What causes WiFi interference (and what can be done about it)?

spectrum graphWi-Fi interference is any signal outside of the configured Wi-Fi network that impairs normal operation of the Wi-Fi network. Typically, network operators will detect slower speeds, higher latency, frequent disconnects and reconnects, and sometimes a complete inability to connect to a Wi-Fi signal.

The most common source of Wi-Fi interference is other Wi-Fi signals outside of the network operator’s control. This can happen when a signal is using the same channel. Co-channel interference may also result when access points are placed too close together and are configured with too high of an output power. In this situation, the configured Wi-Fi network can actually interfere with itself. The first and easiest place to look for Wi-Fi interference sources is other Wi-Fi signals. There are free tools available on the Internet that will allow a typical laptop or smart phone to be able to view Wi-Fi networks and their associated signal strengths.

Other sources of potential interference cannot be detected using 802.11 Wi-Fi tools, including microwave ovens, 2.4 GHz or 5GHz cordless phones, wireless security cameras, cordless phone headsets, Bluetooth devices, security system motion detectors, defective florescent light fixtures, and personal “Mi-Fi” hotspots. Such devices will typically have a label (often on the bottom or in the battery compartment) indicating the frequency used. If that is not available, a look through the manual or a search on the Internet can be used to find what frequency is used. A network operator will want to avoid devices that use the 2.4 or 5 GHz frequencies if at all possible. There are also tools available from 3rd-party vendors that will display all transmissions on the 2.4 and 5GHz frequency bands. These tools are useful to detect items such as appliances or defective florescent light fixtures that may cause interference problems.

If interference is caused by other Wi-Fi equipment, the quickest way to mitigate interference is to use auto-channel. Wi-Fi access points that use auto-channel periodically scan the Wi-Fi spectrum and select the clearest channel based on what other Wi-Fi signals are visible. Another good way to reduce interference is for the network operator to purchase and use cordless phones and/or headsets that do NOT use the 2.4 or 5GHz frequencies.

If you suspect that your property has Wi-Fi interference issues, Hospitality Wi-Fi can perform remote diagnostics to detect any outside channel interference and change the channels used by your Wi-Fi to avoid the outside channel interference. If there is still an issue, it may be due to another non Wi-Fi device on-property. If this is the case, we can then schedule an on-site visit with a spectrum analyzer to find any other sources of potential interference.

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