Wireless Networks

Wireless Network Trouble Shooting

If you work with wireless long enough, you’re sure to come across the spectrum interference wreaking havoc on your network. Some sources may be obvious, while others can be more cryptic. Everything from rogue wireless devices to household electronics to neighboring networks can cause interference with the radio waves sending and receiving data on Wi-Fi networks, and being able to Identify interference is a huge component of troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues.

How Wi-Fi Interference Impacts Network Performance

The issues caused by Wi-Fi interference can range from intermittent connectivity loss to reduced data transfer and network speeds to a reduction in signal strength. When your business applications rely on Wi-Fi to work,
interference can cause everything from a flood of help desk tickets to slow or no Wi-Fi to complete shutdowns of production lines and lost revenue.
Being able to identify issues fast is huge for enterprise Wi-Fi and is a reason why Spectrum Technical Solution has equipped each on-site Technician with the latest Software and Hardware by Ekahau. STS will utilize Ekahau Pro and
the Sidekick Spectrum Analyzer to track down and fix those pesky interferers.

11 Common Wi-Fi Interferers:

What They Look Like to a Spectrum Analyzer and How to Fix Them
Some of the most common interferers have unique patterns and behaviors that we’re able to identify right within the app, saving you time trying to track down and troubleshoot the source of your Wi-Fi issues. Here is a helpful quick reference guide on Wi-Fi interference detection that you can use to compare your spectrum analyzer readings to track down your problem spots.
1. Microwave Oven
Type: Wideband
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 GHz

Does your Wi-Fi network have issues around lunchtime? Microwaves utilize electromagnetic radiation to heat food at the same frequency that Wi-Fi can send and receive data: 2.4 GHz. While running, the interference caused by a
seal leak in the microwave can cause additional electromagnetic radiation to enter your environment. This interferes with your ability to send and receive data. A well-shielded microwave oven should not interfere with your Wi-Fi, and
the easiest way to fix a microwave Wi-Fi interference is to simply replace the problem microwave oven with a new unit. Ekahau Analyzer’s interference detection will highlight microwave interference with the Microwave Oven tag.

2. Bluetooth
Type: Frequency Hopping
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 GHz

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that operates on the same 2.4 GHz frequency as many Wi-Fi networks utilizing both 2.4 and 5 GHz. The use of Bluetooth devices like keyboards, mice, speakers, or headsets is unlikely to have a major impact on your Wi-Fi, but it’s good to understand all of the activity present on the network. If you do suspect Bluetooth or BLE, one simple fix is to utilize 5 GHz for all devices that can use the frequency – you won’t get Bluetooth interference on 5 GHz and you’ll help decongest the already congested 2.4 spectrum band.

3. Wireless Camera (Continuous Transmitter)
Type: Wideband
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 GHz

Wireless cameras or spy cameras transmit photos or videos on the 2.4 GHz band to a receiver. The receiver then either saves these files locally or uploads the video to cloud storage services via an internet connection. Wireless cameras are a concern for both your ability to transmit data over Wi-Fi and can also be a serious privacy concern. Consider hard-wiring cameras that don’t need mobility and if it truly is an unwarranted spy camera, consider calling the authorities.

4. Wi-Fi Jammer
Type: Wideband
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 & 5 GHz

A Wi-Fi Jammer is a radio frequency signal-blocking device. Think of it as a DoS attack on a web server—by using many potential Wi-Fi frequencies loudly and repeatedly, jammers restrict the ability to send and receive wireless data.
Signal jammers are commonly used to prevent the transmission of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cell phone, or spy camera data. Depending on the strength and settings of the signal-blocking device, jammers may prevent transmission across entire frequency ranges. Many countries prohibit or restrict the use of signal jammers. Some government agencies may use signal-blocking devices for high-security areas. The best way to fix an issue caused by a Wi-Fi jammer is to locate the jammer and prevent its use. If there are unaffected frequency bands, you should switch your Wi-Fi network to an unaffected band while you locate the jammer.

5. Radar

Type: Narrowband
Wi-Fi Band: 5 GHz

Specialized radar equipment is used in air traffic control, navigation systems for ships or airplanes, military defense systems, or to monitor the weather. Depending on the frequencies being used, radar equipment may interfere with Wi-Fi network data transmission and vice-versa. In the United States, the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar is used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to monitor potentially hazardous weather conditions. Different countries will operate radar equipment at different radio frequency bands. The best way to work around radar interference is to first check local laws regarding transmissions to avoid. There’s no such thing as a light slap on the wrist from the FAA if you’re caught interfering with lifesaving radar systems.

6. Motion Sensor

Type: Narrowband
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 & 5 GHz

Motion sensors are commonly used to detect motion as part of lighting or security systems. Motion sensors often use radar technology and infrared sensors, the first of which can interfere with Wi-Fi networks. The best way to fix an issue caused by a motion sensor is to identify the channel that the motion sensor radar uses and plan your wireless network around it. If you require using 2.4, try to avoid using the same channel for both your non-Wi-Fi devices and your Wi-Fi network.

7. Game Controller

Type: Frequency Hopping
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 GHz

If you’re like most wireless enthusiasts, you may love to play video games. But you should know that any wireless technology at the same frequencies as your Wi-Fi networks has the potential to cause interference. Game controllers
can use Bluetooth-like technologies to transmit data from your controller to your gaming console or PC. While this interference is likely to be minor compared to many on this list, it is still important to understand how it may be
negatively impacting your network. But the easiest way to fix an issue caused by a game controller is to simply switch over to a wired controller.

8. Wireless Headset

Type: Frequency Hopping
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 GHz

Interference from wireless headsets or headphones can cause your audio to drop and your Wi-Fi to stop transmitting data. These headsets can use either Bluetooth technology (see above) or the 2.4 GHz band along with an adapter that is attached to another device. While super convenient to use for either phone calls or music, wireless headsets are common Wi-Fi interfereers. Wireless headsets are identified as Frequency Hopper in the Analyzer app.
Other devices to look out for that utilize this tag are e.g. baby monitors.

9. Baby Monitor
Type: Frequency Hopping
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 GHz

Baby monitors use the Wi-Fi spectrum to send/receive audio and video data between monitor and receiver. Many offices with daycare facilities or locations neighboring daycare facilities may need to optimize around this type of interference.

10. Signal Generator
Type: Narrowband
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4 & 5 GHz

Signal generators are commonly used in the development, testing, and repair of electronic or electroacoustic equipment. These signal generators are similar to Wi-Fi Jammers — their entire purpose is to blast frequencies on
demand. And because they have various settings for signal generation, they can impact a lot of the spectrum used in Wi-Fi networks. If you are experiencing major interference issues, keep your eyes peeled for these sorts of devices, especially if the wireless network is being used by an electronic or audiovisual device manufacturer (or in close proximity).

11. Lapel Microphone
Type: Narrowband
Wi-Fi Band: 2.4

Wireless microphones or lapel microphones are often used in presentations or auditorium spaces to give the presenter the freedom to roam while on stage. They are also used in video production. Depending on the wireless
microphone’s operating frequency, the electromagnetic signals from a lapel microphone can overlap with 2.4 GHz frequencies and cause interference.  The best way to fix an issue caused by a wireless lapel microphone is to
change the channel of the wireless microphone; most high-end wireless microphones can switch channels. Review the output on your spectrum analyzer against the sample in the graphic above if you suspect interference from Lapel Microphones.

Troubleshooting Wi-Fi interference is an important skill for Wi-Fi network owners and having the right tools to do the job is critical for being able to act fast to resolve potential problems.

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