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AP data rates

Our expert, Mike Puglia, gives us a synopsis on WLAN APs and their rates compared to client data rates.

I noticed that you answered a question on 10/17 regarding the number of clients a wireless access point could serve simultaneously by dividing the AP's data rate by the client's required data rates.

Is there any other limitation on connection count in access points? I noticed that Netgear's WAG102 claims it can support up to 128 simultaneous wireless clients and client types within the same coverage area.

How is this different from your AP data rate/client data rate calculation?

There are several ways to look at this. The specific question I had was if I have an 802.11b AP (which has 5-6 MBs) and I have users who are each using X amount of bandwidth, then they really could only get a few users.

Of course, that was a specific situation, and it was assumed they all required that amount of bandwidth 100% of the time (as the question was phrased). In reality, users send and receive data intermittently, so they aren't all going to need the max available bandwidth at the same time.

However, you will see claims from vendors, like those in the link you provided, way above what is practical. WLAN APs are a shared medium, like the days of hubs, so the more users you have, the more packet collisions, contention, etc. Putting 128 users on a single AP is a surefire way to get a lot of helpdesk calls. Regardless of vendor claims, a reasonable number of connected users to a single AP is 20 or so at best.

This was last published in November 2006

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