Real World Testing of Wii U: Can It Coexist With Wifi? (Preview)


It’s no surprise that a device using a proprietary technology based in the 5GHz ISM band doesn’t play nice with 802.11. The thing that is surprising though, is how unfriendly it really is.

Working in the edu space, I’m typically faced with a wide breadth of issues, questions, and client-side quirkiness you don’t normally have to deal with in the enterprise. Almost daily I run across some interesting issue that leaves me scratching my head, frustrated, or just plain dumbfounded. A lot of it has to do with the fact that our single site campus consists of several distinct environments; SME datacenter, administrative offices run like a "normal" business, school offices (usually run by staff and faculty of that particular school), dorms, theaters, public outdoor spaces, and the list goes on.

In order to be prepared for anything and everything that could affect our wide array of clients, we have have started to allot budget for consumer-grade client devices that we may encounter in the dorms and classrooms but fall outside of the commonly known ones (e.g. iProducts, bluetooth doo-hickeys, and more) making issues potentially difficult to detect and diagnose when they arise. Call it Preventative IT�: One Wifi a Day Keeps Helpdesk Away, like a daily multivitamin for all our tech woes.

Our most recent acquisition (and first device to be purchased for this new approach) was a Wii U. Anyone who follows the wonderful world of wireless networking knows these things are bad news, but as stated above, we need to be able to detect, locate, diagnose, and repair it all no matter what the cause. The problem lies in the fact that Nintendo decided they wanted a revolutionary controller that could stream audio and video from the console and allow the users to interact with their systems in new and fun ways.

To accomplish this amazingly new user experience, you would expect Nintendo to adopt an existing high throughput wireless protocol (cough 802.11ad cough) to handle all communications. Well, they didn’t. Someone had the brilliant idea that instead it would be cheaper and easier to invent a brand new one all on their own. My initial reaction is that it seems like they purposely made it as antagonistic towards wifi as they could. Their controllers operate in the 5GHz ISM band and are sharing the space with everyone else about as well as a rabid honey badger shares his latest meal. While punching babies.

As soon as we got the Wii U into the office, some our staff fired it up to run updates and ready the machine for thorough testing. While that was going on, out of curiosity, I fired up my Wi-spy and Chanalyzer to see what we were in for. Also, who doesn’t jump at a valid reason to whip out the Wi-Spy? I can’t really think of a time when it’s not a good idea. They’re fun. Based on what I saw though, I think I died a little on the inside.

This doesn’t look good folks.
This was while the controller was idle and the console was running updates. While we were browsing the menus and changing system settings, utilization spikes well over 90% for extended periods (>2 minutes) and widening of the channels were noticed almost immediately. It also hopped channels all together on a couple occasions. Cool.

TL;DR I got a Wii U for testing in our wireless environment and our initial peek at the proprietary wireless used in the controller scared me.

Stay tuned for more information as we dive in and run more tests.

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