Wi-Fi has become one of the most critical aspects of our daily lives, whether it is in the workplace or at home. But what happens when users are constantly frustrated with slow internet speeds and unstable connections?
One possible reason for these issues could be Wi-Fi interference, which can be down to a number of factors. We will be looking at five things that can cause Wi-Fi interference and provide tips for minimizing them or avoiding them altogether.
What is Wi-Fi interference?
Wi-Fi interference is when other wireless signals and devices disrupt or interrupt your Wi-Fi signal. This can happen due to various reasons, such as other Wi-Fi networks nearby, microwave ovens, PIRs (Passive Infrared Sensor) and Bluetooth devices. Interference affects your connection by weakening or destabilizing your Wi-Fi signal, resulting in slower internet speeds or even disconnections. Wi-Fi interference can be a common issue in densely populated areas, such as apartment buildings or urban environments, where many devices are competing for limited wireless bandwidth.
Types of Wi-Fi interference
There are three main types of Wi-Fi interference:
This occurs when two or more wireless networks are using the same channel or frequency, causing interference, and reducing the speed and reliability of both networks.
Adjacent channel interference
This happens when wireless networks use channels that are close to each other, such as channels 1 and 2 or channels 6 and 7, causing interference and reducing the speed and reliability of both networks.
This type of interference comes from other sources of electromagnetic radiation that can interfere with Wi-Fi signals, such as microwave ovens, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices and even some types of lighting.
So now that we have covered what Wi-Fi interference is and the distinct types of Wi-Fi interference, let us get into more detail on how interference is caused and how to fix it.
1. Channel overcrowding
One of the most common sources of Wi-Fi interference is overlapping wireless networks from nearby devices in the local area, such as neighbors, neighboring businesses, or hotspots. When multiple networks share similar channels, congestion or slow speeds can occur. This is called channel overcrowding. Channel overcrowding is becoming a common issue in homes today. This interference occurs because too many devices are trying to use the same Wi-Fi channel, causing congestion and slower speeds.
To avoid channel overcrowding, it is best to use multiple access points, space them away from each other and separate them across different channels. This way, the load is distributed across multiple channels, and each access point can handle more devices.
2. Physical obstructions
Physical obstructions such as walls, doors, appliances, HVAC and even furniture can cause Wi-Fi interference. Materials such as concrete, metal and plaster can significantly reduce the range of Wi-Fi signals. The solution is to strategically place routers in areas where they can provide optimal coverage. It is best to avoid placing routers near physical obstructions, such as concrete walls, and instead place them in open areas that provide a clear line of sight. The best location is mounted in the ceiling like a smoke detector.
In a way, you could also look at distance being a physical factor that can cause Wi-Fi interference. Being too far from an AP (access point) can lead to a poor Wi-Fi signal, which is a common cause of frustration. When wireless first came about one AP would have been plenty to cover most homes because we simply did not have as many wireless devices as we use today which is why adding additional APs to your home may be necessary.
3. Other devices and gadgets
Other wireless devices such as cordless phones and Bluetooth devices can cause interference with Wi-Fi signals. This interference occurs because these devices also operate on the same frequency as Wi-Fi signals. To avoid interference, it is best to keep AP’s away from other wireless devices or use wired connections instead of wireless.
4. Outdated technical settings
Outdated network security protections, outdated hardware and firmware can cause Wi-Fi interference, especially on older or cheaper systems. Any security settings may impede the wireless network from working at its optimum capacity, which can slow down performance for the end-user. To avoid interference, it is essential to regularly update network security protections and firmware to the latest versions. This will ensure that the Wi-Fi network is functioning optimally and that security settings are not hindering the network’s performance. And in some cases, even though the device turns on and seems to work most of the time, you may need to replace it, such as a TV. Technology changes so fast that most devices are virtually out of date the day you bought them.
5. Electrical devices
Electrical devices such as fluorescent lights, microwaves, baby monitors, wireless cameras, electric motors, and other electronic devices can cause interference with Wi-Fi signals. This interference occurs because electrical devices generate electromagnetic fields that can disrupt Wi-Fi signals. To avoid interference, it is best to keep APs away from electrical devices.
Wi-Fi interference can cause frustration and affect your internet experience. To avoid or minimize Wi-Fi interference, make sure to investigate the cause of the problem and implement the necessary solutions.
Add an additional AP, move reflective objects away from your AP, and consider repositioning your AP altogether. Another thing to try, keep in mind this takes more effort, is to ask yourself if this just started to happen, if so, did you just buy something new or change something out. Try disconnecting the new device and running without it for a while to see if that new device was the problem. Implementing these changes can go a long way in ensuring a stable, high-performing Wi-Fi experience.