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What Is Wi-Fi Network Congestion? How It Works, How to Fix It

Wi-Fi networks become congested when they attempt to facilitate more data traffic than they can handle. Network congestion occurs when too many communication and data requests are simultaneously generated on a network that lacks sufficient bandwidth to accommodate them.

For enterprises, where hundreds of devices might connect simultaneously, managing congestion is paramount. If a network is incapable of accommodating a business’s data traffic demands, it could hinder company performance via network downtime, latency issues, and data packet loss. Moreover, congestion can create cyber security vulnerabilities and stifle a business’s ability to scale operations.

In this article, we take a deep dive into Wi-Fi network congestion. Here’s what we cover:

Want to learn how enterprises can optimize Wi-Fi coverage? Chat with our sales team!


What Is Wi-Fi Network Congestion?

As noted above, Wi-Fi network congestion occurs when there is excessive demand for the available wireless network resources, leading to a saturation of the communication channels and a degradation in overall performance. In essence, it is a situation where the network experiences more traffic than it can efficiently handle, resulting in slower data transfer rates, increased latency, and potential connectivity issues. Wi-Fi congestion is a common challenge, especially in densely populated areas (i.e enterprise offices, commercial venues, etc.), or environments with a high concentration of Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

Common signs that your network is suffering from congestion include: slower data transfer rates (i.e. reduced data transfer speeds), affecting the performance of applications and services; increased latency (i.e. the delay between sending and receiving data), which tends to impact real-time applications like video conferencing and voice calling; and packet loss (i.e. when data packets are dropped due to the network’s inability to handle their load), resulting in retransmission delays and potential data corruption.


How Does Wi-Fi Network Congestion Work?

There are a number of elements that contribute to Wi-Fi network congestion and understanding them will enable you to improve network performance by isolating each one and addressing them individually.

Key factors contributing to Wi-Fi network congestion include:

  • Shared Medium and Inadequate Channel Management
  • High Device Density and Data Collision
  • Interference
  • Bandwidth-intensive Applications
  • Outdated Equipment
  • Limited Spectrum

Shared Medium and Inadequate Channel Management

Wi-Fi networks operate in a shared medium, meaning multiple devices communicate over the same frequency bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). When too many devices attempt to use the same channels simultaneously, it leads to contention for the available bandwidth. Likewise, mishandled channel selection and channel overlap can lead to interference and congestion.

High Device Density and Data Collision

In areas with a large number of Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as offices, public spaces, or residential buildings, the demand for network resources can surpass the available capacity. Along the same lines, when multiple devices attempt to send data at the same time, a collision can occur, causing data packets to be lost or corrupted. Collisions lead to retransmissions, adding to network congestion and compounding the potential for connectivity interruptions.


Interference occurs when multiple Wi-Fi networks or other electronic devices operate on similar radio frequencies. This interference can disrupt the communication between devices and access points, resulting in reduced signal quality and performance.

Bandwidth-intensive Applications

The use of bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video streaming or large file downloads, can quickly consume available network resources, contributing to congestion.

Outdated Equipment

Older Wi-Fi routers or access points may lack the capabilities to efficiently handle modern network demands. Upgrading to newer equipment with advanced features can help alleviate congestion.

Limited Spectrum

The available frequency spectrum for Wi-Fi is finite, and multiple Wi-Fi networks in close proximity may contend for the same frequencies, exacerbating congestion.

To learn more about handling Wi-Fi network congestion in large and high-density environments, chat with our experts!


How Enterprises Benefit by Reducing Wi-Fi Network Congestion

Now let’s turn to enterprises. From their perspective, network congestion is a massive problem, and it’s one that’s compounded by the scale and complexity of their environment. Indeed, offering good Wi-Fi experiences is essential for supporting connected, collaborative, and flexible work environments. It contributes to increased efficiency, employee satisfaction, and overall business success.

Broadly speaking, good Wi-Fi coverage benefits enterprises in the following ways:

  • Reliable Connectivity
  • Improved Performance and Enhanced Productivity
  • Optimized Use of Bandwidth and Support for Bandwidth-Intensive Applications
  • Enhanced Security
  • Cost Savings
  • Scalability

Let’s dig into these benefits one by one…

Reliable Connectivity

By mitigating congestion, enterprises can ensure more reliable connectivity. Employees can rely on consistent and stable network connections, reducing the likelihood of disruptions in communication or access to critical resources.

Improved Performance and Enhanced Productivity

Reduced network congestion leads to improved data transfer speeds and lower latency. This results in a smoother and more responsive user experience for employees accessing information, services, and web- and cloud-based applications (i.e. Slack, Zoom, Salesforce, Google Workspace, etc.) over the network.

Optimized Use of Bandwidth and Support for Bandwidth-Intensive Applications

Reduced congestion also allows for better utilization of available bandwidth. Enterprises can allocate resources more effectively, ensuring that critical applications receive the necessary bandwidth and minimizing the impact of non-essential traffic on the overall network performance.

In addition, many enterprises rely on bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video conferencing solutions, collaborative tools, and other cloud-based services. A less congested Wi-Fi network can better support these applications, enabling seamless collaboration and communication among employees.

Enhanced Security

Network congestion can sometimes be exploited by malicious actors. A well-managed and less congested Wi-Fi network is generally more secure, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or cyberattacks that may take advantage of network vulnerabilities during periods of congestion.

For example, overly congested Wi-Fi networks are especially prone to Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. This is when malicious actors flood a network with a large volume of traffic, causing a denial of service for legitimate users and services. Of course, the more congested the network, the easier it is to hold it hostage with forced traffic overload.

Cost Savings

Improving Wi-Fi network efficiency can lead to cost savings. Enterprises may avoid unnecessary expenditures on additional network infrastructure or upgrades that would otherwise be required to address congestion-related issues.


A network that is less prone to congestion is more scalable. As the enterprise grows and the number of connected devices increases, a well-optimized Wi-Fi network can accommodate the higher demand without significant degradation in performance.


How to Reduce Wi-Fi Network Congestion on Your Network

Alright, now that we’ve covered the essentials, including what Wi-Fi network congestion is, common causes, and how it impacts enterprises, let’s go over how organizations can begin addressing it and optimizing the performance and security of their Wi-Fi infrastructure.


Key Aspects of Wi-Fi Network Congestion

To address Wi-Fi congestion on your network, focus first and foremost on what you can control. This includes observing logistical best practices for router placement and other hardware decisions, creating policies that regulate things like Wi-Fi traffic and channel selection, and more.

Below, we address a number of factors that you can address immediately to make sure you’re getting the most out of your current set up. We’ll review the following:

  • Channel Selection
  • Channel Overlap
  • Access Point Placement
  • Wireless Standards and Technologies
  • Quality of Service (QoS) Settings and Band Steering
  • Traffic Management
  • Wireless Security
  • Network Monitoring

Let’s briefly go over these…

Channel Selection

First up, channel selection. The two critical elements to monitor here are frequency band and channel width. Wi-Fi generally operates on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Evaluate which is less congested and make sure mission critical processes and connections are transmitted via this band. And, where possible, use wider channels (e.g. 40 or 80 MHz).

Channel Overlap

Interference caused by channel overlap is a huge problem when it comes to Wi-Fi network congestion. To avoid it, analyze neighboring Wi-Fi networks and select channels with minimal interference. Tools like the ones we offer at 7SIGNAL can help identify the least congested channels.

Access Point Placement

Here, coverage and density are essential. Ensure access points (APs) are strategically placed to provide sufficient coverage without creating interference due to overlapping signals. Likewise, to avoid signal overlap and interference between adjacent channels, position the APs in such a way that the channels are separated.

Wireless Standards and Technologies

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but make sure to always use the latest Wi-Fi technologies! Standards like 802.11ac and 802.11ax offer better performance and efficiency than their predecessors. Likewise, when managing and provisioning your fleet of enterprise client devices, always select devices for their Wi-Fi capabilities. For BYOD environments, encourage the use of devices that support the latest Wi-Fi standards and technologies to enhance overall network performance.

Quality of Service (QoS) Settings and Band Steering

Implement QoS settings to prioritize certain types of traffic (e.g., voice or video) over others, ensuring critical applications receive optimal bandwidth. In addition, implement band steering to guide dual-band-capable devices to connect to the less congested frequency band.

Traffic Management

Implement load balancing across multiple APs to distribute the traffic evenly and prevent overloading of specific access points. Also, set limits on data rates for certain applications or devices to prevent them from monopolizing the available bandwidth.

Wireless Security

Implement strong authentication and encryption protocols to secure the Wi-Fi network and prevent unauthorized access.

Network Monitoring

Regularly monitor network usage and identify devices or applications causing congestion. Use network monitoring tools to gain insights into traffic patterns.


How to Measure, Monitor, and Optimize Wi-Fi Network Congestion

This takes us to the 7SIGNAL Wi-Fi monitoring platform. With its unique combination of hardware and software elements, you’ll be able to monitor congestion from the outside in. 

The 7SIGNAL platform leverages Wi-Fi sensors to gain visibility into WLAN performance. These sensors enable you to measure traffic to various APs and identify areas in your network where performance is lagging and the potential causes.

In addition, the 7SIGNAL platform leverages a SaaS application, which is installed on end-user devices (Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, GoogleTV, iGEL) and used to enhance digital experiences from the client perspective. This means you’ll have insight into how various manufacturers, software versions, adapters, drivers, and other specifications perform on your network.

Finally, 7SIGNAL’s performance monitoring dashboards enable you to observe and visualize everything in one place. This will help you catch issues in real time, prioritize how you address them, and reduce MTTR (mean time to resolve). 

By providing a comprehensive health overview and allowing deep dives into specific issues, 7SIGNAL ensures that network engineers and IT teams are always a step ahead in ensuring optimal Wi-Fi performance. By complementing WLAN vendors and offering a distinctive outside-in perspective, 7SIGNAL is setting new standards in Wi-Fi network performance and user experience optimization.

To learn more, set up a meeting with our team!


Learn More From the 7SIGNAL Experts

We’re always here to answer your Wi-Fi questions at 7SIGNAL. Our enterprise Wi-Fi optimization platform helps you plan and execute a healthier network. Contact us to learn more.

7SIGNAL® is the leader in enterprise Wi-Fi optimization, providing insight into wireless networks and control over Wi-Fi performance so businesses and organizations can thrive. Our cloud-based platform continually tests and measures Wi-Fi performance at the edges of the network, enabling fast solutions to digital experience issues and stronger connections for mission-critical users, devices, and applications. Learn more at www.7signal.com.