Problem of the Week: Understanding Airtime Utilization

What do we mean by Airtime Utilization?  Free airtime describes how much time is available on a channel for data transmissions.  Any time a device communicates with another device or an access point (AP) it uses airtime. Airtime Utilization is a per-channel statistic that defines what percentage of the channel is currently being used, and what percentage is therefore free. Airtime usage can come from:

  • Data traffic to and from client devices
  • Interference from WiFi and non-WiFi sources
  • Management overhead from APs and client devices

WiFi is a shared medium, so the Airtime Utilization of a channel impacts all the devices currently connected to that specific channel.  If Airtime Utilization is high, you might receive complaints about low WiFi speeds, or other issues. Since many factors can impact Utilization, it’s important to know what is causing the high usage.

There might be periodic moments of high Utilization caused by an influx of devices connecting to the network all at the same time.  This might happen during a conference or presentation when a larger-than-average number of devices crowd the network. There is not much that can be done in this case, besides trying to balance the load by moving some devices to less utilized channels.

However, if baseline Utilization is high, that’s a sign of another issue.  It could be caused by a number of factors, including having too many SSIDs advertised; too many APs on the same channel; or non-WiFi interference from a microwave, Bluetooth, or other source.  In order to resolve the issue, you must know what is causing it.

Wyebot’s Wireless Intelligence Platform™ (WIP) provides complete wireless ecosystem visibility, making it possible to easily discern where the issue lies and how it can best be resolved.  Whether Airtime Utilization has been high for months, or whether something happened in the last week, WIP’s client monitoring, and proactive 24/7 detection, notification, and mitigation, will analyze and report on the health of the entire network, and present actionable steps for quick resolution.


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