At some point towards the end of last year (2019), Wi-Fi started frequently dropping off and then automatically reconnecting on my MacBook Air 2018.

At least two things happened around that time, that could have triggered the issue, but I do not remember when they happened and in which order, and whether it even was before or after the issue started occurring:

  • macOS update from Mojave to Catalina,
  • light drop of the laptop, which didn't seem to have affected anything else.

Things I gradually noticed during the investigation:

  • My connection is 50Mbs down / 4Mbs up, and it seems to be easier to reproduce when uploading data rather than downloading. Consistently able to reproduce when on a Skype call.
  • Eventually able to reproduce when downloading a file from test FTP server, even with very low speed limit set on client side.
  • Able to reproduce at home with 802.11n (2.4 GHz) network.
  • Unable to reproduce at home with wired connection.
  • Unable to reproduce at home with any other device using wireless connection, including another mac laptop (MacBook Pro 2018), Android phone (Motorola moto G6), and Windows laptop (Asus Y50-70).
  • Unable to reproduce in the office, where network is mixed 802.11ac (5 GHz) / 802.11n (2.4 GHz).
  • When watching /var/log/wifi.log around the disconnect events, the following line caught my attention for some reason:
    <kernel> AppleBCMWLANCore::getSSIDData(): Get failure: APPLE80211_IOC_SSID: -528342013

Various tweaks I tried, none of which helped:

  • Changing home router settings (transmission mode between b, g, n and mixed b/g/n; transmission rate; channel; channel width between 20 and 20/40 MHz; multicast rate)
  • Disabling IPv6
  • Resetting NVRAM
  • Wipe all WiFi settings from MacBook
  • Lowering MTU
  • Is your computer in direct line of sight of the wifi access point? – pemby Mar 8 at 7:55
  • @user136952 there is a piece of furniture in between, but when I place the laptop directly by the access point, the issue is still reproducible. One thing I neglected to mention in the question (will update) is that no other device I have is suffering from this. – Dmitry Trubin Mar 8 at 23:33

I was eventually able to resolve it by following the suggestions from Bluetooth headphones disconnect a few seconds after connecting on macOS, namely:

  1. https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/344552 by Gummibando:

    Try resetting the Bluetooth module.
    Shift-Option click the BT menu bar item > Debug > Reset the Bluetooth module.

  2. https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/380827 by Kundan Burnwal:
    1. Delete /Library/Preferences/com.apple.Bluetooth.plist
    2. Clear PRAM according to Apple's instructions by rebooting and holding down Command +Option+P+R for roughly 20 seconds until either the second startup sound plays or Apple logo appears and disappears for a second time.

P.S. I think it is worth noting that the steps for resetting NVRAM and PRAM are the same, and did already try "the former", but that time it coincided with a minor macOS version update, which could have affected the reset procedure in some way.

Upd: unfortunately, pairing back and connecting a Bluetooth device (e.g., headphones) brings the issue back, so this whole workaround is just that — a workaround.

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    Turning point in the investigation was when I 1. understood that Bluetooth is using the same frequency range as 802.11n networks. 2. noticed that with Bluetooth disabled, the issue could not be reproduced. – Dmitry Trubin Mar 8 at 1:04
  • Also, "coming clean": I decided to ask the question and answer it myself right away, because it took me quite a while to find the solution based on the symptoms I observed, even though I consider my search skills good. That said, I would like to make the solution easier to find for other people potentially having the same issue. I also considered posting the answer to apple.stackexchange.com/questions/272440/…, which seemed similar at first, but ultimately differed quite enough from my situation. – Dmitry Trubin Mar 8 at 1:04

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