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5 Common Myths About Wi-Fi Interference

Monitoring and addressing RF interference requires understanding what causes it and what doesn’t

The number of wireless devices only continues to grow (with more than a trillion networked devices expected to be in use by 2025), meaning many more wireless networks are being created. And radio frequency (RF) interference is a common problem for many networks. But without fully understanding what causes it and the impacts it has, it’s impossible for network managers to fully address the issue.

RF interference occurs due to electronic devices emitting electromagnetic radiation (aka “noise”), and the performance of these devices can be impacted when they pick up other emissions. When the wrong signals are picked up, this can cause a lot of problems for a network connection, such as service loss or delays.

There are many misconceptions out there about interference, and believing them can lead you to not take action—or the right action—when you should.

Here are some common myths about Wi-Fi interference and what you can do to better manage it:

Interference is all manmade

It’s true that all the devices and networks out there in the world today cause interference problems. And, this is usually the biggest cause of interference in a given network.

However, it is not only or always a result of manmade devices. RF interference may also occur because of natural events, such as lightning or solar flares, which can both impact the way electronic devices operate. Some issues can, of course, be beyond a network manager’s control.

A lot of access points will always protect against interference

Access points are often deployed at high densities in attempts to protect against RF interference in a wireless network. And doing this does have its benefits—the network capacity will be greater with more access points.

However, this doesn’t necessarily protect against interference. If the power of each access point in a dense area is not reduced, the access points will actually interfere with one another—leading to co-channel interference.

If the network is working, there is no interference

Many network managers think that as long as the Wi-Fi is not generally working, meaning transmissions are successfully being made, there must be little if any, interference.

But when a device detects interference before a transmission has begun, the transmission is put on hold until the interference is gone. If the interference occurs during a transmission, the packet will be resent. Thus, wireless devices typically do get the transmissions; however, throughput and capacity of the Wi-Fi are impacted by them being put on hold.

It may not always be obvious that interference is causing fundamental issues—even when it causes issues.

Your Access Points will always detect interference

It’s now possible to deploy testing equipment that helps you manage interference within your network. Signals outside of 802.11 can be detected automatically, and access points can automatically change channels to respond.

However, doing this doesn’t solve certain problems such as those with broadband devices that can’t be improved with a channel change. Instead, it’s important that the source of the interference is located—then it can be properly dealt with.

Automated interference responses don’t always solve the issue where it originates, and often won’t address the underlying problem.

Interference is only caused by other Wi-Fi networks

While other networks can cause interference on your network, remember that the devices themselves can create significant interference problems. Co-channel interference and adjacent-channel interference are caused by a range of devices in the area.

If it’s possible within your organization, try reducing the number of devices on the 2.4 GHz band. Many Wi-Fi devices tend to use 2.4 GHz, but as  most access points support both, try connecting more of them to 5 GHz. This will move them away from the more interference-prone 2.4 GHz band.

Wireless network monitoring solutions root out interference problems

7SIGNAL’s wireless network monitoring tools continuously monitor RF interference within your Wi-Fi network, so that problems can be detected, the source can be found, and the solution executed in a straightforward, fast way.

We ensure that Wi-Fi performance is visible from any browser across the enterprise. Clients often experience a 50-100 percent improvement in baseline network performance and troubleshooting that’s reduced 80-90 percent, even in remote locations.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.