Baby monitors killing urban Wi-Fi

Rogue wireless devices are dragging down Wi-Fi performance in urban areas, according to Ofcom report

Barry Collins
11 May 2009

Baby monitors and wireless TV transmitters are responsible for slowing down Wi-Fi connections in built-up areas, according to an Ofcom-commissioned report.

The regulator commissioned the report to evaluate the effectiveness of the unlicensed 2.4GHz band that Wi-Fi operates over.

The report smashes the myth that huge congestion on overlapping Wi-Fi networks is responsible for the poor performance of Wi-Fi in urban areas. Instead, it points the finger of blame at the raft of unlicensed equipment operating on the 2.4GHz band.

"There is a view that some domestic users generate excessive amounts of Wi-Fi traffic, denying access to other users," claims the report from wireless specialists, Mass Consutling. "Our research suggests that this is not the case, rather the affected parties are almost certainly seeing interference from non-Wi-Fi devices such as microwave ovens, Audio Video senders, security cameras or baby monitors."

"The greatest concentration of different radio types tends to occur in urban centres, so interference tends to increase with population density.

"However, interference also occurs in low population density areas. It only requires a single device, such as an analogue video sender, to severely affect Wi-Fi services within a short range, such that a single large building or cluster of houses can experience difficulties with using a single Wi-Fi channel."

The report claims that some regulation of devices in the 2.4GHz band will be necessary to prevent the problem getting worse.

"These interference problems are the indirect result of light regulation in the 2.4 GHz band," it states.

"A plethora of radio types, which are not all designed via standardisation processes, means that peaceful co-existence does not arise organically. Co-existence must be enforced by some means if LE bands are to be shared effectively."

Mass Consulting suggests implementing a certification scheme for any equipment operating in the band. "The baby monitor market is one example where this approach has already arisen through market forces, with 'Wi-Fi-friendly' appearing on the datasheets for the new generation of digital video monitors.

"A '2.4 GHz friendly' logo would tap into such market pressures and lead to improved co-existence of all types of radio in this band."

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