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IPad WLAN performance problems emerge

Right out of the gate, business users are running into problems with iPad WLAN performance, wondering: Why won't my iPad stay connected to the WLAN? While it seems there may be some inherent iPad WLAN problems, there are a number of iPad WLAN troubleshooting strategies that are already emerging.

Why won't my iPad stay connected to my WLAN?

Some Apple iPad users have reported difficulty making or maintaining Wi-Fi connections. Reasons for this iPad WLAN performance issue may range from problems commonly experienced with any Wi-Fi device to issues with the iPad's internal Broadcom 802.11n chip.

Common Wi-Fi problems include being too far from the router or access point (AP), using Wi-Fi where 2.4 GHz band interference is present, and misconfigured connections (including security parameters). To diagnose problems, see Apple's basic Wi-Fi troubleshooting hints or step through SearchNetworking's Wi-Fi troubleshooting advice.

Additionally, early-adopter reports indicate that the iPad may suffer from lower-than-expected signal strength and difficulty reconnecting to a WLAN after disconnection.

Strategies to deal with iPad WLAN performance problems:

Forcing 2.4 GHz connection for iPad WLAN performance: This side-by-side analysis of the iPad and an iPhone 3GS shows how an iPhone's signal may appear stronger than an iPad's signal. However, the iPad is a dual-band device that may connect to a dual-band router/AP over a 5 GHz channel, where an iPhone in the same location would connect over 2.4 GHz. 5 GHz signal tends to drop off faster with distance from the router/AP, as compared to 2.4 GHz. Thus, users may experience lower and more fluctuating signal strength with an iPad than they're accustomed to with their iPhones or notebooks. In this case, it may help to force your iPad to connect over 2.4 GHz by selecting the WLAN name (SSID) configured for the router/AP's 2.4 GHz radio.

Reconfiguring your router/AP to improve iPad WLAN performance: This iPad WLAN support note posted by Apple indicates that the iPad does not always properly reconnect to a WLAN after being restarted or waking up. Early reports suggest this may be an interoperability issue experienced with some dual-band simultaneous routers when security parameters are not identical for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios. To work around this, Apple recommends reconfiguring your router/AP to assign a different SSID to each radio -- for example, name your 2.4 GHz WLAN "net2" and your 5 GHz WLAN "net5." Alternatively, make sure the security parameters for both radios are identical -- it's generally a bad idea to apply the same SSID to WLANs that impose different requirements on clients. After renaming/reconfiguring your router/AP, tell your iPad to "forget" those networks so that it will rediscover and reconfigure all associated parameters (including security settings).

Updates may be on the way: Finally, keep an eye out for updates that may be released for the iPad or your Wi-Fi router/AP. If interoperability problems are found as the iPad completes Wi-Fi "n" certification, vendors will probably try to patch them quickly.

Next Steps

To read about smart device security, see Lisa Phifer's iPhone hacking: Lessons from the front line and Smart phone insecurity: There's an app for that.

This was last published in April 2010

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