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Band Steering Overview

Dual band operation with Band Steering detects clients capable of 5 GHz operation and steers them to that frequency which leaves the more crowded 2.4 GHz band available for legacy clients. This helps improve end user experience by reducing channel utilization, especially in high density environments. Dual band operation with Band Steering is configured on a per-SSID basis. Note that the MR12 and other legacy access points do not support band steering as they only operate on one band.

Enabling Band Steering

  1. Navigate to Configure > Access control.
  2. Select the target SSID using the SSID drop-down at the top of the page.
  3. Scroll down to the Wireless options section.
  4. Select Dual band operation with Band Steering.
  5. Click Save Changes.


Note: For information on how to enable Band Steering via RF Profiles, refer to the RF Profiles article.

How Band Steering works

Wireless devices use two kinds of scanning techniques: passive and active. In a passive scan the wireless client quickly sweeps each channel listening for beacon frames sent by APs advertising their wireless networks. In an active scan the wireless client sends probe requests on each channel to solicit a probe response from APs advertising their wireless network. The end user then sees the list of available wireless network connections. Learn more about 802.11 association

With Band Steering enabled the AP's beacon frames do not advertise the wireless network. Client devices performing a passive scan will qualify the SSID as hidden. 

If the AP hears a probe request from a wireless client on the 2.4GHz band while band steering is enabled, it only responds if it has not heard anything on the 5GHz band from that same client in the last 60 seconds. The AP promiscuously listens for all probe requests, association requests and re-association requests sent by all clients. If a 2.4GHz probe is received, the AP will not respond if it has heard any of the aforementioned frame types on the 5GHz band in the last 60 seconds. If it has seen any of them, the AP will only send a probe response advertising the wireless network in response to a 5GHz probe once it gets one. This steers the client to the 5GHz band (see Figure 1 below). If the AP hears probes from a wireless client on 2.4GHz only, it will respond with a probe request advertising the network.

Band steering also functions completely irrespective of the strength of the signal. Even if the signal strength on the 5GHz band is much weaker than on the 2.4GHz band, the AP will only respond to probe requests on the 5GHz band (as long as the client has been seen on that band in the last 60 seconds).


Figure 1. Band Steering illustrated. 


Note: Some wireless devices use passive scanning instead of active scanning because it consumes less power. A single band 2.4GHz wireless client that employs passive scanning may not be able to detect the wireless network with Band Steering enabled because the beacon frames do not advertise the wireless network. 


If certain wireless clients are unable to detect the wireless network they may be using passive scanning. In these cases configure the network to use Dual band operation, not Dual band operation with Band Steering.

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