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Linksys Velop Dual Band

  Roams Band changes Missed pings Deauths / Disassocs 11k Radio Meas. Report 11k Neighbor Report 11v BSS Transition Mgmt Req
Req. made Resp. rec'd Req. rec'd Resp. made
Linksys Velop Dual-band 4 1 3 11 0 0 4 6 0
Roaming summary

[Download summary] [Download pcap]

Like Google WiFi, Linksys' Velop Dual Band used a different 2.4 GHz channel on each node. Channel 36 (80 MHz B/W) was used for 5 GHz and Channels 1 and 4 (20 MHz B/W) were used for 2.4 GHz. So backhaul was only possible on 5 GHz.

Linksys Velop Dual Band roam

Linksys Velop Dual Band roam

The Velop roam generated the next to most events, 46 in all. The iPod Touch roamed four times, with one of the roams being from 2.4 to 5 GHz, albeit briefly. While it appears that the STA tried to use Neighbor Reports to guide its roaming decisions, it could not have. Each of four requests was answered by the Velop, but with no information, as shown in the Wireshark detail below.

Linksys Velop Dual Band blank neighbor reports

Linksys Velop Dual Band blank neighbor reports

Velop's favorite roaming influence tool appears to be disconnecting the STA via disassociations, which it did 11 times. But these attempts appeared to be mostly ineffective. In most cases, the iPod connected right back to the BSSID that disassociated it. Maximum missed pings were three, which puts effective roaming time again around 3 seconds.

NETGEAR Orbi RBK50

  Roams Band changes Missed pings Deauths / Disassocs 11k Radio Meas. Report 11k Neighbor Report 11v BSS Transition Mgmt Req
Req. made Resp. rec'd Req. rec'd Resp. made
NETGEAR Orbi RBK50 2 0 1 10 / 1 0 0 3 3 0
Roaming summary

[Download summary] [Download pcap]

Orbi has a dedicated backhaul radio, so both fronthaul bands have no competition for traffic. Orbi chose Channel 8 (40 MHz B/W) and Channel 48 (80 MHz B/W) on both router and satellite mesh nodes.

NETGEAR Orbi RBK50 roam

NETGEAR Orbi RBK50 roam

The roam plot above shows Orbi making the most direct efforts to affect roaming of all products tested, using deauths as its go-to method. The cluster of blue dots around 80 seconds represents a series of 8 (!) deauths trying to disconnect the STA, with four sent in one cluster and another four 1.4 seconds later. After the second volley, the STA sends four deauths back at the unfriendly radio in response, then immediately associates to the 2.4 GHz BSSID on the other AP.

Immediately after associating, the STA asks its new AP for a neighbor report, which Orbi immediately provides. But it includes only the 2.4 GHz BSSID on the other AP it just left.

The Apple STA roamed pretty quickly, missing only one ping.

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus

  Roams Band changes Missed pings Deauths / Disassocs 11k Radio Meas. Report 11k Neighbor Report 11v BSS Transition Mgmt Req
Req. made Resp. rec'd Req. rec'd Resp. made
TP-Link Deco M9 Plus 2 0 9 0 / 1 20 20 2 2 0
Roaming summary

[Download summary] [Download pcap]

TP-Link's latest mesh system shares its radios between front and backhaul. It chose Channel 4 (40 MHz B/W) for 2.4 GHz and Channel 44 (80 MHz B/W) for 5 GHz. Once again, however, the roams stayed on 2.4 GHz.

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus roam

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus roam

The new Deco takes the prize for most roaming events at 136 (!), almost three times as many as the next most active, Linksys Velop DB. The Deco also made the heaviest use of 11k Radio measurement reports, which account for most of the blue dots you see strewn along the plot above.

The ipodTouch was pretty good about supplying the reports, but sometimes declined the request. When it did respond, it often had to retry its response almost every time, sometimes up to 6 times in a row.

The iPod also provided measurement reports for both bands, but, oddly, for Channel 6 and 42, as shown in the capture detail below.

iPod Touch Radio Measurement Report

iPod Touch Radio Measurement Report

There were also two 11k neighbor report requests and responses around 73 and 171 seconds, both made right after associations. All this activity didn't help roam times. At nine missed pings, the Deco was the worst of the tested group.

Closing Thoughts

What surprised me most from this test was the complete lack of attempts to band-steer the STA to 5 GHz, or at least effective attempts. Only one of the five products got the iPodTouch associated to 5 GHz at any point in the roam. The Linksys Velop DB and NETGEAR Orbi were the only systems to repeatedly use STA disassociation and deauthentication, with the Orbi being more effective, mainly by using deauths and being very insistent.

Update 8/24/18 - Dennis Bland of dB Performance pointed out that the iPod Touch advertises support for only 2.4 GHz channels in its association and reassociation requests. This could be why all the Wi-Fi systems tested did not attempt to band steer it even though it did probe on both bands.

I also saw no obvious attempts before the first association to get the STA connected to 5 GHz. In all but one case (the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus), the iPod Touch was allowed to associate to the first AP 2.4 GHz radio before it even issed 5 GHz probes! So none of the tested mesh systems appear to use delaying probe responses as a band-steering method.

The other band-steering tool that was used effectively by Orbi in Part 1 was 11v BSS Transition Management requests, which everything in this test supports. But nary a BSS Transition Management request was seen; even when I ran a check with the octoScope Pal against each product. It's possible that I'm misinterpreting the meaning of the BSS Transition bit being set. But for now, this is a puzzling outcome.

If there is a winner to be declared on the basis of roam time, it would be NETGEAR Orbi, which missed only one ping. By the same metric, the biggest loser is TP-Link's Deco M9 Plus, which lost 9 pings in the roaming process, despite the heaviest use of 802.11k to aid in roaming.

The last takeaway is that I wouldn't really worry about 802.11r support in either your AP or devices for now. Judging from the inability of any of these systems to support continuous pings during roams, sub-second roams are the least of your worries.


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