is moving throughout a Wi-Fi network or resides in a specific location. Tablet users walking through an office environment or home with multiple access points (APs) will connect to the APs that provide the best connection. Smart TVs can ensure that HD video streaming works seamlessly by moving to 5 GHz if the 2.4 GHz band becomes congested. Smart appliances, gaming systems, and more can benefit from the ability to monitor the Wi-Fi environment and move to new APs or frequencies when interference or congestion occurs.

  • What is a managed network?

    Managed networks are Wi-Fi networks, such as those operated in airports, stadiums, schools, office buildings, retail and hotel locations and other venues, that are “managed” by network administrators to optimize their coverage, performance, and network access. These networks are frequently open to the public or offer access to subscribers.

  • What features are available in Wi-Fi Vantage devices today?

    Wi-Fi Vantage will evolve over time to introduce more advanced features as they become available. Today, all Wi-Fi Vantage devices contain the following enhanced feature sets to offer users the best experience when connecting to managed Wi-Fi networks:

    • Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint with Online Signup and Policy Provisioning
    • Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac with advanced features of beamforming, concurrent dual band operation, and low density parity check  

    Wi-Fi Vantage adds the following feature sets to devices in 2018:

    • Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Agile Multiband, enabling devices to quickly identify and transition to a recommended AP, frequency band, or channel that gives the best connection
    • Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Optimized Connectivity improves roaming within a Wi-Fi network or to another network through optimized discovery, authentication, and reduced management frames
  • What features are planned for Wi-Fi Vantage devices in future generations?

    Future generations of Wi-Fi Vantage will add enhancements in network access, frequency band and channel management, and reduced connection times, resulting in improved roaming and management of Wi-Fi networks.

  • How does a user turn on WMM-Power Save?

    If implemented correctly, WMM-Power Save will activate automatically when a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ for WMM-Power Save client device is communicating with a Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ for WMM-Power Save access point. There is no action needed from a user.

  • What is the Converged Wireless Group RF Profile Test?

    The Converged Wireless Group RF Profile Test is a test plan that was jointly developed by CTIA® and Wi-Fi Alliance® to provide detailed radio frequency performance profile in a mixed-network (Wi-Fi and Cellular) environment. Manufacturers of converged handsets and Wi-Fi networking infrastructure devices (access points) can participate in this test program to provide carriers with independent evaluations of their equipment, and carriers can use the test reports to compare handsets from different manufacturers. Completion of CWG testing does not result in a Wi-Fi certification.

  • What is the benefit of the Converged Wireless RF Profile Test to carriers?

    This industry-supported program provides detailed information about the RF performance of the Wi-Fi radio in a converged handset, as well as how the cellular and Wi-Fi radios impact one another. It provides a uniform evaluation approach that enables a standard way to contrast and compare converged devices.

  • What are the tests included in the Converged Wireless RF Profile?

    The comprehensive over-the-air testing program provides detailed measurements on key parameters, described in layperson terms below. The measurements are taken in a 360-degree environment in order to create “real-world” conditions:

    • Measurements to provide information about the reach of a Wi-Fi radio signal sent by a converged phone or AP, called transmit power (TRP, or Total Radiated Power)
    • Measurements to provide information about how well the Wi-Fi radio can detect an incoming signal in a converged phone or AP, called receive sensitivity (TIS, or Total Isotropic Sensitivity)

    In addition, the program includes:

    • Measurement of the signals ahead of the Wi-Fi antenna, called conducted power and sensitivity
    • Measurement of the reduction in sensitivity (desensitization) of a Wi-Fi receiver caused by the presence of an active cellular transmitter, and to ensure that the performance of the Wi-Fi receiver is within acceptable limits
    • Measurements of the desensitization of a cellular receiver caused by the presence of an active Wi-Fi transmitter, and to ensure that the performance of the cellular receiver is within acceptable limits

    To complete the testing a device must also be Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ for core Wi-Fi interoperability and WPA2™ security, and CTIA certified for cellular performance.

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John Bahr & Mark Poletti

CableLabs

John Bahr, principal architect on the wireless team at CableLabs, focuses on all things wireless, including home and managed Wi-Fi and other access technologies. Prior to joining CableLabs, John developed four generations of VoIP Wi-Fi phones for Spectralink and later served as vice president of engineering for Geomation. John has also worked on the U.S. air traffic control system and the U.S. Space Station Freedom while at IBM Federal Systems Division.

Mark Poletti, director of wireless technologies at CableLabs, is responsible for wireless R&D activities across fixed, mobile and emerging wireless technologies for the secure delivery of high-speed data, video, voice and next-generation services. Prior to joining CableLabs, Mark built, managed and operated 2G, 3G and 4G networks, and has 20 years experience in mobile operator design, operations and performance issues of 2G, 3G, 4G, and satellite networks with companies such as Clearwire, US WEST/Qwest, and General Electric.