Inside the E Wars: So Experiencing Networking Problems with your iPad?

By William Stanek
April 8, 2010

If you are experiencing networking problems with your iPad, you're not alone. I hate to say I told you so but in my previous blog post about iPad, I called it, stating:

The transfer speed/reception quality over wireless and 3G seemed to hamper performance more than anything else.

I elaborated more on the issue as well and called it exactly as I saw it. Quite a few iPad users are experiencing the same issues, only they're being much more vocal about the problem than I was.

ipad2.jpg

The networking problems users are experiencing primarily have to do with weak reception. Some buyers are taking their iPads back to Apple stores and trying to get them exchanged. Some tests by industry experts, such as those at IntoMobile.com seem to show that the iPad performs better when connecting to Apple networks. For example, the IntoMobile.com tests showed strong connections to an Apple network but weak/dropped connections to a Linksys wireless router.

The iPad's WLAN/n wireless module is manufactured by Broadcom (part # BCM329XKUBG) and the receiver/transmitter attena that connects to the module is located directly underneath the Apple logo, which is on the back of the device. While it seems unlikely the problems are due to the module / antenna. the antenna placement is odd. That said, the problem is rather pervasive and easily duplicated in test scenarios (except in some cases on Apple networks).

The more likely culprit is the firmware programming. One would hope an update of the driver code for the wireless module and/or the firmware's networking programming would be able to resolve the problem. In the mean time, I think the Apple Store's Genius bar will be overflowing with people who have problem iPads.

If you are experiencing this problem, I'd recommend the following:

  • iPad supports wirless 802.11a, b, g and n. Check your wireless router's firmware and see if there's an update available and also check your router's configuration. 802.11a supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and at around 5 GHz in the frequency spectrum. 802.11b supports bandwidth up to 11 Mbps and at around 2.4 GHz in the frequency spectrum.
  • 802.11g supports bandwidth up to 54 Mbps and at around 2.4 GHz in the frequency spectrum. 802.11n is designed to use multiple wireless signals and antennas (MIMO) to achieve up to 100 Mbps. iPad's multiple signal/antenna function may not be working for wireless n. You may want to check the wireless signal/antenna configuration your wireless router is using and consider optimizing it for signal strength rather than speed.
  • Bring your iPad into an Apple Store. A tech at the Genius bar may be able to help you and you may be able to trade in your iPad for another one (which may also have the same problem).

Keep in mind the current problem is specific to wireless and not 3G. 3G models will not be available at retail until late April. When 3G is available networking over cellular will be at data speeds up to 7.2 Mbps with specific support for: UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) and GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz). AT & T provides the data services plan without requiring a contract, on either a 250 MB a month or Unlimited basis.

Thanks for reading, time for me to get back to work! Hope you'll take a look at my new book Windows 7: The Definitive Guide. Also just released is my book Exchange Server 2010 Administrator's Pocket Consultant.

William R. Stanek
williamstanek at aol dot com


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