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Wi-Fi Fast Roaming: How It Works and Its Advantages and Disadvantages

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

In today's world, we rely on wireless networks for many aspects of our lives, from online gaming to video conferencing. But when it comes to moving around while using these networks, we've all experienced the frustration of losing our wireless connection or experiencing a significant lag as we move from one area to another. Enter fast roaming, a technology that allows seamless and uninterrupted connectivity as we move around.


What is Fast Roaming?


Fast roaming is a mechanism that enables a wireless client to move quickly and seamlessly from one wireless access point to another without losing the wireless connection. It's instrumental in high-density environments like airports, stadiums, or conference centers with many wireless clients.


How Does Fast Roaming Work?


Fast roaming is typically achieved through 802.11r or Fast Basic Service Set Transition (FT) protocol. When a mobile device is connected to an access point, it monitors nearby access points' signal strength and quality. When the signal strength of the current access point starts to degrade, the mobile device will initiate a scan for nearby access points. Suppose the mobile device finds a suitable access point. In that case, it will use 802.11r to pre-authenticate with the new access point and then transition to the unique access point without interrupting the wireless connection.



Advantages of Fast Roaming


Fast roaming offers several advantages over traditional roaming methods, including:


Seamless Connectivity: Fast roaming allows for seamless and uninterrupted connectivity as the wireless client moves from one access point to another, providing a better user experience for applications like video conferencing or online gaming.


Reduced Latency: With fast roaming, the time it takes for a wireless client to transition from one access point to another is significantly reduced, which helps to reduce network latency and improve application performance.


Increased Capacity: Fast roaming allows for more efficient use of wireless network resources by enabling wireless clients to move more quickly and seamlessly between access points, reducing the likelihood of congestion or overloading on a particular access point.


Better Battery Life: Because fast roaming allows for more efficient use of wireless network resources, wireless clients can conserve battery life by spending less time searching for access points or attempting to re-establish a wireless connection.


Better Security: Fast roaming helps to reduce the likelihood of security breaches by allowing wireless clients to quickly and securely transition from one access point to another without exposing the network to potential security risks.


Disadvantages of Fast Roaming


While fast roaming provides many benefits, there are a few potential disadvantages to be aware of:


Compatibility: Not all access points or wireless clients support 802.11r, so it may not work in all environments or devices.


Configuration Complexity: Fast roaming requires additional configuration of both the access points and the wireless clients, which can be complex and time-consuming.


Increased Overhead: Fast roaming requires additional communication between the wireless client and access points, which can increase the overall network overhead.


Security Risks: Because fast roaming relies on pre-authentication with the new access point, there is a risk that an attacker could intercept and spoof this authentication, leading to potential security issues.


Conclusion


Fast roaming provides significant benefits in improved mobility and reduced wireless connection dropouts. It allows for seamless connectivity, reduced latency, increased capacity, better battery life, and better security. However, it's essential to consider the potential drawbacks and ensure your network and devices are correctly configured to take advantage of this technology. With proper implementation and configuration, fast roaming can provide a better wireless experience for users in high-density environments.




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