‘IP configuration was unavailable’: a laptop cannot connect wirelessly to a router

I recently switched my ISP from BT to Virgin Media because the speed and reliability of the broadband connection were low. A Virgin Media Hub 3 was supplied as part of the package, and the TV, laptops (Gentoo Linux, Windows 10 and macOS), desktops (Lubuntu and Windows 10), tablets and phones (Android and iOS) could connect to the Hub 3 without any trouble. A few weeks later Virgin Media offered to upgrade the hub to a Hub 4. I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, so I accepted the offer. The Hub 4 does indeed improve on the already excellent broadband speeds I was getting with the Hub 3. On the downside the Hub 4’s configuration software has a couple of bugs, but I was able to live with them.

In addition to the above-mentioned hub configuration bugs, one of my laptops (a Compal NBLB2 with Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5300 AGN adapter) running Linux could not connect to the hub via Wi-Fi, even though it had no trouble connecting to the Hub 3. All other devices so far can connect to the Hub 4, so I was scratching my head. The laptop has no trouble connecting to the Hub 4 via Ethernet cable.

The hub’s 5G and 2.4G Wi-Fi bands originally had the same SSID (I’ll call it ‘VM1234567‘ here). I decided to rename the two bands ‘VM1234567_5G‘ and ‘VM1234567_2.4G‘ respectively, via the hub’s Settings in a Web browser. Very occasionally the laptop could connect to either SSID, but usually it could not connect and the following notification would pop up:

Wireless interface (wlan0)
IP configuration was unavailable

I did various things to try to get the laptop to connect, such as:

  • changing Wi-Fi channel selection in the hub from Auto to Manual and specifying different channels myself;
  • specifying the BSSID in the Desktop Environment’s GUI front-end to NetworkManager;
  • explicitly restricting the connection to the specific (and only) Wi-Fi interface (‘wlan0‘, in my case) in the DE’s GUI front-end to NetworkManager;
  • disabling IPv6 (Virgin Media does not use IPv6) in the DE’s GUI front-end to NetworkManager;
  • disabling the UFW firewall.

None of the above enabled the laptop to connect to the hub via Wi-Fi.

I installed the GUI Wi-Fi scanner LinSSID on my other Linux machines so I could check which 2.4G and 5G Wi-Fi channels were being used by the hub and by my neighbours’ hubs/routers. Note that LinSSID requires the utility iw to be installed and CONFIG_CFG80211_WEXT to be set in the kernel. The NetworkManager command ‘nmcli dev wifi list‘ can also be used to check which channels are being used. The channels selected automatically by the hub looked reasonable to me, and the different channels I selected manually did not improve the situation.

Now, coincidentally that laptop can dual-boot Windows 7, so I booted Windows 7 to see if it could connect to the hub via Wi-Fi. However, Windows 7 had the same Wi-Fi connectivity problem as Linux. The Network and Sharing Centre displayed the error message ‘The default gateway is not available’ and allowed me to run the so-called Troubleshooter, which fixed the problem in Windows 7. The laptop could then connect to the hub and to the Internet via the 5G Wi-Fi band (the hub’s DHCP server allocated IP address 192.168.0.145 to the laptop). So it appeared the lack of a specified default gateway was the problem in both OSs. This surprised me because I had never had to specify a default gateway on my machines, and still do not have to on the other machines. Anyway, I booted back into Linux and did the following:

STEP 1 (on the Compal laptop)

Connected to the hub via an Ethernet cable.

Opened the Hub 4 Settings page (192.168.0.1) in a Web browser.

Selected ‘Advanced settings’ > ‘DHCP’

Added the MAC address of the laptop’s Wi-Fi adapter and the IP address 192.168.0.145 to the Reserved list.

STEP 2 (on the Compal laptop)

Selected ‘System Settings’ > ‘Network’ | ‘Connections’

Selected Wi-Fi connection VM1234567_5G

Entered the following on the ‘IPv4’ tab:

Method: Manual
DNS Servers: 194.168.4.100,194.168.8.100
Search Domains: cable.virginm.net (The laptop connects without this entry, so I’m not sure if it makes any difference.)

Clicked ‘+ Add’ and added the gateway details as follows:

Address
192.168.0.145

Netmask
255.255.255.0

Gateway
192.168.0.1

Ticked ‘IPv4 is required for this connection’.

Set the following on the ‘Wi-Fi’ tab (this is optional):

BSSID: <hub’s MAC address corresponding to the SSID>
Restrict to device: wlan0 (<MAC address of the laptop’s Wi-Fi adapter>)

The BSSID can be found either by using LinSSID on a machine that can access the Wi-Fi network or by using the command ‘nmcli dev wifi list‘ in a terminal window. The MAC address of the laptop’s Wi-Fi adapter can be found using the commands ‘ip link‘ or ‘ifconfig‘.

Clicked on the down arrow in the ‘Restrict to device:’ box and selected the device (wlan0, in my case).

STEP 3 (on the Compal laptop)

Selected ‘System Settings’ > ‘Network’ | ‘Connections’

Selected Wi-Fi connection VM1234567_2.4G

Performed the same configuration steps as for VM1234567_5G except that the SSID V1234567_2.4G has a different BSSID (found using LinSSID or nmcli) to the SSID V1234567_5G.

The laptop’s 5G W-Fi connection now works very well with the Hub 4. The 2.4G connection can be slow (even when the signal is at 100%) and sometimes stalls, so I’m not sure I have fixed that connection completely, or even if it is fixable in this case. I still do not know why the problem occurs with the Hub 4 but not the Hub 3, and why it only happens with one specific machine. Anyway, the 5G connection now works fine, so I’m happy.

About Fitzcarraldo
A Linux user with an interest in all things technical.

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