Amazon Kindle Fire WiFi Connection Problems

Amazon’s $199 Kindle Fire is a fascinating device! We got ours last week but this isn’t a review – opinions are still forming over here at the global headquarters of Bruceb Consulting.

For now I want to point out a single issue: some people are having trouble connecting their new Kindle Fires to wireless networks. The Kindle Fire is pretty useless without an 802.11 connection; it is not designed to connect to Verizon or AT&T networks, so a connection to a local 802.11 wireless network is required before you can download books or watch movies or install apps.

I pulled the Kindle Fire out of the box and admired it and turned it on and was led through an excellent startup wizard, which quickly found the wireless network and asked for the security key and . . . fail.

Tap tap tap, doublecheck the password, turn on the display of the characters so I can see what I’m typing and . . . fail. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’ve heard from a couple of clients having similar problems. Over in the Amazon forums there are active threads with people venting and trading tips about possible fixes and describing their experiences with customer support – here’s one with more than a hundred comments, and here’s another one with forty more comments. There’s a story from a reviewer who was eager to write an early review: “Since I promised everyone that I’d do an unboxing/first impressions, then a full review later, I wanted to be true to that promise. Unfortunately, my Kindle Fire just didn’t want to connect to my home Wi-Fi network. . . . Now I’ve got about 2 hours of time invested in getting this thing to work. For now I sit with a $200 block of plastic and glass that won’t even let me read the user manual or dictionary without first connecting to a network to register my device online. Frustrating is an understatement right here.” (He eventually got the Kindle Fire online by replacing his old router.)

There is no way to know how many people this affects. You could find similarly active forum threads about problems with virtually every device on the market. (Do a search for “iPhone dropped connections” or “Android wireless problems” or any other variation you care to imagine – you’ll quickly be convinced that nothing works, ever.)

My advice: If you’re in the market for a Kindle Fire, buy one. This isn’t affecting very many people. If you’re one of them, you’ll be mighty annoyed, but there’s a chance that you would experience some infuriating problem with anything and everything else on the market. This doesn’t feel like a problem that ought to disqualify the Kindle Fire from being considered.

There’s no quick fix yet. Customer support will lead you through an upgrade to version 6.1 of the Kindle Fire OS, a tricky process that requires a lot of manual steps while the device is tethered to a computer. It helps some people, not others. A partial list of things that have worked for some people:

  • Restarting the Kindle Fire by holding down the power button for 30 seconds until it goes black, then starting up again.
  • Power cycling the wireless router.
  • Changing the type of security on the router from WEP to WPA2.
  • Changing the settings on the router to disable 802.11n and limit it to 802.11g.
  • Changing the settings on the Kindle Fire to limit its wireless speed to 54Mb/second.

Your mileage may vary. Again, a list like this sounds dismal but my gut tells me that almost all of the seventeen million Kindle Fires shipped this month are happily connected to whatever network is nearby. Your odds are good.

For what it’s worth, I got our Kindle Fire connected by reconfiguring our Cisco WAP4410N wireless access point. It was set up in a plain vanilla way, broadcasting an 802.11n signal with WPA2 security. I thought it would be interesting to turn off the security, which led me on a sideways chase to discover why I couldn’t see the second “guest” network that the WAP told me it was broadcasting. It was a bug in the firmware installed on the WAP – wow, have I been there before with routers and WAPs! Install a firmware update, restart the WAP, and now all the devices can see a guest network isolated from the computers in the house. The Kindle Fire spots it, joins it, and everything is swell forever.

That’s not an answer that will fit your situation. Clearly Amazon has to make a deeper fix available – and presumably it will, probably sooner rather than later. In the meantime, if you get a Kindle Fire, I hope it connects to your wireless network without any complaints!

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