Why it Takes so Long to Connect to a WiFi Access Point?

By Will Angley
18 Feb 2017

Paper: Why it Takes so Long to Connect to a WiFi Access Point?

Connecting to a WiFi network is quick on average, but takes a long time when common things go wrong. Chinese scientists working on Tencent’s WiFi manager app decided to study this and see if they could make things better for people using their app. They updated their app to note when each step of the WiFi connection process had happened, and looked for patterns.

And they found one! Some phones just couldn’t talk to some APs, because of software bugs in the phones and in the APs. This broke one in every three WiFi connections users in big Chinese cities made.

Then they wrote software that predicted when these bugs will break a WiFi connection, and connected to different APs instead, even if they are farther away. Now connections only break one out of every twenty-five times for their users.

There’s a powerful lesson here; it can be much more effective to give yourself a way to detect and respond problems when they happen naturally, than to try guessing all of them in advance and checking for them in a lab.

But this is also really disappointing once you think about it. Four percent is a terribly high failure rate for software, especially software that’s only running in two places; the biggest websites (Google, Facebook, Amazon) are spread across the entire planet and still hundreds of times more reliable than this.