Maximum Number Of Clients On An AP Data

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tastybento

New Around Here
I am trying to find out how different APs manage a large number of clients, especially on the 2.4GHz band. There's a growing number of low bandwidth smart home devices like lights and bulbs that use WiFi and at some point I assume that adding devices to your home router will max out. I've googled for this info and there seems to be some generic maximum of 255 (or 256?) but I'm looking for real data on the maximum for say, the routers that are out there today. Has anyone done any tests in this area? I see results for 5GHz and how many concurrent video streamers can be supported, but ironically, the performance I'm looking for is in regards to shear volume of devices on the older 2.4GHz where most of these devices operate. Also, I assume that 3-pack "mesh" systems like Eero, Plume or Orbi, etc., will help alleviate this issue because they effectively are additional AP's. Any advice or pointers to data would be welcome!
 

rafale77

Occasional Visitor
Not really sure what you are looking for. The number of devices which can be connected to an AP is a limitation built in the software/firmware of the AP.
You can think of the wifi radio stream as a highway lane. a 4x4 radio means it has 4 lane in one direction and 4 lanes in the other. These lanes are actually micro-channels within the spectrum channel you set it at. Obviously also the wider the channel, the more simultaneous micro channels are available which is why wider channels have more bandwidth.
Each device sends data packets which you can see as a car. The more devices are connected, the more overhead is created: packets not used for the user's use but for background link negotiation between the AP and the device and not for the user's use. There is a lot of marketing fluff around "My AP can support more devices" which is only true if the AP has more channels or is for example the purpose of MU-MIMO or OFDMA. Apple for example limited the number of devices on their airports to 50 per AP. Not because the hardware can't handle it but because beyond that number the overhead is high and therefore bandwidth and user experience is poor. On my current AP, there is actually a client limitation parameter set at 127 per radio which I can enable or change. The more clients, the more overhead, the worse the performance for the other devices. Heck, ubiquiti even claimed I think over >500 users with "HD" APs (high density) which made me chuckle because it is a completely useless claim. Technically there is no limit but do you really want your 500 devices to share their abysmal 400-500mbps? Meaning each device would have an average of 1mbps and enormous latency (think of a traffic jam) if they all are transmitting at the same time?

Performance is all about bandwidth and coverage. Not about number of client supported which is really a marketing gimmick.
 

sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
Good rule of thumb is 25 devices per radio on AP's...

Not a limitation of the router or AP, but WiFi in general - it's a shared medium, and more than 25 devices, one starts running out of airtime...
 

MichaelCG

Very Senior Member
This is why I try my best to not use WiFi for general smart devices...I use Zigbee or Z-Wave since they generally handle these low bandwidth devices waaaaaay better than WiFi will. 2.4GHz is already busy and crowded (Zigbee uses it as well) and adding more random devices will just make it worse. I hate the fact that most consumer cameras are 2.4GHz. My Wyze cameras and my ring doorbell pretty much kill my 2.4GHz for anything else. All of my media streamers, phones, tablets, and laptops are on 5GHz.

You will be hard pressed to find a definitive answer on this since it is dependant upon the device, firmware, and performance objectives.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
Also, I assume that 3-pack "mesh" systems like Eero, Plume or Orbi, etc., will help alleviate this issue because they effectively are additional AP's.
Not likely, and in fact, potentially worse than a single AP. Why? Consumer mesh is about extended range, less so performance. This is because every single consumer mesh product (to the best of my knowledge) requires that all nodes use the same fronthaul channel in each band -- regardless of how many nodes you have, and regardless of how they're backhauled (wired or wireless). This effectively caps the capacity of entire entire WLAN to one channel/AP's worth at any given moment, and can even goes so far as to decrease overall performance, due to multipied co-interference as you increase node count.

So consumer mesh on its own is not really a "solution", per say. You're apt to do much better by using hard-wired, controller-based APs (Omada, CBW, Ruckus, etc.) placed at tighter density and running at low power, with a maxed-out, non-overlapping 2.4Ghz channel plan. For absolute max performance, you'd employ APs that are purpose-built for density and interference mitigation, and are able to do beam-crafting and maximal ratio combining on 802.11n (not just 5Ghz AC), such as with Ruckus.
 
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thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
This is because every single consumer mesh product (to the best of my knowledge) requires that all nodes use the same fronthaul channel in each band -- regardless of how many nodes you have,
This isn't true for Tri-band mesh. IIRC the LInksys tri-band model was able to support different 2.4 GHz client-connect channels. Not that this provided any significant performance benefit.
 

Trip

Very Senior Member
This isn't true for Tri-band mesh. IIRC the LInksys tri-band model was able to support different 2.4 GHz client-connect channels. Not that this provided any significant performance benefit.
Aha; I wasn't aware that Velop allowed for altering 2.4Ghz fronthaul, but i given that's it's possible, it should allow for at least less co-interference between APs, and potentially better roaming behavior, thought one would have to test for that in an A-vs-B scenario.
 

thiggins

Mr. Easy
Staff member
I wasn't aware that Velop allowed for altering 2.4Ghz fronthaul,
This is not user selectable. The system decides. This may have changed. That information is from my review, which is a few years ago now.
 

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