Single AP in a crowded room stops working as more people enter the room.

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In our school lunchroom, wifi on one AP with multiple SSIDs works fine until the students start to come in, then becomes unavailable, or unusable for those already connected. The students are not associating anything with the AP (their smartphones are not allowed on our network, nor are they opening up laptops). I presume their smartphones are looking for wifi as they walk in, which somehow overwhelms the AP. This same thing occurs with APs in other crowded areas, even though the number of clients associated remains low. Functionality seems to return after a little while.

The solution for our wireless POS in the lunchroom was to set up a separate AP (non AH) with a separate, hidden, low power SSID. Those wireless POS devices do just fine in the same room where my main networks are choking.

My questions: Is this a common occurrence in similar situations (can someone explain it)? Is there a way for me to improve things, so that I don't have to set up separate wifi networks in our high use areas? (e.g for the wireless thermostats in our auditorium that are unreachable when the room is full.)

Thanks in advance for any insights.
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Bob Vishanoff

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Posted 4 years ago

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Nick Lowe, Official Rep

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So, yes, this is likely to be an RF interference issue.

If your AP supports it, have you tried using the built-in spectrum analyser to see what is going on?

As for things to do seeking a quick win:

  • Have you disabled the 802.11b data rates?
  • Have you enabled airtime fairness?
  • Are you using a manual channel plan or is the AP managing this itself? Have you configured the AP so that it can change channels if needs be if this is automatic? For 2.4 GHz all your APs should be using a 1 - 6 - 11 plan to avoid ACI.
  • Have you looked for neighboring APs that could be interfering?

Products like are great for digging in to the problems that you're having in lieu of employing the services of a Wi-Fi pro.