Airtime Fairness On or Off

Airtime Fairness is a fairly common option with the latest routers, however, there aren’t any really good explanations to when and how you should take advantage of the Airtime Fairness setting. With this simple to easy guide, we hope to shed some insight to help you make the right decision and setup for your home wifi network.

How does Airtime Fairness Work

Most of the router brand tout that how Airtime can improve the overall network performance, however they do not really go into details about its meaning and how it is done, or they go over very little details about its effects on your network.

Airtime Fairness is a feature that boost the overall network performance by sacrifice a little bit of network time on your slowest devices. Note: The relatively “slow” wifi speed devices can be slow from either long physical distance, weak signal strength, or simply being a legacy device with older technology.

Airtime Fairness Example
Below is a very general example on how Airtime Fairness can improve the overall performance of wireless network.

Imagine there are two difference devices, A functioning at 1 mb / second and a faster device B that transmits at 5 mb / second. If A needs to transmit a 10 mb data, it will take A 10 seconds. This means that for B to start data transmission after A, it may need to wait the full 10 seconds before A finish their transmission.

With Airtime Fairness enabled, theoretically half of the network time will be dedicated to both of the devices A and B. This means that during the 10 seconds of network time, 5 seconds are dedicated evenly. So you have 1 mb x 5 seconds plus 5 mb x 5 seconds which result a total network performance of 30 mb / second. This is significantly higher than the original 10 mb / second possible without the Air Time Fairness. However, if you look more closely, you will notice that the slower device A achieved lower performance because some of that time is dedicated to B.

Now add another parameter to the previous example, the device B now needs to transmit 10 mb of data only. With 5 mb / second speed it can finish the wifi transmission with 2 seconds. This leaves 8 seconds of network time left for the slower device. So you have 1 mb x 8 second + 5 mb x 2 second which equals to a total of 18 mb. For granted that your slower device didn’t finish the entire transmission within the same amount of time, but your faster device is able to use some of that bandwidth first without waiting.

Airtime Fairness Conclusion
The setting takes away the monopoly in network time by the slower device (making the slower device even slower), dedicate and shift those processing time to the faster device to achieve better overall network performance.

When to use Airtime Fairness

When to Enable Airtime Fairness On?
You should generally enable Airtime Fairness when you have several devices connected to the network, especially so if you have connected legacy devices along with faster wifi devices.

Second, you should generally enable Airtime Fairness when you are offering public wifi like in a cafe or retail shop kind of scenario. You want to make sure that every customer connected to your Wifi gets their fair share of wifi data. Instead of one really slow devices that monopolize the entire network traffic.

Third, enable Airtime Fairness when you wish sacrifice some of the networking time from the slow devices, so that your faster devices can achieve better quality of service. This is similar in idea on why you should separate different technology of devices similar to the recommendation of “N Support Only” type of settings.

Based on this, here is a real life situation where you may want to enable Airtime Fairness is that you know you have a device that is fast, and you want it to be optimized “faster”.

For example, imagine you have a gaming computer located in the living room next to the router, and you have a slower family computer running bittorrent upstairs, or maybe a mobile devices like iphone, ipad, or samsung android. You want to ENABLE the airtime fairness so that your gaming computer can perform as optimally as it allowed.

When to Disable Airtime Fairness Off?
First off, not all the devices support Airtime Fairness completely. They can sometimes get confused by the reduced amount of data, this can cause fluctuating signals and occasionally dropped connection. So do disable Airtime Fairness when your devices do not play well together with the router. And hope that with better firmware and applications they can take advantage of the router configuration.

Second, you should disable Airtime Fairness when you actually want better performance on the slower device. Imagine this scenario that is opposite of the one mentioned earlier: You have a gaming computer located in your bedroom far away from the router in the living room, however there is a family computer located in the living room that is running bittorrent uncapped.

In this situation, your online gaming computer in your bedroom upstairs is time critical and important. You actually want as many network resource dedicated to that. You DO NOT want to turn on Airtime Fairness in this case. The router will dedicate more resources to the family computer (because it is faster by being closer to the router), which results in worse connection and lag for your personal gaming purposes.

The only exception to this rule is that some advanced routers allow you to specify the device that you wish to prioritize.

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