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DQOTD: WiFi Debottlenecking?
Old 02-26-2017, 11:28 AM   #1
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DQOTD: WiFi Debottlenecking?

This is probably child's play for some here, hence the post.

When/if I run into frequent loading/buffering issues, how do I diagnose where the problem? We're going to cut the cord soon and I'd be more than happy to replace weak lines if we run into issues, but I don't want to guess and start buying new hardware somewhat at random. For example, if I am watching a video on my TV and run into chronic loading/buffering issues, it could be any of the following?:
  • ISP (too slow)
  • Cable modem
  • Router capability
  • WiFi signal strength/proximity/# of devices
  • Streaming software (YouTube, Sling TV, etc.)
  • Specific programming (low vs high resolution, etc.)
  • Streaming device where applicable (Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, other)
  • Device (iPad, Smart TV, etc.)

Again, I'm hoping it's easier to suss out problems than I realize.

I am assuming overall speed is serial, not restricted by the slowest link in the chain? e.g. what good is a 1.2 Gbps router with a 25 Mbps ISP?
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Old 02-26-2017, 11:42 AM   #2
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There are many "internet speed test" web sites that you can try. Just use your different devices plugged into (or not) to anywhere along your network chain.

Here is one: AT&T High Speed Internet Speed Test
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Old 02-26-2017, 12:06 PM   #3
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There is an app that comes with the Mac OS called "Activity Monitor" that will handle this.

I would assume Windows and Linux have similar apps.
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Old 02-26-2017, 12:11 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
... I am assuming overall speed is serial, not restricted by the slowest link in the chain? e.g. what good is a 1.2 Gbps router with a 25 Mbps ISP?
I'm not sure if you have a typo in there, but yes, the speed is serial, and it is restricted by the slowest link in the chain.

In terms of speed, the only thing a 1.2 Gbps router gets you with a 25 Mbps ISP is that you can also have communications going on within your local network at speeds up to 1.2 Gbps (or whatever the real throughput is). You can be copying a file from one computer to another over wifi, and you wouldn't even need an ISP connection (0 bps). Plus, the faster routers probably also have other capabilities, but as far as basic speed, that's it.

Quote:
Again, I'm hoping it's easier to suss out problems than I realize.
Unfortunately no. It is a serial chain, and takes some troubleshooting to find where the problem is. I've got some "ping" scripts that go from the most basic level, pinging the internal computer hardware, just to verify it 'sees' the chips in the computer (these pings are nearly instantaneous). And then ones that ping the next hardware level, then the router itself, and then the ISP, and then outside my ISP. That sometimes tells you something. Like, if the pings to your own router are slow, you have an internal problem. Repeat on another device, and if that is OK, it might be the device, not the router.

etc, etc, etc

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Old 02-26-2017, 02:10 PM   #5
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The first step is to think about the situation. With a long chain of devices you want to cut the problem size down if you can. Does the problem occur at similar times? Are there other activities going on at the same time? Did it change after adding a new device or set up? etc. Similar times could be activities in your own home (network backups, daily updates, etc.) or outside (everybody in the neighbourhood streaming during/after dinner). The solution to those cases would be different.

If nothing seems obvious from above then what about the devices in the chain? What are there theoretical bandwidths? Don't trust the rated speed from your provider. Those are often speed boosted - temporary boost that isn't sustained. Does any appear to be an obvious weak link? If you have identified one then start your testing at that link.

If you haven't identified a weak link then you need to step through everything. Take a laptop and move it through the chain. Start with it doing identical service to the TV and in the same location - over WiFi with the same settings and the same service. Then move it back through the chain by moving it next to the WiFi router. Then hardwire it to the router. Finally, connect it directly to the cable/dsl modem. You can also do speed tests as you go. I would recommend something like the tools at dslreports.com

If the problem is intermittent then it's going to be harder to trace and will require making some educated guesses. It also may not be the hardware itself but the settings. It can also be interference from the surroundings.
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Old 02-26-2017, 03:30 PM   #6
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If you can access your cable modem's web page (look up your modem's model number on google) you may be able to see what signal to noise ratio it is running at. I was able to improve DS's internet by moving his cable modem to a cable outlet that was closer to the external connection (less distance and probably few splitters for better SNR). That was the difference between periodic dropouts and solid operation. That was prompted by looking at the cable modem's status page.

Of course, try resetting your cable modem and WiFi router if you have one. Either one can get cranky just because they feel like it.

Check your WiFi status, mainly the data rate, at your computer to make sure you have a strong WiFi signal. The speed tests are also good for this.

It is also likely that somewhere between the site you are trying to receive (Netflix or wherever) and your ISP there is some bottleneck slowing your streaming. I have Gigabit fiber internet but HBO Go streaming tends to halt and buffer at times. Sometimes so bad I have to give up and finish up later. I've never had a serious problem with Netflix. Sometimes you can improve your streaming by stopping, maybe even getting out of the streaming app, and then resuming. That may get you a different (better) server at the source, or maybe a better routing.

Just one of the mysteries of the internet. I have an old Vulkano streaming box at home so we can watch some local TV while travelling. I'm usually lucky to get 1.5 Mbps streaming an no dropouts from it if I'm out of state, even though it can go to 2.5 Mbps and I'm on fiber and the people I'm staying with have at least 30 Mbps connections. Maybe one of these years they'll figure out how to do better.
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Old 02-26-2017, 03:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
This is probably child's play for some here, hence the post.

When/if I run into frequent loading/buffering issues, how do I diagnose where the problem? We're going to cut the cord soon and I'd be more than happy to replace weak lines if we run into issues, but I don't want to guess and start buying new hardware somewhat at random. For example, if I am watching a video on my TV and run into chronic loading/buffering issues, it could be any of the following?:
  • ISP (too slow)
  • Cable modem
  • Router capability
  • WiFi signal strength/proximity/# of devices
  • Streaming software (YouTube, Sling TV, etc.)
  • Specific programming (low vs high resolution, etc.)
  • Streaming device where applicable (Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, other)
  • Device (iPad, Smart TV, etc.)

Again, I'm hoping it's easier to suss out problems than I realize.

I am assuming overall speed is serial, not restricted by the slowest link in the chain? e.g. what good is a 1.2 Gbps router with a 25 Mbps ISP?
Answering the last question: It still helps to have recent tech, but you don't require "bleeding edge" at any given point.

What is your service, if I might ask? If it is minimal speed, then you need to make sure there aren't additional slowdowns in your home net. For example, I recall early routers having DNS problems that caused home net problems. Once you updated firmware, the problem went away.

Other potential difficulties exist. Best thing to do is draw your network as you know it. Specify each device. Look at the cabling and write down the specs.

At one time it was easy to find a lower-rated cable and plug that into ethernet ports. So leave no stone unturned. If you isolate this to WiFi, by using a wired connection as well, it helps eliminate a lot of territory.
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Old 02-26-2017, 05:46 PM   #8
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First thing I would do is get rid of WiFi for streaming HD video. Only use hardwire to the router. If that means getting up in the attic and fishing cat5 down the wall, then do it. Wifi introduces an unnecessary variable into the equation. Wifi is for devices that move around. TVs don't usually move around. And streaming HD video is very bandwidth intensive.

Second, test your ISP speed using a PC hardwired to the main router. In my experience, you need ~10Mbps download to reliably stream 1080p with the usual level of background activity on your network. I usually use speedtest.net. You can also try tracert or pingplotter to the source website to see if there is a specific temporary problem somewhere in the path between you and the streaming source.

Third, try rebooting modem, router and streaming box, then bring them back up in order. With FTTH, you should also reboot the ONT. You can also try taking all other devices offline, so that only the streaming device is consuming bandwidth.

For me, the steps above fix buffering problems 90% of the time. I would only move on to more rigorous troubleshooting (hardware, firmware, cables, etc) if you still have problems after trying those steps.

We recently had an issue with live TV buffering. We use Kodi, along with Windows Media Center on a PC, to serve and record live TV throughout the network. Turns out the problem was the external HDD we were using to record live TV. The drive was slowly failing. Switching to a different internal drive completely resolved the issue.
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Old 02-26-2017, 06:39 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cobra9777 View Post
First thing I would do is get rid of WiFi for streaming HD video. Only use hardwire to the router. If that means getting up in the attic and fishing cat5 down the wall, then do it. Wifi introduces an unnecessary variable into the equation. Wifi is for devices that move around. TVs don't usually move around. And streaming HD video is very bandwidth intensive.
....
While I think the rest of your post is solid, I think this is overstating the issue.

I'll agree that a wired connection is a good way to troubleshoot if you have problems with wireless, but I don't agree that wired is needed.

Wireless routers provide capabilities far exceeding the ~ 8 Mbps called out here:

https://help.directvnow.com/hc/en-us...imal-streaming

Quote:
Below are the Internet download speed recommendations per stream for watching DIRECTV NOW:

150 Kbps - 2.5 Mbps - Minimum broadband connection speed for Mobile devices
2.5 - 7.5 Mbps - Recommended for HD quality
We recommend a minimum of 12 Mbps for broadband connections to the home.
Even my ancient, cheap Netgear WGR614 router supports 54 Mbps. So even if you get 1/4 of that, you are good.

I've tested my computer wired and wireless, and the speed difference is in the noise levels, I can't really say it is any slower over WiFi. If you are far from the router, you may see issues. But I'd put in a repeater before I bothered with wires.

Wires are sooooo 1800's (except for between your amp and speakers - then good heavy gauge wire rules!)

-ERD50
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Old 02-26-2017, 08:41 PM   #10
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When we had buffering issues, it was because of something on the end of the ISP. We had literally a dozen different router/modem combinations installed with a year because of issues we had no control over.

When we moved, we experimented with broadband speed for what we had. 2 laptops, 2 cell phones on all the time, plus a smart TV, and we found that if we had less than 15mbps things started to slow down simply due to the constant connectivity and updating of the amount of devices we had. When we updated to the next highest tier, everything was fine. Or even when we killed the WiFi on the cell phones when streaming videos while playing online games.
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Old 02-26-2017, 09:01 PM   #11
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Inscribed on a board at a large computer vendors performance benchmark center "All computers wait at the same speed". Doesn't get any simpler than that.

Personally I keep it simple and if there's a way to buy more real performance for reasonable cost, do it.
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Old 02-26-2017, 09:14 PM   #12
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Just on the wired/wifi issue - my experience has been that wireless can be flakey and affected by everything from the home phone to the neighbor's microwave. I didn't respond by hard wiring but I went home plug and used the house electricity wiring as my network. There's a loss of a bit of speed and if your wiring is old it won't be a great setup, but for me it speeds the signal around the house very well and let's me run separate wifi nodes in different rooms.
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Old 02-26-2017, 09:25 PM   #13
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Eyes POPPED open when I got Google Fiber and it reported the rates of various devices over WiFi. HUGE differences based on device and proximity to the hotspot.
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Old 02-26-2017, 10:29 PM   #14
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One other possiblity to consider is to buy a router with wireless ac and usb dongles for devices that do a lot of streaming. The AC (5 ghz) band has more bandwidth, and is less used than the bgn bands. AC goes to a max of 1 gigabit/second. (500 mbits/sec for a single device)
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Old 02-26-2017, 11:17 PM   #15
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I have been handling my own computer and networking troubleshooting for years. (Some of my earliest jobs were in tech support but that was a long time ago.) As we have added more and more devices, my skills at keeping the whole mess together have diminished. I don't have the interest, current know-how or patience to be the IT guy anymore; and my wife's office was getting horrible Wi-fi coverage for some reason I couldn't fix.

Last week I finally broke down and hired a very experienced tech guru (in our case, a Mac tech) to setup our home wi-fi, networking, wireless printer, security, storage and backup to work perfectly, with everything - including our Tivo/cable system - running as fast as possible. I had almost all the right hardware but he was able to use my parts and recommend a new gigabit modem to setup a properly configured system that is much, much faster and more reliable than before. It was a great learning experience, and resolved issues we had for years with our computers.

It was well worth the money and I highly recommend it for anyone who, like me, dreads playing IT person. After a certain point, there are so many variables, it's like a giant puzzle and it only takes one wrong setting or configuration to mess up the whole thing.
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Old 02-26-2017, 11:22 PM   #16
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I plug my TV into the router with a wire and I never have buffering on Netflix streaming once I got a fast ISP.

I do notice my wifi signal is weaker when I'm farther from the router. When I scan for wifi, I see about 10 neighbors signals, each is a chance to interfere with mine if they use the same channel.

We did notice when we went from DSL 1.5 Gps to WOW at 30 Gps that Netflix stopped buffering and even came up more clear (more HD).

OP - perhaps you could provide more details, how is your tv connected to the netflix streaming ?
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Old 02-27-2017, 12:10 AM   #17
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One other possiblity to consider is to buy a router with wireless ac and usb dongles for devices that do a lot of streaming. The AC (5 ghz) band has more bandwidth, and is less used than the bgn bands. AC goes to a max of 1 gigabit/second. (500 mbits/sec for a single device)
Maybe simpler is to add a WiFi router to the TV area. Get one that is compatible with your existing main router for the TV area, or get a new main router and move your existing one to the TV area, or get two newer routers with AC - replace your old one and drop one by the TV. Then wire the TV and anything else to the router (TiVO, PlayStation, receiver, XBox, etc.). You can pick up some pretty powerful routers now for not much money.

This is the setup that I've used for quite a while. In my case, it's an older ex-main router that I downgraded to use only for this network extension job. It does a great job for streaming to the TV, playing on the PlayStation, and keeping the TiVo schedule updated.

If you do go with a new main router then the old one may still be useful particularly if the router is compatible with DD-WRT or Tomato (open source router firmware). I have a really low end router that is compatible with DD-WRT but I use it to run a VPN client backed network. I use that network to connect some devices that look like they are in Japan. You can also use that old router to range extend or add some lower speed wired access points elsewhere in the house.
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Old 02-27-2017, 12:19 AM   #18
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We did notice when we went from DSL 1.5 Gps to WOW at 30 Gps that Netflix stopped buffering and even came up more clear (more HD).
Likely 1.5 Mbps which is too slow for Netflix. They recommend 3.0 Mbps for even SD quality. Even then you network speed will jitter some and if you are at the bottom end you will get lower quality or in your case drop out and buffering.
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Old 02-27-2017, 04:50 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Cobra9777 View Post
First thing I would do is get rid of WiFi for streaming HD video. Only use hardwire to the router. If that means getting up in the attic and fishing cat5 down the wall, then do it. Wifi introduces an unnecessary variable into the equation. Wifi is for devices that move around. TVs don't usually move around. And streaming HD video is very bandwidth intensive.
If I do run into problems, using something like a power line adaptor for Ethernet is already on my list of potential fixes. Not as good as hardwiring Ethernet, but superior to WiFi. I have run cables from the basement of our two story home before, and I'm not doing that again, it was brutal.

PL1200 | Powerline | Networking | Home | NETGEAR

And an AC router is on my short list too. At the moment our iPads/iPhones are the only AC compatible devices we own, but the streaming device(s) I buy will be too.
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Old 02-27-2017, 04:56 AM   #20
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Likely 1.5 Mbps which is too slow for Netflix. They recommend 3.0 Mbps for even SD quality. Even then you network speed will jitter some and if you are at the bottom end you will get lower quality or in your case drop out and buffering.
PS Vue recommended 10 Mbps for HD for the first device, and another 5 Mbps for each additional device. FWIW
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