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> Chapter 8 - Deploying Wireless Networks > Access point deployment > Wireless client load balancing for high-density deployments

Wireless client load balancing for high-density deployments

Wireless load balancing allows your wireless network to distribute wireless traffic more efficiently among wireless access points and available frequency bands. FortiGate wireless controllers support the following types of client load balancing:

  • Access Point Hand-off - the wireless controller signals a client to switch to another access point.
  • Frequency Hand-off - the wireless controller monitors the usage of 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and signals clients to switch to the lesser-used frequency.

Load balancing is not applied to roaming clients.

Access point hand-off

Access point handoff wireless load balancing involves the following:

  • If the load on an access point (ap1) exceeds a threshold (of for example, 30 clients) then the client with the weakest signal will be signaled by wireless controller to drop off and join another nearby access point (ap2).
  • When one or more access points are overloaded (for example, more than 30 clients) and a new client attempts to join a wireless network, the wireless controller selects the least busy access point that is closest to the new client and this access point is the one that responds to the client and the one that the client joins.

Frequency hand-off or band-steering

Encouraging clients to use the 5GHz WiFi band if possible enables those clients to benefit from faster interference-free 5GHz communication. The remaining 2.4GHz clients benefit from reduced interference.

The WiFi controller probes clients to determine their WiFi band capability. It also records the RSSI (signal strength) for each client on each band.

If a new client attempts to join the network, the controller looks up that client’s MAC address in its wireless device table and determines if it’s a dual band device. If it is not a dual band device, then its allowed to join. If it is a dual band device, then its RSSI on 5GHz is used to determine whether the device is close enough to an access point to benefit from movement to 5GHz frequency.

If both conditions of 1) dual band device and 2) RSSI value is strong, then the wireless controller does not reply to the join request of the client. This forces the client to retry a few more times and then timeout and attempt to join the same SSID on 5GHz. Once the Controller see this new request on 5GHz, the RSSI is again measured and the client is allowed to join. If the RSSI is below threshold, then the device table is updated and the controller forces the client to timeout again. A client’s second attempt to connect on 2.4GHz will be accepted.


From the web-based manager, edit a custom AP profile and select Frequency Handoff and AP Handoff as required for each radio on the AP.

From the CLI, you configure wireless client load balancing thresholds for each custom AP profile. Enable access point hand-off and frequency hand-off separately for each radio in the custom AP profile.

config wireless-controller wtp-profile

edit new-ap-profile

set handoff-rssi <rssi_int>

set handoff-sta-thresh <clients_int>

config radio-1

set frequency-handoff {disable | enable}

set ap-handoff {disable | enable}


config radio-2

set frequency-handoff {disable | enable}

set ap-handoff {disable | enable}




  • handoff-rssi is the RSSI threshold. Clients with a 5 GHz RSSI threshold over this value are load balanced to the 5GHz frequency band. Default is 25. Range is 20 to 30.
  • handoff-sta-thresh is the access point handoff threshold. If the access point has more clients than this threshold it is considered busy and clients are changed to another access point. Default is 30, range is 5 to 25.
  • frequency-handoff enable or disable frequency handoff load balancing for this radio. Disabled by default.
  • ap-handoff enable or disable access point handoff load balancing for this radio. Disabled by default.

Frequency handoff must be enabled on the 5GHz radio to learn client capability.