Baby monitors, microwaves said to cause Wi-Fi interference

U.K. report calls for greater regulation, but problem not seen as serious in U.S.

A report from a regulatory authority in the U.K. has found that baby monitors, security cameras and microwave ovens are causing interference for Wi-Fi users, moreso than overlapping Wi-Fi signals.

The findings are mainly pertinent to crowded urban areas in Britain, but could also pertain to the U.S., especially in apartment buildings where radio waves pass through neighbors' walls, one U.S. analyst said.

The report, issued by independent authority Ofcan and prepared by Mass Consulting, calls for more regulation of devices in the 2.4GHz band to avoid interference.

Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group, said such interference in the U.S. is "not a big problem," except possibly in high-density residential buildings.

Mathias has urged apartment developers to install Wi-Fi for use by all residents on a leased basis to avoid overlapping Wi-Fi networks between apartments and condominiums.

But he also said he has seen situations where baby monitors and wireless security cameras have caused Wi-Fi interference. Also, microwave ovens can cause interference.

Within business settings, Mathias said he urges IT managers to operate 802.11n wireless LANs in the 5GHz band, instead of the 2.4GHz band where most of the interference is experienced.

If that's not possible, Mathias said that an IT manager needs to "keep an eye on the problem" by frequently checking network management logs and using a Wi-Fi oriented spectrum analyzer to make spot-checks.

Baby monitors can be made to operate in 2.4GHz or 900MHz, so there is a possibility of interference in the 2.4GHz band, Mathias said.

Interference can result in a number of problems, including slow performance over a Wi-Fi channel.

An AT&T Inc. spokesman said the wireless carrier operates 20,000 hotspots and has engineered them to avoid overlapping and interference. He said interference is not significant.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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