Beacon Interval is one of the router settings that are often overlooked or less talked about when you are trying to optimize your wireless speed. In this simple to understand guide, we will go over what does Beacon Interval mean, the effects of higher or lower beacon value settings, and finally some scenarios where you can optimize the Beacon Interval value for your router’s wireless connection settings.
What is Beacon Interval
Beacon Broadcast interval is the time lag between each of the beacons sent by your router or access points. By definition, the lower the value, the smaller the time lag which means that the beacon is sent more frequently. The higher the value, the bigger the time lag which means that the beacon is sent broadcasted less frequently.
The beacon is needed for your devices or clients to receive information about the particular router. In this case the beacon includes some main information such as SSID, Timestamp, and various parameters.
Most of the routers out of the box has the default Beacon Interval function value set at 100 ms. In most cases it is a decent number that is compatible with most of the situations. However, it is not the optimal ideal value since it all really depends on how you are setting up your network.
Benefit of Higher or Lower Beacon Interval
High Beacon Interval:
The beacons broadcasted by your router takes up some of the bandwidth that can be used for the actual data transmission. So by having higher numbers, you will be able to achieve better throughput and thus better speed and performance.
Your mobile devices such as tablets (ipad or galaxy), phones such as Apple iphone or android phones, VoIP systems, and laptops may also have better battery life. As your wireless adapter card is able to “sleep” in between the beacon broadcasts, your devices save energy consumption which equate to longer battery use between charge.
Low Beacon Interval:
Lower beacon interval allows faster discovery of the routers because it sends beacons much more frequently. It can help with weak signal with poor reception environments since the devices have better chances of “catching” the beacons when they are sent more frequently. It can also assist with multiple access points with roaming setup, since your devices can make better decisions about which AP to connect to.
In some special cases, low beacon broadcasting interval can improve the connection by “not” letting your wireless devices go into sleep. However, this situation is pretty rare as there are sometimes equivalent router settings that discourages your mobile devices from entering sleep mode.
Common Beacon Interval Configuration Range
Depending on the brand and manufacturer of your router, different brands and models offer different allowable beacon interval ranges. The default is usually 100 ms. And the range allowed is usually between 20~1000 (Asus), 1~65535 (Netgear), 25~500 (D-Link), 1024. The range usually cannot be altered unless you install a third party firmware.
How to Optimize Your Router’s Beacon Interval Settings
Some of the popular guides or discussions simply tell you to change your wifi’s beacon interval to 50 vs the 100 ms default value. It is plainly incorrect or often a bad advice to do so.
To really know the optimal value that you should use, first you should understand what the beacon interval is and look at your wireless network’s router setup to tweak for the best value. In most cases for a basic home purpose where you have a single router or access point, you should generally go with the highest value allowed. Simply go to your router’s setup page, and punch in the highest value and your router will probably let you know the number that they will go with.
The reason behind this tweak is pretty simple, your basic home network probably does not implement multiple AP’s that you can benefit from roaming. And you probably do not roam around your houses at fast speeds while using your wifi devices within your house. May you be watching streaming TV or movies, or playing games, you will probably stay in one fixed spot and not disconnect your wireless connection and reconnect it often.
And in online gaming, you probably already have a decent setup and you usually will stay in one spot with decent signal strength. This means that you will not benefit at all from lower beacon interval values, in fact, you want a highest value possible so that you can save all the available bandwidth for your gaming purposes.
Now, when you start adding multiple AP’s to your wireless network, you may have to be extra careful to tuning of the beacon interval configuration. You want the beacon to be broadcast often enough so that your wifi clients pick up while saving up that bandwidth to make the overall performance worthwhile. In this case, if you are having trouble with roaming at 100 ms, then you can consider to change the value by dropping it to 50 ms first, then tweak the settings continuously while monitoring your network’s performance.
Finally, depending on your actual network usage, you may also need a lower beacon interval. This case is only valid when you have devices that require time sensitive broadcasts such as VoIP, mobile phones that pick up calls, or AirPlay. You do not want to setup your wifi network configuration in such a way that your devices wake up every 10 minutes to pick up calls or notifications.
In general, you will start to experience and really notice performance downgrades when you have beacon interval below 5ms. (Even the the performance downgrade is still there for higher values, they are just less noticeable).
Relevant Beacon Interval Related Terms
Beacon Interval Linksys
Beacon Interval tomato
Beacon Interval Asus
Beacon Interval Belkin
Beacon Interval Cisco
Beacon Interval DD Wrt
Beacon Interval D-Link
Beacon Interval Huawei
Beacon Interval Netgear
Beacon Interval Motorola