[wifi] cannot disconnect from a known wifi network

Bug #1480864 reported by Andrea Bernabei on 2015-08-03
This bug affects 1 person
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Ubuntu UX
Matthew Paul Thomas
ubuntu-system-settings (Ubuntu)

Bug Description

Krillin, rc-proposed, rc83

Let's suppose I want to switch from wifi to mobile data *without* turning off wifi. I couldn't find a way to do that from the settings app (or from the indicator).

There's a checkbox to the right of the currently connected network, but...

I can disconnect from a wifi network (either by tapping on that checkbox, or on a disconnect button)

Tapping on the checkbox actually disconnects the wifi, but then immediately reconnects as the wifi backend finds a known wifi network (the one I just disconnected from). So the checkbox is currently useless, from what I can see.

Andrea Bernabei (faenil) on 2015-08-03
Changed in ubuntu-ux:
assignee: nobody → Matthew Paul Thomas (mpt)
importance: Undecided → Medium
importance: Medium → Low
Changed in ubuntu-ux:
status: New → Triaged
Matthew Paul Thomas (mpt) wrote :

The Wi-Fi screen is not supposed to have a checkbox next to the current network. <https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Networking#wi-fi-phone>

That's not germane to this bug report, though -- unless it is the only thing that made you think you should be able to be able to switch from wi-fi to mobile data, when known wi-fi networks are available, without turning off wi-fi. Is it? Or do you have some use case for doing that?

Changed in ubuntu-ux:
status: Triaged → Incomplete
Andrea Bernabei (faenil) wrote :

One usecase could be that I want to be able to switch to mobile data while keeping the WiFi scanning ON.

But generally, I feel I should be able to do what I want with my wifi. If I want WiFi to be enabled and yet not be connected to any wifi network (even if they're known to my device so it knows the key etc), I feel I should be able to do that.

Alberto Mardegan (mardy) wrote :

Just to complement Andrea's reply: if I understand correctly how assisted GPS works with Here, WiFi scanning can be useful to determine the user's location. It's not necessary for WiFi to be connected in order to get a location, as long as you have some kind of network connection to the service providing the location.

Tony Espy (awe) wrote :


There is a way to do what you propose, however it requires forgetting the network ( which means it won't autoconnect again in the future without a manual connect ). This can be done from the system-settings Wi-Fi page by tapping the ">" next to the checkbox and then clicking "Forget this network".

That said, I'll point out that disconnecting from the current access point is do-able on the desktop via nm-applet. A "Disconnect" menu item is displayed immediately below the currently connected AP.

The GPS case is valid, however not connecting in the first place, or using "Forget this network" would suffice for that case.

A different use case would be a non-free Wi-Fi network which charges you on a time-used basis, such as at a coffee shop. You might want to disconnect at some point but retain the credentials/last-connected attribute so that the next time you came back to the coffee shop you wouldn't have to type your passpharase/key again.

Andrea Bernabei (faenil) wrote :

Yes, why should I forget a network just to temporarily disconnect from it, though? :)

Matthew Paul Thomas (mpt) wrote :

I don't know why the network menu on PC has a "Disconnect" function, because I've never found a design specification for NetworkManager. (I didn't include it in my design for the Wi-Fi menu on PC.)

Currently I count four obvious ways to disconnect from a Wi-Fi network without moving the phone:
a. Turn off Wi-Fi.
b. Turn on Flight Mode.
c. Choose "Forget This Network".
d. Connect to a different network.

(Starting a hotspot will also disconnect from any current network, but that may not be obvious ahead of time.)

Each of these complicates the mental model. So before we added a fifth method, I think we'd want a clear answer to three questions:

1. How common are use cases that aren't satisfied by the other four? Using Wi-Fi for location but not data is a possible use case, but seems a bit esoteric. Some of the time you wanted do that, your phone GPS would have a fix by then anyway, so simply turning Wi-Fi off would achieve the same.

2. If you disconnected from a network that would automatically connect, exactly when should it automatically reconnect? After the phone sleeps and wakes? (That might be only a few minutes later.) After it powers off and restarts? (For some people, that would be only when they install a system update.) After 24 hours? Never? (Never would be tantamount to "Forget This Network, Just Not Its Password Etc", which is a pretty fine distinction.)

3. How could we make it obvious to users what the answer to question #2 was? How would we avoid surprising them either that a configured network was never being connected to any more, or that it was being reconnected to earlier than people expected?

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