The Broadband Forum has released the first Indoor Wi-Fi Performance Test Standard (TR-398), which is the result of an industry collaboration to produce a standard for testing Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) performance in the home. This may make it easier to compare WiFi on different ISP routers and devices.
Apparently TR-398 is designed to ensure that those who test such WiFi kit are able to “systematically and quantitatively” evaluate its performance across six dimensions (Key Performance Indicators): receiver sensitivity, throughput (bandwidth), coverage, multi-user support, anti-interference, and stability.
Historically WiFi has become somewhat of a source for many complaints among broadband ISP customers, not least because a lot of end-users continue to confuse the variable performance they often get from that with the speed of their physical line connection. The situation is particularly problematic for Gigabit capable “full fibre” (FTTP) and similar broadband services, which WiFi often struggles to keep pace with.
In theory WiFi networks using the current 802.11ac Wave 2 (Wi-Fi 5) standard should already be able to deliver Gigabit speeds around your home but in reality you’ll rarely ever get that. Various factors such as interference from other nearby networks, walls (inc. other physical obstructions), the variable quality of other WiFi adapters on your network and so forth can result in significantly slower real-world performance.
A report from Ovum similarly found that Wi-Fi problems accounted for 30-60% of operators’ broadband complaints.
Robin Mersh, Broadband Forum CEO, said:
“Wi-Fi performance of single gateways must meet service requirements and comply with standards to support industry development. The goal of TR-398 is to define carrierclass home Wi-Fi performance.”
Overall more than 16 operators and equipment vendors have actively participated in and supported the drafting of this new standard. Many others are also known to be planning to use TR-398 as the Wi-Fi performance admission specification for home broadband Customer Premises Equipment (CPE), such as routers.
A detailed technical document is available to explain TR-398 (here), although it doesn’t yet appear to support the forthcoming 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) standard.