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What is RF Interference?

Network engineers have a lot of problems to solve every day, and one of the main ones is Radio Frequency (RF) interference. Radio Frequency (RF) interference is a phenomenon that can significantly affect the performance of wireless networks. It can lead to degraded service performance or even interruptions. Understanding RF interference, its causes, and how to effectively mitigate it is essential for stable WiFi networks.

What Causes RF Interference?

RF interference, or Radio Frequency interference, refers to the disruption of radio signals by other electronic devices emitting electromagnetic radiation in the same frequency range. This can result in slower internet speeds, increased latency, or total loss of connectivity for WiFi networks.

Any device that emits radio frequency energy can potentially cause RF interference. This includes not only other wireless communication devices but also various electronic gadgets and machinery that were not designed for wireless communication, such as microwave ovens.

Key Types of RF Interference in WiFi Networks

Understanding interference in your WiFi network is like figuring out why your car’s engine is making odd noises. Just like in a car, where the problem could be anything from low oil to a bad transmission, interference in WiFi networks falls into two big buckets: WiFi radio-based, and non-WiFi radio-based. Let’s break these down:

WiFi Radio-Based Interference

Imagine you’re at a big concert with your friends, and you’re all trying to talk at the same time. It gets hard to hear each other, right? That’s also what happens with WiFi radio-based interference:

  • Co-Channel Interference (CCI): This is when too many WiFi devices are trying to talk on the same channel or frequency, kind of like too many people trying to chat in the same crowded room. When this happens, devices have to wait their turn to talk, which can slow down your WiFi.
  • Adjacent-Channel Interference (ACI): Now, imagine you’re at a restaurant sitting very close to another table. Even though you’re not part of the other table’s conversation, their talking can spill over and make it hard for you to hear your own table’s chat. ACI is similar – WiFi devices transmitting on nearby channels can interfere with each other, and it’s like noisy neighbors disrupting your quiet dinner.

Solving these issues is a lot about giving everyone their own space to communicate by adjusting which channels devices use, so they’re not stepping on each other’s toes.

Non-WiFi Radio-Based Interference

Non-WiFi radio-based interference comes from sources that weren’t designed to talk over radio waves but end up being noisy anyway:

  • Microwave ovens: Ever notice your WiFi acting up when someone’s heating up lunch in the microwave? That’s because microwaves (the ovens, not the waves) can throw out a lot of interference that messes with your WiFi, especially if you’re using the 2.4 GHz band.
  • Electrical equipment: It’s not just microwaves. Other electronic devices like fluorescent lights or even power lines can disrupt WiFi signals.

In a nutshell, RF interference can come from a lot of places, whether its other wireless devices trying to talk over radio waves or everyday items causing confusion. NetAlly tools can help you pinpoint the troublemakers, whether they’re chatterboxes or noisy neighbors, and find ways to make your WiFi network run smoothly again.

How to Measure RF Interference?

To keep your WiFi network running smoothly, you need the right tools to spot and resolve any interference problems. NetAlly offers the AirCheck G3 Pro, EtherScope nXG, CyberScope, and CyberScope Air to help detect, identify, and locate Wi-Fi radio based interference. If you also want to detect non-WiFi based interference, you can attach the NXT-1000 Spectrum Analyzer to your NetAlly tool.

Understanding Noise Levels: Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)

Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) is a key metric that can be used for assessing interference. It can tell you how much noise is interfering with your signal, giving you a clear indicator of how bad the interference is. SNR ratio helps you to figure out if the WiFi signal is strong enough to stand out from the noise, so you know whether you have to do something about the interference. A high SNR means your signal is stronger than the noise, and your WiFi should be working well. A low SNR signals that interference might be an issue (or your devices signal strength is weak), helping you decide when to take action.

How to Resolve RF Interference?

Managing RF interference is an ongoing task that involves:

  • Rearranging equipment: Moving your WiFi equipment away from interfering devices can help avoid interference. You could also move interfering devices away from your WiFi network equipment.
  • Choosing better channels: Switching your WiFi to a less crowded channel can improve performance.
  • Monitoring interference: Using NetAlly’s tools can provide continuous monitoring, helping you to stay ahead of potential problems.

Conclusion

Keeping your WiFi network free from interference is crucial. Understanding what causes interference, how to measure it, and what strategies to deploy are key steps in this process. NetAlly’s advanced tools support you in identifying, analyzing, and resolving these issues effectively. Maintaining seamless connectivity is crucial, and with the right approach and tools, preventing RF interference becomes a manageable part of ensuring a reliable network.

Author Bio –
Product Manager – Wireless

Julio Petrovitch is a product manager at NetAlly, plus a certified CWNA/CWAP/CWDP/CWSP. He’s worked with network design, testing and validation for more than 15 years. Throughout he’s career he has had the opportunity to work with multiple networking technologies, including POTS, DSL, Copper/Fiber Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and BLE.