VOIP and Traffic Generation Tip (by Tony Fortunato)
Troubleshooting Using Wireshark (by Tony Fortunato)

Beware of Vendors Promising 802.11n (by Tony Fortunato)




I can't believe the problems I have had trying to get my 802.11n card working in my new laptops.

I ordered 3 Gateway laptops for the lab late last year. One of the reasons I got them was to beef up my 802.11n wireless classes and material as well as general hardware refresh.

I have been using them for about 4 months without a problem. I finally got some time to work on some of the 802.11n WIFI stuff the other week when I noticed that the laptops only saw and connected to my 2.4 Ghz b/g network.  I could not connect, nor see the SSID of the 5.8 Ghz/80.211n network. After researching the problem online and referencing the Atheros chipset, I decided to call support since my drivers were current and I was out of ideas.

I was surprised how little the vendors' technical support line knew about WIFI and the amount of misinformation they were trying to sell me. The red flag for occured when they explained that the only difference between 5.8 and 2.4 Ghz, is price.  I wish you could see my eyes rolling back and that vien along my forehead enlarge.

Everyone I spoke to, initally blamed my access points and network. I explained that I tried to connect to 3 different 802.11n AP's from different vendors in my lab with no luck and do not even see the 5.8Ghz SSID's.  I also explained that my Dell is on the 802.11n network with no poblems so I doubt the AP's are to blame. 

I added that when I go to the Gateway driver settings, there isn't any mention of 5.8 Ghz. As we chatted, I noticed that the laptop specs did not support 802.11a - very odd indeed, if it had a 5.8 Ghz radio.  (My only thought 2 words to myself; oh no may be its only 2.4 Ghz.)

Then the blame shifted to the hardware and software with no real rationale. They were trying to convince me that either the 802.11 radio has failed or the software is corrupted and I need to reimage my laptop - even though I repeatedly told them that the laptops work on my b/g network.  And one of the laptops haven't had anything installed on it yet.  C'mon folks.

Eventually they bumped me up the food chain to someone who commented that he had not heard of this problem yet, but admitted, "Who really checks what frequency they use if they can get online". I explained that did not notice until last week because my 5.8 and 2.5Ghz SSID's have different names.

I told him that I tested with InSSIDER, my Fluke Spectrum Analyzer and finally mentioned the lack of 5.8 Ghz options in the driver options. He promised to look into it and would call or email me back.

After 2 weeks, I called back to follow up and they confirmed that the Atheros radio in my model of Gateway is only 2.4 Ghz and is 802.11n DRAFT.  Yikes, but not surprised. 

When I explained that I specifically needed 802.11n/5.8Ghz support, the rep on the phone offered to sell me some 802.11n USB adapters. I asked if he was concerned that the product specs on their website does not mention 802.11n draft, to which he replied, "yeah it should probably say draft somewhere".

In the last few days I have trolled a few computer places (Where else would I hang out ), I noticed a large number of laptops still with 802.11n draft as well as the odd AP. 

The only clue I can see regarding the lack of802.11n/5.8 Ghz is when I do not see 802.11a support.

So not only should you be careful to read the label when purchasing a 802.11n equipment, but you need to employ some CSI type skills to make sure its not draft. 


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Tony_fortunatoThe_tech_firmAuthor Profile - Tony Fortunato is a Senior Network Specialist with experience in design, implementation, and troubleshooting of LAN/WAN/Wireless networks, desktops and servers since 1989. His background in financial networks includes design and implementation of trading floor networks. Tony has taught at local high schools, Colleges/Universities, Networld/Interop and many onsite private classroom settings to thousands of analysts. Tony is an authorized and certified Fluke Networks and Wireshark Instructor. His Pine Mountain Group CNA Level I and II certification demonstrates his vendor neutral approach to network design, support and implementations. Tony has architected, installed and supported various types of Residential Wireless High Speed as well as hundreds of WIFI hotspots. Tony uses a variety of technologies from Powerline, Wireless and wired technologies to find the most cost-efficient and reliable solution for his customers. Tony combines custom programs, open source and commercial software to ensure a simple support infrastructure.