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hotel WiFi working for mobiles but not laptops

Discussion in 'Networking' started by plh2, Mar 10, 2013.

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  1. plh2

    plh2 Thread Starter

    Mar 10, 2013
    I spent last week in a ski hotel in the French Alps with terrible overloaded WiFi. (Back home now but I'd like to understand the issues and I'm still in email contact with the hotel.) Now most of the young guests and staff had an IPhone or similar and a tablet or a laptop so it was always going to be slow.

    The general symptoms were that phones could get WiFi connectivity most of the time but laptops and netbooks could not. This applied to me (with a Samsung N130 netbook) and people with much more modern and expensive laptops and sitting in the bar about 10 feet from the router (or even complaining at reception where we could see the router 6 feet away). On the other hand mobile use was patchy but worked most of the time, even for my old Nokia N82 when the netbook next to it could not get in.

    The only way to get laptop or netbook connection was for one of us to go to reception and insist they power cycled the router. Then when it came back up we could get in and the connections worked for about an hour before we lost the connection and could not get back in. The link was slow but is probably ADSL and I could at least read my email.

    The network was 802.11n and running WPA2-PSK. My netbook is 802.11n and running Windows Vista (but all other laptops seemed to have the same issue). When failing, the laptop was saying "unable to connect" and ipconfig /all had nothing.

    I think it was failing at the WPA2 level because a couple of times it got "limited access" with "Autoconfiguration IPv4 Address. . :" and by configuring in an IP address I managed to get useful internet connection for 20 mins or so. (I chose an address in the 192.168.1/24 subnet above the DHCP range.)

    So my question is why do mobiles do better and assuming the answer is that they try harder, is there anything that you can change on a laptop to increase the timeouts or the number of retries.

    Since I like the ski package I will probably go again - I might try dual booting a Linux and getting the driver source. Any other suggestions

    My suggestions to the hotel are to try to reduce the router range so it only works in the bar area rather than throughout most of the hotel. Since they post the password on the wall of the bar (with public access), I'm not sure their security buys them anything - anyone who wants access can get it. So I wonder if turning off the security would help a lot. (I know lots about TCP/IP and nothing about WPA2 - I suspect that it also prevents eavesdropping but if you don't read your email and do your banking with https you deserve to be eavesdropped!)

    The guests were 99% English and almost all turned roaming off on their mobiles because of the high costs - so they were using the hotel WiFi.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. zx10guy

    zx10guy Trusted Advisor Spam Fighter

    Mar 30, 2008
    Based on the limited information presented, it looks like the wireless router is just plain overloaded. Depending on the number of wireless clients we're talking about here will probably dictate a more robust system. For commercial purposes, using a SOHO wireless router is just asking for issues like this.
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