Drivers are the software that communicates to computer hardware components like your video card, the USB ports of your laptop and external items like monitors and docking stations. In this blog, we are going to share some information specifically about Wi-Fi Network Adapter Drivers. The reason I am writing this blog is because, unlike many hardware components of a computer, the Wi-Fi adapter is designed to communicate with external devices that are not physically connected to it. Those devices and the way they communicate to each other is a fast-changing language of Wi-Fi-based protocols.
You've heard of Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 and the upcoming Wi-Fi 7 as this naming scheme was designed to make it easier to understand generations of Wi-Fi technologies like 802.11n and 802.11ax. What you may not be aware of is that embedded in those generations (or released between them) may be dozens of protocols for communication between Wi-Fi devices like 802.11r for fast roaming, 802.11ai for fast link up time, etc... When these new standards start to appear in the Wi-Fi signals around your devices, the only way to support them (or avoid interfering with them) is to have software updates. In addition to these standards updates, the driver software includes important bug fixes as they are discovered by the Wi-Fi manufacturers.
Fortunately for system administrators, most operating systems include firmware updates to network adapters with their OS updates. This includes Mac OS, Android, iOS and Linux. In the business world, that leaves one, very large, outlier... Microsoft Windows.
A current issue that brought this to light for Technium has to do with Intel Wi-Fi 6 network adapters that are prevalent in enterprise laptops. We are seeing issues for clients when roaming between frequency bands and that fix is included in Intel's Version 22.160.0 and 22.170.0 drivers release in the past few months. See details below:
Throughput performance occurs after resuming from hibernate when using Intel® Wi-Fi 6 wireless adapters When using a PC with an Intel® Wi-Fi 6 wireless adapter in hotspot mode, some Android devices might experience degraded downlink throughput performance
When roaming from a 2.4 GHz network to a 5 GHz network with a different SSID, the PC may fail to obtain an IP address.
So, if your endpoint management platform does not update Wi-Fi drivers automatically, we highly recommend deploying the latest drivers from Intel to address these issues.