Are your holiday lights killing your WiFi?

2 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

4 reasons why fairy lights could ruin your Christmas cheer.

Holiday lights are meant to add some cheer to your day, but a British regulator has pointed out that they may have an unwanted side effect: interference with your WiFi network. Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations survey (PDF) found that smaller firms are lagging behind, and that only 68 percent of small businesses have access to superfast broadband compared with 83 percent of the UK as a whole.Electronics including microwaves, baby monitors or lights on a tree can interfere with wireless signals and slow down internet connections, the watchdog has said.The watchdog says wireless internet networks often suffer ‘interference’ from electronic goods including baby monitors and microwave ovens – and even festive fairy lights. On Tuesday, Ofcom — an agency similar to the Federal Communications Commission — named holiday lights as one of many electronic devices that can trip up your Internet connection.

The warning came as Ofcom released an app that can measure users’ broadband connections and then offer tips for how to improve it if it is having problems. Some things deflect Wi-Fi signal more than others, big objects such as a water tank or fridge are more difficult to penetrate and therefore have a larger impact on the signal. Residents behind the annual winter wonderland in a cul-de-sac near Southampton said they’re pulling the plug on this year’s fundraising spectacular. Wi-Fi — like cellular signals, radar and television broadcasts — is a radio frequency (RF) signal operating within a specific range on the electromagnetic spectrum, making it susceptible to interference by other devices operating within the same or similar frequency range.

It’s a good idea to try and place your router somewhere with as little obstruction as possible, metal or other thick surfaces can also cause interference. The watchdog says Internet service providers often receive complaints over the holidays about interruptions to Wi-Fi service, and the strings of lights may be a key reason. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says that older fairy lights “may” be safe, but they urge households to seriously consider buying new ones to meet safety standards. Apparently the wiring in the lights can add to the radio frequency interference in your home, which in turn could confound the signals from your router. The warnings about common household devices causing service interruptions are nothing new, although consumers may not think of them as the reason a Wi-Fi signal goes down, says a white paper released by Cisco.

These include: checking the box for the maximum size of fuse to be used, switching them off when not in the room, avoiding letting the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily and taking care not to overload sockets. Progress is being made, but too many small firms remain stuck in the slow lane. “Today’s report underlines the importance of the government’s new commitment to a 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation [USO]. If you’re browsing on an old smartphone or desktop computer it simply may not have the capacity to deal with speeds of Wi-Fi reached after its design. To combat that, Ofcom is releasing its own Wi-Fi Checker app, which lets consumers in the UK use their smartphones and tablets to check whether they are getting the best connection possible.

That means Wi-Fi is susceptible to all manner of interferences, be that the aforementioned offenders, the thickness of walls in the building where the router is located, or even other Wi-Fi signals. Although it’s not worth spending a fortune on a router, perhaps think about upgrading for a younger model if yours is getting a bit shabby and outdated. One worker for an IT company told us that the slow speeds and constant disconnects being caused by poor internet accessibility made his job significantly more difficult, and that productivity and quality of work are being reduced to below a level he feels comfortable with through no fault of his own. Wi-Fi interference can also come from other places, like having a lot of wireless routers in one place or having thick walls between a device and the router. Wireless connections can be improved and sped up by using a wireless bridge to help boost the signal, or by moving the router or device to a less blocked place.

That’s because Wi-Fi’s spectrum is on the unlicensed “industrial, scientific and medical” radio band, and shares similar frequencies with a range of other devices. Another potential issue — though not one having to do with RF signals — is blinking Christmas lights creating noise on a circuit shared with a router, disrupting the electrical power being delivered to a router. A 5Gbps offering recently made available in selected locations was the first to offer ‘ultrafast’ broadband, defined as speeds over 300Mbps, and currently available only to two percent of premises. Together with the extra people and new devices that are likely to be connecting to networks during the Christmas period, users could see their wireless connections slow down or get hit by connectivity issues. Keep your router away from electrical devices: lamps, dimmer switches, stereo or computer speakers, fairy lights, TVs and monitors and AC power cords can all cause interference to broadband routers.

A running microwave oven, for example, uses microwaves at a frequency of around 2.4 GHz, which is in the same band as Wi-Fi, which makes it a virtual black hole for Wi-Fi signals, the Guardian notes. Other common offenders include speakers, water pipes — which can absorb energy from the radio waves that carry wireless Internet and even household insulation, which can also absorb the signals coming through the walls. If you suspect a problem within your own home, Ofcom says its iOS and Android apps can help determine the source of interference and provide instructions on troubleshooting. Those with access to high speeds are using significantly more data, suggesting that the use of the internet is changing to reflect the possibilities offered by faster services, such as 4K video. µ But people could be seeing their internet connection slow down because problems with their Wi-Fi connection mean they don’t get to enjoy all of the extra speed.

Use an Ethernet cable: Although obviously this prevents a wireless connection, an Ethernet cable is a computer networking cable which provides a faster, more reliable connection. Mobile 4G coverage has also increased across the major networks from 44 per cent in 2014 to 73 per cent this year, with data use on mobile growing at a faster rate than on fixed wireless networks. That’s particularly useful if your problem is other people’s WiFi networks, as is often the case in apartments or other close-quarter living situations. You can change this by heading to your router’s settings from any machine connected to the network, which you can find by typing your router’s IP address into the part of your browser where you normally type in Web addresses.

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