Network - Wireless & Wired Connections

Help & troubleshooting for network issues, including connecting your device to your home Wi-Fi network, connecting to public networks, troubleshooting wireless issues & ethernet connections, and optimizing streaming performance.
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dblagent007
Level 7

Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

I bought five Roku sticks thinking they would be the perfect solution for me to cut the cord (because I can get Amazon and Google Play). Boy was I wrong. I started using them and things would sometimes be okay and other times the video wouldn't stream. I suspected the Wifi signal was bad so I upgraded my router ... three times. I finally put in a full fledged Ubiquiti Unifi system so I could monitor my Internet and figure out what was going on.

That's when I noticed it. The Unifi software can show "neighboring access points" and there were five of these listed: Direct-roku-xxx-xxxxxx. Not only that, but they were on the same wifi channels as my wireless access points! Immediately I'm thinking WTF is going on. 

A little bit of Google searching later I learned the following:
1. Roku sticks (and possibly other Rokus) communicate with the remotes using Wifi direct. They create a WiFi network that the remote uses to communicate with the Roku.
2. The Roku sticks only have one WiFi radio. Why does this matter? Because it means the new network created by the Roku and its remote MUST use the same channel as my WiFi access point. So, the Roku effectively creates a full power WiFi access point on the exact same channel that your WiFi uses.

Things work sort of okay as long as nothing else uses the network and only one Roku is in use. But God help us if all five or even two or three of the Rokus are being used at the same time. The networks they create to communicate with the remotes makes the WiFi network virtually unusable.

So my question is ... what are my options? Is there any way to stop this? I already have a sophisticated, high power network so I can't see how I can do anything there. There is no way to change the channel used by the Roku and its remote because the Roku only has a single WiFi radio so it has to use the same one for the remote that it uses for the WiFi.

I guess one option is to switch to Rokus connected via Ethernet (thereby freeing up the one WiFi radio to use whatever channel it wants) but if I'm going to buy new hardware, then I'll almost certainly go with the Amazon Fire Stick given all these problems with the Roku.

Any ideas would be appreciated.

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19 Replies
ghb51
Level 8

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

I doubt wifi-direct is the problem as it never actually goes through your router and I'm pretty skeptical that use of remotes could cause that much interference, since the problem gets worse the more Rokus are in use, it's most likely the streaming itself. I don't have a Ubiquiti router, but It should have some sort of quality of service option, although it may be called something else, you might try looking into that and make sure your isp plan has enough bandwidth to stream to multiple devices at a time.

edit - sometimes when you upgrade to a better plan, isp's neglect to tell you that you might need a new modem, so it wouldn't hurt to check that as well.
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dblagent007
Level 7

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

I doubt wifi-direct is the problem as it never actually goes through your router and I'm pretty skeptical that use of remotes could cause that much interference, since the problem gets worse the more Rokus are in use, it's most likely the streaming itself.

If the remotes went through the router, then it wouldn't be a problem (this is actually how the Roku phone apps work and they aren't a problem at all). The remotes would just be additional WiFi devices on my network. The problem is that they DON'T go through my router. It's like having 3-5 of my neighbor's WiFi access points in my house blasting a wireless signal on exactly the same channels as my WiFi - not good.

My Unifi system tells me how much data I'm using and when all the Rokus are running, they don't reach the max amount of data on my plan. In fact, after installing the Unifi system, I can see I'm paying for a lot speed I never use. I will probably cut my plan in half. 

Also, I already upgraded the modem at the same time I upgraded the router, APs, etc. 
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ghb51
Level 8

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

You might give this a try.
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dblagent007
Level 7

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

"ghb51" wrote:
You might give this a try.

I appreciate the response. I changed that setting but I've since learned that it only works if the Roku is connected via Ethernet. This is because the Roku only has one WiFi radio so if it is connected to the network via WiFi, then it MUST use the same channel to connect to the remote. The Roku sticks don't have Ethernet so the solution in the link doesn't work.
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ghb51
Level 8

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

"dblagent007" wrote:
"ghb51" wrote:
You might give this a try.

I appreciate the response. I changed that setting but I've since learned that it only works if the Roku is connected via Ethernet. This is because the Roku only has one WiFi radio so if it is connected to the network via WiFi, then it MUST use the same channel to connect to the remote. The Roku sticks don't have WiFi so the solution in the link doesn't work.

Ahh yeah, I just saw that in the comments, one other thing that google popped up wasthis about screen casting on a previous thread here on wifi direct.
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optikhog
Level 7

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

Hey, I have a similar setup to you and I have found my Roku devices to be somewhat flaky when used with Unifi gear for some reason, and this is usually dependent on firmware version of the AP's.  Which AP unit(s) are you using?

In my testing, I've found that my Roku 3 units seem to be much more solid when connecting to my AP-PRO (generation 1) than with my AC-Lite unit.  I have not gone in-depth with the testing but do know that when I force them to the AP-PRO everything seems to clear up.
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dblagent007
Level 7

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

"optikhog" wrote:
Hey, I have a similar setup to you and I have found my Roku devices to be somewhat flaky when used with Unifi gear for some reason, and this is usually dependent on firmware version of the AP's.  Which AP unit(s) are you using?

In my testing, I've found that my Roku 3 units seem to be much more solid when connecting to my AP-PRO (generation 1) than with my AC-Lite unit.  I have not gone in-depth with the testing but do know that when I force them to the AP-PRO everything seems to clear up.

I have three AP-Lites. That's interesting you say that because of all my setups, the Unifi gear has worked the best. Before Unifi, I had three consumer grade routers. One was a $25 Netgear piece of junk, the next one up was an $85 Asus something or other (can't remember now), the one above that was a Netgear Nighthawk R7000. The 4-5 Rokus brought them all to their knees. Looking back, I think it's because the previous routers only have a single WiFi access point, which meant all the Rokus and their WiFi Direct remotes were on the same channel, which completely swamped it. My new setup has three APs so there is a better chance that the individual Rokus might be on different channels meaning one AP might only have to deal with interference from one or two Rokus at a time. I don't know for certain why the Unifi gear is better but this theory makes sense. 

I only upgraded my gear because I had no idea what was going on. Now that I know it's the Rokus, I suppose I could get AP-Pros or something even better like the AP-AC-HD. But I have to ask myself why I would do that when I could replace the Rokus with Fire Sticks for less money. I guess I was hoping I could figure something out that didn't involve more money. That's looking more and more like a pipe dream.
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optikhog
Level 7

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

So that you know the full story, I still had the occasional hiccup with my Unifi gear and have recently moved my Roku 3 units to a MOCA network (plugged into a UniFi Switch) and things have been rock-solid ever since.  I still have one room on Wi-Fi because I did not want to run another cable, but that one seems to continue to work fine on the AP-PRO.
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avtella
Level 7

Re: Roku Sticks are Killing My Wifi

I think I’ve seen threads like this before regarding the Roku Stick and this issue is not unique to Ubiquit APs. It is kinda ridiculous that the remote doesn’t use the router when possible as mentioned before previously you end up with additional APs (Roku) unnecessarily. As it is the 2.4 GHz spectrum is hosed in many neighborhoods with so many APs (neighbors’ WiFi) and this just adds to the clutter, especially for those who don’t have dual band routers. There should be an option to use the remotes through the WiFi network.

It doesn’t make sense to change your APs just for the Rokus. I hope you have better luck with whatever you switch to.
TV: LG 47LW6500 (47" 1080P)
Media Players: Roku Ultra (4660X), Chromecast 2, Chromecast, Chromecast Audio
Router: Netgear R7800
Modem: Technicolor C2100T
NAS: Netgear ReadyNAS 524X
ISP: CenturyLink (36/4 Mbps Bonded VDSL2)
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