Microsoft on Xbox's strange signal: It could be anything

After over a month, Microsoft issues 43-word statement on Xbox 360 signal interference

Barber emphasized then that there was as yet no indication that the signal was actually interfering with the Morrisville WLAN access points or clients. But the IT staff discovered that in the presence of this strange signal, they had a problem getting their wireless Bluetooth headsets to associate with their Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. They had to actually touch the two devices together to set up that connection.

In an effort to determine whether there is actually a problem, Barber plans to run some tests using several Xboxes and clients in fairly close proximity, as you might find in a multi-story college dorm.

One issue that has not yet been explored is what role the company's 2.4GHz gaming controller might or might not play in this RF pattern.

The 2.4GHz band is notoriously crowded, and interference prone as a result, being used by cordless phones, baby monitors, as well as by larger numbers of 802.11 b and 11g equipment, and a growing number of consumer electronics products, including Wi-Fi phones and even digital cameras.

On December 6, a week before the story was posted online, Network World contacted the Seattle, Washington office of Edelman, Microsoft's PR agency, via e-mail, summarized the information, and requested an interview with someone from the Microsoft Xbox team. With no interview or comment forthcoming, the story was posted on December 13, including a statement that Microsoft had not yet replied, but the story would be updated when the company did.

Over the next nearly 4 weeks, subsequent requests for comment have been met with the explanation that the holidays were making it difficult for anyone to reply. At the just-ended Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, an e-mail sent to another Microsoft PR contact requesting a meeting with someone from the Xbox team at CES never received a reply. The two-sentence Microsoft statement was finally received Friday January 11.

During a pre-CES briefing, an executive from chipmaker Marvell said in passing that Marvell supplied the Wi-Fi chip for the Xbox, though there has been no official statement from Marvell or Microsoft about this. The Xbox actually has two potential radio connections, both in the 2.4GHz band: one to the wireless gaming controller, one to a Wi-Fi network.

At CES, a Marvell employee on the executive's staff would neither confirm nor deny the executive's comment. All this employee would say is that 802.11 silicon doesn't exhibit frequency hopping, though Bluetooth does, and that "Microsoft doesn't use standard interfaces."

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John Cox

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