Improving Wifi Speeds

While doing some testing I began to look at my network and was trying to figure out why my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook were all only connecting at 802.11N speeds, instead of at 802.11AC speeds, like I thought they should be doing. Let me explain my setup first.

Being the nerd that I am, I have a more complicated setup than most, but it is not super complicated. I have two Airport Extremes, one fifth-generation and one sixth-generation. The fifth generation is the flat AirPort Extreme and is capable of running at 802.11N speeds. The sixth generation is the tall model and is capable of running at 802.11AC speeds. The two Airport Extremes are connected via an ethernet cable, with the 5th generation Airport connecting to the Cable modem that I use for my internet.

6th Generation Airport Extreme

5th Generation AirPort Extreme


My goal was to have the devices that I use the most connect to each other as fast as possible, and short of always plugging everything in via a wired connection, which is impractical for iOS devices, this was the alternative.

When I originally setup the second AirPort Extreme, I wanted to extend the network that I already had, so I had setup the sixth-generation Airport Extreme to use the same 2.4GHz and 5GHz network names that I had already established.

When I began looking into why my devices were not going as fast as they could I started by looking at which devices were connecting to each AirPort Extreme. I noticed there was no real rhyme or reason as to which device was connecting to which AirPort. I tried forcing connecting to the 802.11AC AirPort Extreme, by rebooting the fifth generation airport, but this only lasted for a little while before an 802.11N device would connect to the 802.11AC Airport again.

I then decided to change the AC Airport’s 2.4GHz SSID to a different Name, on the hopes that it would allow connectivity to be at 802.11AC speeds. This did not work. After I changed the SSID, I realized that the 2.4GHz frequency does not really support 802.11AC speeds. I then tried changing the 802.11AC 5GHz SSID. I then connected to the new SSID on the 5GHz and I then saw the speeds I was expecting.

This was what I was expecting and I was glad I was able to figure out how to achieve this. Although this still has some issues.


There are still some issues with this. I have a number of devices using the same Apple ID. What this means is that all of my network connections are automatically synchronized between devices, hence any SSID that I connect to on one device will be synchronized to the others. This results in some devices connecting to the 5GHz AC network, even though I do not want them to.

I could remove the network from the device, but again that would result in it being removed for all devices, which is not the intention and counter productive. Instead, I had to result to trying some other solutions.

Limiting Access

This has resulted in taking a rather drastic approach. There is an option within the AirPort Extreme for “Timed Access”. Timed Access allows you to determine when certain devices can access an AirPort Extreme.

To limit access you can perform the following steps:

  1. Open Airport Utility.
  2. Click on the AirPort Extreme that you want to restrict access on.
  3. Click on the “Edit” button.
  4. Click on the “Network” tab.
  5. Click the checkbox next to “Enable Access Control”.
  6. Click on the now enabled “Timed Access Control” button. You should now see a dialog that has “Unlimited (default)” under “Wireless Clients”.
  7. Click on the “+” button under “Wireless Clients” to add a new device.
  8. Under “Description” enter in a description for this rule.
  9. Under “MAC address”, enter in the Wireless MAC address for the device you want to limit time on.
  10. Under “Wireless Access Times”, configure the days that you want to provide access, or restrict access. Alternatively, you can select “No Access” to deny all access.
  11. Once you are done adding times, Click on the “Save” button.
  12. Click on the “Update” button in the lower right. This will prompt you to confirm that you want to apply changes and reboot the AirPort.
  13. Click the “Continue” button to save and reboot the AirPort Extreme.

Once this is done, you can try and reconnect the device. If you attempt to connect to the Airport during times that the device you configured is not authorized to connect, you will be prompted for the SSID password. Even if you enter in the password properly, it will not connect.

The setup I have is definitely not one that many will need, but it may be something that you need to configure. It is too bad that Apple has stopped manufacturing the AirPort Extreme, it can still be a good way for parents to limit the screen time for their kids, should the need arise.