In my router, what is WMM and should I enable it? Hint: yes!

Fridays are usually video game related articles. Today, I’m not talking about games themselves, but how the gaming console has become the entertainment hub in your livingroom. It’s a lengthy post, but I think it will prove to be of some value to most readers! The long and short of it is: I was having major problems streaming Netflix to any of my wireless consoles – PS3, 360, or Wii. But my desktop computer worked fine. I enabled WMM and the majority of my problems were solved. It’s not a one touch fix, by any means – there are a million potential reasons video would be buffering, even times when the service you’re streaming from won’t have adequate bandwidth, or are caught throttling your connection. There are times when your regional ISP may just be having issues. There are an abundance of issues that can arise at the dozens of hops between you and the media you’re watching or listening to. But, in optimal conditions, WMM is a feature that will help you.

There are debates galore concerning not only the effectiveness, but the legitimacy of “Wi-Fi Multimedia™ (WMM®) WMM® Quality of Service.” People don’t know what it is, don’t understand it, or don’t think it really does anything. Well, it’s my opinion and experience that it does make a difference for streaming movies, and I’m going to explain not only why I think you should enable, but how to enable it.



A little background on WMM

Created by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a group of entities, including the manufacturers of wireless access points and networking hardware, WMM was designed to enhance the streaming of multimedia over wireless devices. From the technical side of things, despite drastic advancements in wireless technology, there will always be slightly higher latency in Wi-Fi devices than in wired connections. Trying to avoid all of the technical information, WMM allows traffic related to multi-media to take a higher priority, thus their packets get delivered first, meaning their “received!” packets will get back to the source sooner, meaning more packets will come your way sooner! “Net neutrality” goes out the Window… but only on your wireless network! In reality, if you enable WMM on your router, particularly in a home environment, it will not impact your other devices on the network, unless, say, you’re downloading and seeding a dozen torrents, streaming twenty movies, and making four VOIP calls at the same time!

Services like Zune, Qriocity, Last.FM, YouTube, Netflix, and Vudu have capitalized on that, by making their software available on your home console. But do you ever have problems with your console, be it Xbox, PS3, Wii, or other Wi-Fi devices like your phone or tablet, buffering? If you try it on your wired computer or laptop or even on the same console, just wired directly to your router, you have no problem. But if you try to use Wi-Fi, whatever you’re watching or listening to simply keeps getting interrupted. It doesn’t make any sense: you know you have enough bandwidth, other devices work, why not this stupid console? Why is everyone enjoying Inside Xbox but you?


Here’s what to do



I’m not positive about the others, but I do know that on a LinkSys, WMM is Disabled by default – which is why I wanted to share this tip with everyone, because it actually made a difference for me! Open up your web browser, and go to the address: 192.168.1.1 (if it is different from this, you’re probably advanced enough to know how to find it, because you most likely changed it yourself!).

Enter your router’s password. If you’ve never set it, there are several potential default passwords.

What’s the default password for my router?

  • LinkSys / Cisco: username: {none} / password: admin
  • NetGear: username: admin / password: password or 1234
  • D-Link: username: admin / password: admin – in some cases, D-Link may have no name, or no password, or use user as the username.
  • For best results, a quick search on the web ought to point you in the right direction of finding your specific router’s password
  • .

Once inside your router, you should be able to find an applications tab – in the case of the LinkSys WRT54G2 that we’re using in this example (an extremely common home router), it’s listed as Applications and Gaming. Here’s what it looks like for most LinkSys WRT54xx series routers:

After you click the tab at the top, the subtabs will change. As you can see in the same picture above, there will be an option that says
QoS. Click to the Quality of Service or QoS subtab.

Scroll to the bottom of the page and change the drop down for WMM to Enabled.

In a D-Link, you should go to the Advanced Tab, the Wireless Routing option on the left, then check the box to enable WMM.

On a NetGear, look for the QoS Setup option, under the blue Advanced header on the left side of the page. Click on that, then check the box to Enable WMM and click the small Apply button at the bottom.

*WHEW!!* Now that was an exhaustive post, but I hope it will get people thinking that they should give WMM a try, and help them ensure it’s enabled on their router!

5 comments
NuAngel
NuAngel moderator

With WMM "enabled" it's going to give higher priority to streaming audio and video traffic - but with 3 DropCams I can understand why it would get congested!  In this unique scenario, I would agree that disabling WMM would make sense!

BradFMJ
BradFMJ

I was barely able to use Apple's Air Play feature to play Pandora from my phone on my AppleTV. When I disabled WMM it worked flawlessly. I am running 3 DropCams in my home, which are basically wireless surveillance cameras, so all the video from them probably had something to do with this but damn... it's a big difference disabling WMM.

NuAngel
NuAngel

Thanks to a glitch with this version of Disqus on Wordpress, I've been unable to read your full comment, but is mentioned that sometimes you have seen much higher throughput with WMM disabled. This typically means that something on your network is pulling down an abnormal amount of multimedia traffic - substantial enough to "hog" other bandwidth. WMM should only prioritize packets, but if disabling it leads to some kind of 400% gain in your download speeds, you should probably investigate other devices on your network. I have heard this from other users, as well, but I believe it is either poor implementation of WMM (unsure what brands of router may be doing this incorrectly), or another device on the network abusing the connection.

justimusprime
justimusprime

in my experience the wmm had my download speeds at .5 mbs, and without its at 25 . thats over 40 times the speed. and it greatly improves my quality as now i can watch hd movies instead of low quality. i disabled it on a few of my friends routers and they had the same positive effect.

NuAngel
NuAngel moderator

I've heard this from other people as well.  It seems like a common theme that apple devices in particular do not play well with WMM or other "WiFi Alliance standards."  For example, AES Encryption on a WPA2 connection doesn't work reliably, but TKIP encryption does.  Apple does tend to play by their own rules, but in my experience, WMM helped streaming via consoles (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) a great deal.