Can Other WiFi Networks Interfere With Mine?
Is your slow internet connection frustrating you? If you live in a populated neighborhood, or just about any place with more people than in a rural setting, you have likely experienced slow internet. But what interferes with your connection? Before you can understand all that, it would be a good idea to look at the mechanics behind it.
How WiFi Networks Work and What Interferes With Them
To oversimplify things, WiFi allows devices like computers, smartphones, and tablets to connect to the internet and exchange data. It does so by making use of radio waves. Like many waves, radio waves can also be obstructed by objects in the way between the router and the device connected to your WiFi network. Some materials block radio waves more effectively than others. For example, glass doesn’t obstruct too much of it. But wood and metal can interfere with signal strength.
WiFi routers and devices that connect to them operate on specific bands. The most commonly used frequencies are 2.4 GHz, 3.6 GHz, and 5 GHz. The trouble is, other electronic appliances in the house or nearby can interfere with signal strength. Microwave ovens and cordless voice phones that operate on 2.4 GHz are two very common interference sources. Other sources can include the following:
- Nearby WiFi Signals
- Walls Inside Your Home
- Electronic Appliances
- Weather Conditions
Let’s examine these in more detail below.
Nearby WiFi Signals
WiFi in densely populated areas becomes a lot like a densely packed highway. If you live in a populous neighborhood, or an apartment building, your 2.4 GHz router could face interference from other similar routers nearby. This can congest the network and degrade internet signals. When multiple WiFi networks compete for the same channel, for example, 2.4 GHz, there can be trouble with signal strength. However, an easy fix to this is to change your router’s channel.
You can also make use of several free tools available on the internet. These tools scan your surroundings and identify the networks available as well as the bands they operate on. When you have this information, choosing the right band is simple. Just pick the one with the least routers on the same channel.
Walls Inside Your Home
Most WiFi signals can, in theory, pass through walls and other solid objects fairly easily. But in practice, this does not always go so smoothly. Thicker concrete walls can obstruct your WiFi network to a large degree. This can cause internet performance to slow down or become patchy. If your home has walls made out of plywood, glass, or drywall, you probably don’t have to worry about interference from them. But tinted glass, stone, and concrete will affect signal strength in your home. Certain metals also interfere with the wireless performance by absorbing the radio waves. If your apartment is close to an elevator, that could also be a contributing factor.
It’s not always your neighbor’s WiFi or your home’s construction material that interferes with signal strength in your home. Sometimes the culprit can be certain electronic appliances commonly found in many homes. Some of the most common include:
- Baby monitors.
- Microwave ovens.
- Cordless phones.
Depending on how bad the interference is and how close the router is to the appliance, you may find service completely cuts off when the appliance is in use. Replacing your cordless phone with one that operates on a different frequency is a good fix. Bluetooth radios and speakers, as well as certain types of lightbulbs, can also interfere with your home network.
Certain weather conditions can also impact internet signals on occasion. Stormy weather usually means more people are indoors using the internet. If you subscribe to cable or DSL internet, you may experience a decrease in internet speeds. This is because cable internet is shared over an area, which means the more users there are, the less bandwidth there is to go around.
Many different factors can affect signal strength and WiFi network performance in populated areas. To reduce this effect, there are a few steps you can take. First, place your router as close to the center of your home as possible to ensure even coverage. Second, make sure your router’s antenna is in the upright position. Third, place your router on an elevated position instead of on the floor. Pay special attention to the materials in the object you place the router on. Stay tuned to this blog for more on getting the most out of your home internet service.