New iPad WiFi Tests Confirm Consistent Connection Failures

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-04-08 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Tests conducted by eWEEK on several new iPads confirm that LTE models appear to have problems with 802.11n 5GHz WiFi, with some units not working at all. Some WiFi-only models appear to have problems connecting with any WiFi.

Apple's new third-generation iPad appears to be experiencing serious problems operating with WiFi, and many users are reporting they can't use WiFi at all. After reports of problems with WiFi-only third-generation iPads, eWEEK started testing the devices at our lab in the Washington, D.C., area.

The initial test was on a new iPad equipped with Verizon (Long-Term Evolution) LTE and WiFi. Initially, the device appeared to work fine, but then a search for additional WiFi signals revealed that the iPad was unable to detect a 5GHz WiFi signal from a distance of about 50 feet.

Tests with a first-generation iPad showed that the device was able to receive the same signal from the same location without trouble. The problems with WiFi on third-generation iPads were first noted in Apple support forums and primarily related to WiFi-only devices. Here's a sample of the discussion in one forum.

eWEEK ran a series of tests, first by moving closer to the access point. The iPad was able to detect the access point at a distance of about 25 feet and able to join the access point at a slightly shorter distance. The iPad showed a reasonably strong signal when it was within 10 feet of the 5GHz access point, but throughput speeds were low and packet loss was high. A second third-generation iPad showed similar symptoms, except that it was not able to join the WiFi access point, even at close ranges.

Further investigation revealed that both iPads were unable to connect reliably, and on the iPad that could connect with the 5GHz WiFi access point, speeds were highly variable, ranging from a high of 20M bps to a low of 1.4K bps. Because of the possibility that the third-generation iPad might be somehow incompatible with the Cisco access point being used, I also tested the device with a Linksys dual-band WiFi router and a Ruckus Wireless dual-band meshed network running 802.11n at both 2.4 and 5GHz in a four-note mesh configuration with beam-forming enabled.

The first-generation iPad was able to connect at either frequency on any of the access points without any connection or performance issues. Tests with another first-generation iPad confirmed that it, too, was able to connect to each of the WiFi access points and routers at both frequencies and operate properly.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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