7 WiFi Killers That May Surprise You

That festive holiday decor could be slowing your WLAN performance. Learn about little known and unusual sources of wireless interference.

Lee Badman

December 3, 2015

7 Slides

If you're interested in WiFi, love Christmas decorations -- or both -- you probably noticed recent reports out of the United Kingdom that your active holiday decor may be disrupting the WiFi signals in your home or business. Whether the impact is the result of shoddy electrical design by the manufacturers of the fairy lights (as they say in the UK) or a more sinister collusion between wireless router makers and the Christmas light industry to sell more wireless hardware is certainly a question that hangs in the air.

Are ugly, light-up sweaters responsible for mobile denials of service? That one is still being investigated, but there is one clear truth that wireless experts already know regardless of the holiday light dust-up: Non WiFi products very much can make wireless life miserable.

Without diving too deep into the technology, we can boil the problems down to a couple of regulatory realities. WiFi works in the unlicensed 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz frequency ranges. There are many other devices that also leverage the fact that you can transmit in these spectrums without expensive and complicated licensing requirements.

In addition, all the wireless devices that tend to step on each other are required to tolerate interference, unless you can change their channel to a non-polluted one within their operational profiles. In other words, interference is a fact of life under the current rules. Now that you know about pretty lights with evil intentions, let's take a look at a number of other common interferers that you may not be aware of.

(Image: franckreporter/iStockphoto)

About the Author(s)

Lee Badman

Wireless Network Architect

Lee is a Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE #200) and Wireless Network Architect for a large private university. He has also taught classes on networking, wireless network administration, and wireless security. Lee's technical background includes 10 years in the US Air Force as an Electronic Warfare systems journeyman technician and Master Technical Training Instructor, and a stint in telecommunications in the private sector. Lee is an active Extra Class amateur radio operator (KI2K), and has a wide range of technical hobbies. He has helped organize and has presented at several higher education and industry conferences, and has done extensive freelance writing work for a number of IT, low voltage, and communications periodicals. Follow him on Twitter at @wirednot, and read his personal blog at wirednot.wordpress.com.

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