31
Jan
Nexus-5

Wi-Fi is a staple among most smartphone users. While we tend to talk more about cellular data, it's really just there to sustain us as we travel from one access point to another. We aren't just demanding more data at higher speeds, we're connecting more devices than ever before. The inevitable overcrowding of the 2.4 GHz brought about the expansion into the 5 GHz range. Unfortunately, many Nexus devices (and at least a few others) are having trouble making and maintaining connections to this higher frequency band.

This problem has been reported at least as far back as Android 4.0.1 on the Galaxy Nexus, and it continues to reappear on every Nexus device up to, and including the Nexus 5. In that time, countless discussions have popped up around the Internet about which combination of hardware and software exhibit issues and which seem to work. Many other devices may also be affected, but it's difficult to tell when complications result from real issues, coincidences, or just plain user error.

Symptoms

The symptoms are pretty straight forward: attempting to connect to a 5 GHz Wi-Fi network fails. The specifics are somewhat inconsistent, and they've slowly changed over time with each Android update, but the end result is the same. In early versions of the complaint it was common for 5 GHz networks to simply not appear in the list of networks. Attempts to connect manually with the SSID would discover the network but fail during the handshake.

With newer versions of Android, the visibility issue has become fairly rare, but the handshake still fails and often marks the network as 'disabled.' Quite a few people have also reported being able to enter a password and save the network, but losing the connection immediately. The situation seems to have improved slightly in more recent complaints as some people have maintained connections, but the data rates are usually very poor and the connection eventually drops after a few hours. Toggling Wi-Fi off and back on can usually fix the problem for a short time, but it always comes back. This video demonstrates the typical behavior.

What Is Affected?

There are reports of trouble across several different devices, including the Nexus line since the Galaxy Nexus. The single exception is the 2012 Nexus 7, which lacked support for the 5 GHz band altogether. Since Android 4.0, the complains have been pretty consistent, except for Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and KitKat 4.4.2, which have been quieter, but still active. It's possible that a change in those versions is relevant, or people simply stopped trying.

Our own Artem Russakovskii discovered this when a 2013 Nexus 7 was initially unable to connect to the 5 GHz band of his ASUS router. After the tablet was updated to JSS15Q, it could hold onto 5 GHz connections easily. That ability was lost again when KitKat rolled out a couple of months later. Results are mixed among the Android Police team. Cameron and Artem have had trouble connecting to their ASUS routers - but neither Ryan, with a Linksys, or I, with an Apple Airport Extreme, have had any issues. However, the same combinations of hardware don't always yield the same results, as seen in this thread where another person matching my combination of Nexus 5 and Airport Extreme couldn't get a connection. Almost every story of a working set of gadgets is met with a counter example of the same pair failing to work properly.

Possible Causes

Based on the rise and fall that comes from Android updates, this appears to be exclusively a software issue. It's possible that drivers are playing a role in this, but most of the symptoms seem consistent across the whole family of devices, suggesting that Android itself is probably to blame. Unfortunately, there isn't much to go on beyond that.

Screenshot_2013-11-18-09-22-57DcP0cah

Left: compatible router on channel 149 Right: incompatible router, also on channel 149

Workarounds

As far as solutions or advice, I don't have much to give with this Bug Watch. The one thing worth trying, because it is both quick and seems to have a moderately high success rate, is to manually switch the channels on the router. Many people are having luck with channels 149, 48, and 36, but it's worth trying a few others if those don't work. Avoid channels 52 through 140 if your router supports them, they are for Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) and not currently supported by stock Nexus devices.

If a frequency change doesn't help, it might still be worth trying some of the typical troubleshooting methods, just in case this isn't actually your issue. I would advise against committing too much time once you've established this to be your problem; too many people have dedicated too many hours (read: days and weeks) into this without any success.

Wrap-Up

Let's be honest, Wi-Fi is prone to complications for any number of reasons from inconsistent implementations of security protocols to completely random environmental factors. We know the Android team has tried to tackle this one in the past and believed it to be fixed, which suggests this may be a combination of bugs. Since there are so few non-Nexus devices exhibiting the same behavior, there might be a solution out there.

While we wait for some more information or a resolution, participate in the Issue Tracker thread if you have something helpful to contribute. Also, try to collect bug reports if this issue occurs for you. Bug reports can be created in the Developer options menu or using 'adb bugreport.' Remember, only send bug reports directly to Google engineers, and DO NOT post them publically! They contain private information that you don't want to give out.

Sources: AOSP Issue Tracker 1, 2, Nexus Product Forum

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    I gave up on this after reporting it a while ago and use only 2.4GHz on my Android devices and reserve 5GHz only for the laptop. I am not using a DFS channel.

    Re-watching the video I took for the bug report where my phone just slaps me across the face and introduces what I called extreme wonk revived that feeling of wanting to rip my hair out. Especially starting 2/3 of the way in.

    The Android team's response was they couldn't figure it out, even after a full bug report zip I sent in. I lost hope of getting that fixed at this point.

    Btw, I was able to reproduce this even on the Note 3 in the past, so it's not just Nexus devices.

    • BetterWithRoot

      "The Android team's response was they couldn't figure it out, even after a
      full bug report zip I sent in. I lost hope of getting that fixed at
      this point."

      Did you try putting in "SOON BACKANSWER!"?

    • Sam Hollis

      I love Android as much as all of us, but it really pisses me off when Google let's bugs like this slide and continue to exist for so long. I love my Moto X, and my 2013 Nexus 7, and my Chromebook, and I only mean it in the best way when I say they could take a page out of Apple's book when it comes to software perfectionism.

      • http://twitter.com/geoff5093 Geoff Johnson

        I have no problems connecting to 802.11ac on my Moto X or LG G2, and I'm also using an Asus router.

        • Sam Hollis

          Cool. A lot of people are having issues though.

    • http://www.gameosaur.com/ neoKushan

      I own both a galaxy nexus (which I won from AP!) and a note 3 and I haven't had any trouble at all with 5ghz on my Asus N66. I would wager that there's more to this than just the Android side. There must be something with the configuration of the 5ghz network itself (the channel it's on, security, channel width, etc.).

    • pinetreehater

      Anyone know why I don't see two separate bands for my Linksys e4200? I definitely have a dual band router, but I have never seen two separate connections for 2.4 and 5 ghz. Not on my laptops or phones. I tried to Google this answer after seeing the above screenshots, but it was fruitless.

      When this was a problem in the past I would just disable the 5 ghz through the advanced menu of wifi and everything would be kosher (on a HTC 4g LTE). I tried to look on my new G2, but there is no advanced setting for selecting the ghz on LG's flavor of Android.

      • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

        Maybe they both have the same SSID. You might need to change the SSID for one of the APs so that you can tell them apart. Most people I see usually do "NameOfMyAP 2.4GHz" and "NameOfMyAP 5GHz"

        • pinetreehater

          Dang sure what it was. Thanks a ton Jamie J. They were both named the same. I wonder if it will make any kind of difference. Since I got my G2, I haven't had any problem maintaining a wifi connection...but my Evo sure as hell did.

          • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

            You're very welcome.

            I don't know about your devices but it'll make a difference for you, since you'll know exactly which Wi-Fi band you're connected to. :)

            Your Sprint HTC One X probably just didn't play well with APs on the 5GHz band and since both of your APs had the same SSID, it was REALLY having issues.

        • pinetreehater

          Actually, there is only space to enter one name. From what I can gather, your device decides whether to connect to the 2.4 or 5 GHz. With this router, you have no control. If you lose signal, it falls back to the other band to see if it improves the connection. I'd rather be able to select, but with the Linksys that isn't in the cards. Thanks for the help.

        • pinetreehater

          Okay...figured out. Now I have two separate bands showing up (although on most of my devices only the 2.4 shows), each named differently. Just couldn't let it go...felt like I wasn't getting my money's worth you know.

  • krudl3rx

    While my stock N5 can connect just fine to 5 GHz, I find that it simply kills the battery overnight. I actually have much better battery leaving it on LTE.

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      ◛◛◛ ◛◛�◛ ◛◛�◛◛ ◛◛◛ ◛◛◛Wi-Fi is prone to complications for any number of reasons from inconsistent implementations of security protocols to completely random environmental factors.

  • remister

    I've given up on connecting to 5GHz connection. I just do 2.4 Ghz, it just works faster.

    They also need to fix this, its happening on both Nexus 4 and 5 for me :(

    https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=41631

    • remister

      @archon810:disqus Are you still rocking those Jaybirds? If so, do you get the Wifi, while you have the Jaybirds connected. I would be watching a Youtube video and it would be buffering, just wanted to see if you have the same issue.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        I am, but I don't use them when my phone is on Wi-Fi - I use them out and about. Plus, I stopped using 5GHz Wi-Fi on my phones. Otherwise, I think they work OK, but it's probably phone-dependent, since I've heard BT interfering with Wi-Fi before.

  • Tykin

    Nexus 4, I've had this issue since day one. Nexus 7 2013 connects to 5 GHz without issue.

  • Nick

    I've been using 5GHz AC since I got my Nexus5 and have never had any problems. I've been running custom roms since they started though so I don't know if they're using the same wifi stack.

  • Mkvarner

    I am having that problem on all the Android devices in the house after i switched to the N66U... 2.4 and 5 GHz. Probably just because the router is crap, TomatoUSB hopefully fixes it for me :/

    • DaveTea

      RT-N66U? Not crap, its an excellent router, although early releases of its firmware were buggy. Put the latest Merlin build on it, works great, I have no issues with it on 2.4 or 5ghz with Android or Apple devices and I get extremely high throughput over wifi. 5ghz might require some tweaks but it should work well with defaults.

      http://forums.smallnetbuilder.com/showthread.php?t=14691

      • Mkvarner

        Well, I just got it. "Upgraded" from an WNR 2000v2 I was running TomatoUSB on. The N66U is buggy and unstable compapred to my earlier router which was pretty crap. Yes, the hardware is excellent, but the software is terrible. Flashing Tomato now :)

        • DaveTea

          We have had a couple of them for a long time and I have run Tomato, but not current builds. The newer Merlin builds use the latest proprietary wifi drivers from Asus (recently available) and it provides much higher throughput than the previous Asus driver. I don't think Tomato has it. I have been using the Merlin builds for a long time and they have always been more stable than the official Asus firmware, we never have any issues with the routers that run it. If Tomato does not do it for you give Merlin a shot, I have had zero issues with it at all and each one has about 50 wifi clients on them at all times.

  • Jake_HT

    I can connect with 5ghz 802.11ac no problem with my nexus 5 but will have endless random Internet issues the entire time it is connected to my 5g network. Things just stop and start loading for minutes at a time every few minutes. Tried everything and going with 2.4g was the only solution.

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  • Aaron Esham

    I had the same issues with 5GHz, messed around with my router settings until I changed my connection to the 20MHz bandwidth. Stays connected, not as fast as 40MHz, but no drops so far.

  • Rebornyama

    All these time, I thought it was a compatibility problem crap with my router! I've long given up 5ghz on my nexus 5. And now I know my router is not the problem, and I'm not the only one with this problem too. Wooo

  • vwbeetlvr

    One thing that I did that really helped was changed the name of my AP from dlink2_5g to dlink25g (on my Asus router fwiw) . I hear special characters really mess with the connections. I would remove anything other than letters and numbers from the AP name like the fbi-5g to fbi5g.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I'm not sure what I'm seeing is explained by any punctuation. If I toggle airplane mode, 5GHz starts working fine. If I toggle Wi-Fi alone, it doesn't. It's a bug, and I'm willing to put money on the fact that it has nothing to do with the AP name.

      Edit: Let alone the fact that my 5GHz AP name has no punctuation.

      • Telefunken

        Is it too much to expect a high profile Android site to arrange some sort of tech discussion with someone at Google, perhaps with an example phone/router combination, and suggest they find someone, to, you know, ****ING FIX THE PROBLEM?

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Sure, let me dial up all of my Google developer friends who are totally in love with our bug watch articles and make them fix all the bugs stat. The Android team is totally receptive of meeting with random bloggers who bitch to them about shit they want done.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      One of the people I talked to for this post actually used "FBI" as the ap name, and he had the same issues as Artem. I copied the idea for the screenshot, but I made it "FBI-5ghz" to make it more obvious.

      I'm not saying this might not be a factor for some people in some cases, it certainly could be, but it's not the only problem.

  • sga204

    I had issues even seeing Dual band N networks on my Moto X. I changed the channel and it showed up immediately and works fine.

  • Drago

    No issues with 5 GHz on my Nexus 5 using my Asus RT-N56U. Works fine.

    Guess I'm lucky. Yay?

  • DrakeTungsten

    Interesting, I noticed recently that my phone had switched to the 2.4GHz band for whatever reason and this article reminded me to try the 5GHz band again. I just figured any issues were that 5GHz was more succepable to range issues. I can confirm that Bluetooth, has gone to crap with the new stack. :-(

  • DaveTea

    I think a lot of this is on the router side, some older 5GHz routers were shipped with pretty buggy firmware. I currently use a RT-N66U with the excellent Merlin firmware and with a bit of tuning I get very high throughput and reliability. I have a 80Mbps internet connection and typically see over 50Mbps with a 12ms ping running Ookla Speedtest on my HTC One on the 5GHz radio. On many 5GHz routers disabling WMM APSD and going to 20 MHz chan bandwidth helps a lot but these days I run 40 and WMM APSD with no issues. A year ago with older firmware this was not possible.

  • Johnny Bravo

    I just turn airplane mode on and off which seems to work so far

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Is there any reason to use 5GGHZ? I always stick with 2.4 and never thought of using 5

    • Josh

      If I fire up an app like Wifi Analyzer I tend to find the 5ghz band less crowded and having a stronger signal at farther distances than 2.4ghz. But that's just my findings, not sure if there is science to back up the distance thing.

      • Sam Hollis

        At equal interference, 2.4 should have a longer range as it's a slower frequency with more power to keep moving. The 5 GHz band fades pretty fast going through solid objects. 5 GHz likely has a further range for you due to interference.

        Frequency goes opposite of wavelength. Longer wavelengths(eg lower frequencies) are slower with more penetration. Shorter wavelengths are faster with less penetration.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

          That may be the best way I've ever seen it explained in so few words.

    • deltatux

      Much less crowding but 5 GHz is horrible at punching through walls. Less crowding = more bandwidth to push higher speeds.

  • Alex

    Chromecast didn't like 5ghz band too, and there are some trouble combined with a Nexus like disconnections.

    • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

      I thought the Chromecast didn't have 5GHz support?

  • Josh

    I have not tried 5ghz with my home router because I have devices (2012 Nexus 7) that can not use it and my router wont do both 2.4 and 5 at the same time. At work I recently FINALLY talked my boss into letting me replace our OLD draft-n router with an Asus RT-AC68U.

    I was having pretty much all of the issues you describe while trying to connect to the 5ghz band with wpa2. It would either never let me enter a pass phrase... or it would but it wouldn't connect and even after having the pass phrase saved trying to reconnect over and over again was a fruitless endeavor. It would connect no problems if I disabled wifi protection. What I did find that worked every time I tried it was connecting to the 5ghz band using the WPS (wifi protected setup) button on the router. It's been a few months since I setup the router and after using WPS it automatically connects to the 5ghz band no problem every time I come in range, which is usually while parking my car.

    I guess I should say that I used a VZW SGS4 (jfltevzw) running AOKP 4.3.1 when I first connected and have backed up my access points with TiBu before going to AOKP 4.4.2 and restored them there and it all just worked. So this was with an AOSP based rom
    like the nexus devices that seem to be at the front of this article. I have not tried with touchwiz (ew.. NO!). So maybe this is mostly an AOSP bug dealing with the pass phrase part of the handshake on the 5GHz band?

  • Matt McNair

    Oddly enough I have a HTC One GPE, Samsung S4 Active and a 2013 LTE Nexus 7 and the only time I ever had any issues with my 5Ghz network was when I introduced a 2012 Kindle Fire to the mix and then my router flipped out and kicked everything off the network 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. I factory reset my router and resetup everything about a month ago and haven't had a single problem since. That's with a Netgear WNDA3700v3 router btw.

  • robopanda333

    this explains so much...

  • chenxiaolong

    Could it be an issue with the Broadcom firmware? It seems that all the affected devices have Broadcom WiFi chips.

  • MeCampbell30

    My Moto X and Nexus 7 are both working well on my 5ghz network. Netgear router.

  • stephenontario

    Use 5GHz at home with my Nexus 5, never noticed any issues at all...

  • shadow

    I had a problem with the 5Ghz since the phone came out. Actually it occurred after it did an update I lost connection to 5ghz and never bothered to deal with it anymore it does however work fine on nexus 7 (2013). I hope they can find a solution

  • MafiaMM

    I have a Moto X and do not experience this. I have a consistent 5GHz Wi-Fi connection from my NETGEAR router.

  • NinoBr0wn

    I was actually on the edge of considering sending my Nexus 5 in for a different unit. I have no problem connecting to my 5GHz channel, but soon enough the connection will start spazzing out, to the point that my phone will get hot and the battery will experience severe drain. For some reason it also seems to slow down the whole phone, sometimes not even allowing me to unlock the screen unless I reboot. The only "solution" I came up with is changing the security on the router itself to TKIP+AES, which keeps a seemingly stable connection, but of course does not support full N speed (capped at 54mbps). Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone? The reason don't just use 2.4GHz is because when I have too many devices on that frequency, my printer will randomly drop connection until a channel refresh or router reboot. Isn't it also true that Chromecast has some funny 5GHz but non N support?

  • Phil

    This describes the exact problem I'm having with my N10.
    Upgraded my router, just after 4.4 dropped. My N5 had no problem in connecting and using 5GHz AC, but my N10 won't have any of it.
    Speeds are incredibly slow, and it suffers from frequent repeated dropouts, so in the end I've had to limit the N10 to 2.4 GHz, at which point it works great. So great in fact that the speeds are a bit faster than my N5!
    Hope Google can get this sorted at some point

  • Phil

    The problem is usually down to the restrictions placed on the 5GHz band to protect radar. Mobile devices are not allowed to use some channels in the 5GHz range, however indoor devices, being screened by buildings may use some extra channels. There are also restrictions based around devices having to support dynamic frequency control and transmit power control before they can connect. Different areas of the world have changed various rules about supported channels in the last few years with some devices not keeping up.

    When you factor in that a lot of access points have "auto" channels so can change on a whim to a different channel no longer supported by mobile devices, and software updates changing or incorrectly set regulatory domain of the phone so adding or removing channels it is allowed to use, you end up with the situation we have today.

    If you are having problems make sure the access point for 5GHz is not set to auto pick, and then set a manual channel based on the list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WLAN_channels (avoid indoor only channels). Also don't try disabling things like radar detection on the access point, and make sure the access point is set for the right country it is in, and hope that matches the one of the device trying to connect. If you have the option on the access point set the regulatory mode to 802.11h.

    It is a shame the article didn't investigate this a bit more thoroughly.

  • Ben Jones

    From my experience issue is 100% related to higher channels. I work in NSW public schools which all have Aruba managed wireless. A soon as I move near a AP that is operating in higher channels (issue starts arround channel 120). I get the visabilty of network but unable to complete handshake. This is also an issue for iPad but occurs in channels 160+.

  • lusky3

    Android 4.4.2 DroidKang on Nexus 5. Never ran into this issue using 5GHz networks.

  • Alberto

    Unfortunately for some reasons I can't change the old, wonky router my ISP installed in my house, so I can't even try to connect to 5 GHz, but I've noticed since Kit Kat my Nexus 5, Nexus 7 2012 and Nexus 7 2013 take a while to reconnect to wifi after disconnecting.

    For example, if I enter a room where there's no wifi when I exit that room the device does not immediately connect again to wifi network (even if the "only connect to reliable wifi" checkbox is unticked). I actually have to enter the wifi settings menu, click on my wifi network and press "Connect" for it to connect again (and this has happened not only with my router, but also in a friend's house).

    Even worse: I have my 2013 Nexus 7 configured to only connect to wifi when the screen is turned on, so it can be offline when I'm not using it, and some times when I turn it on it won't connect to the wifi, I have to enter the wifi settings menu, find my wifi network and press Connect.

    • http://the-jade-domain.com Jaime J. Denizard

      Why can't you change your ISP's router? Usually they charge you a monthly fee for those but also give you the option to bring your own.

      If anything, you could request for them to log into the router and turn off the WiFi side (or maybe the entire router side) of things so you can run your own router without problems.

      • Alberto

        My ISP also provides IPTV, and only a few routers previously approved by them are compatible. Any way the router is not the problem, or at least it is not a problem with that specific router, because I've replicated the issue with the one that's at my friend's house (which is not even from the same manufacturer).

      • WHO?

        not u-verse and fios. Not if you want TV service and internet.

  • Roh_Mish

    I have the opposite issue. I am able to connect to my 5 GHz and my friends 5 GHz too but it has issues connecting to 2.4 GhzGhz quite often.

  • Henry Carrero

    I can reproduce this bug ONLY when my 'Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep' is set to anything other than 'Always'. If you manually disable and enable the wireless, it does not happen hence there's a function that's part of turning wifi off during sleep that makes it go into the state you are describing...

  • George Prosser

    Nexus 5 here, working fine for me.

  • usaff22

    My network speeds about 4 meters from the router are pathetic. My friends iPhone got 9mbps right next to my Nexus 5, which got 1.55.

  • http://turbofool.com Jarrett Lennon Kaufman

    I have very similar issues with my Nexus 5. Very inconsistent connectivity success to 5Ghz.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/moneta.mace Mace Moneta

    I was having this issue. Set my router 5GHz channel from 'auto' to 149, and problem solved. I haven't had an issue in the ~48 hours since I made the change. Thanks!

  • Philip Clark

    No problems connecting my Nexus 5 to my 5ghz network (Netgear D6300) here, stays connected and no issues with speed or reliability.

  • Matthew

    I'm having problems with Nexus 5 bluetooth.. Wont connect to anything

  • Капитан Америка

    There are a lot of bugs in 4.4.2
    On my stock nexus 5(4.4.2) wifi location don't work in google maps and ingress, when I turn it on instead of gps location.
    But in other apps wifi location works( yandex.maps, 4square)

    Only reboot helps

  • Guest

    Thanks @CodyToombs:disqus, I've been having the same problem!

  • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

    Thanks @CodyToombs:disqus! I've been having the same problem on my Nexus 4

  • guy with a useless moto x

    any updates? SOON BACKANSWER!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/cody-toombs/ Cody Toombs

      The only concrete answer is that Channel 149 isn't supposed to work on the Nexus 5 due to a hardware issue. I admit, I'm a bit confused by that, because it seems to work pretty great on my N5...

      Otherwise, nothing solid to report. Maybe this has been fixed internally and nobody is commenting on it to the outside. At least we can hope.