How to fix Wi-Fi interference

Since Wi-Fi transmits over the airwaves, it’s of course much more susceptible to interference than the wired network. There can be interference from your own network or neighbor’s, non-Wi-Fi wireless devices, microwaves, and even radar systems. Since there are so many possibilities, tracking down or fixing the interference can be quite a task, but knowing where to start can help.

The symptoms of interference issues can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other, more apparent problems such as poor Wi-Fi coverage. If so, maybe you blindly add more access points (AP) and, not knowing that you already had interference, that can actually cause more interference. So, try to find the root causes of any symptoms and be very intentional about the changes you make.

Signal-to-noise ratio

Although some people only talk about signal levels when designing or troubleshooting Wi-Fi networks, you must consider more. A client can be right next to an AP with excellent signal but be unable to keep a connection if the signal from another Wi-Fi or any other type of radio-frequency device is too great. Such signals from other devices are just noise to yours.

Signal levels typically range from -30 dBm (best signal possible) to -90 dBm (least signal possible). The signals have to combat noise or interference from other Wi-Fi devices, other wireless devices in the same frequency band, or even other non-wireless electronics interfering, like microwave ovens or electrical boxes. The noise levels can vary, but typically range between -90 dBm (typical moderate noise) to -98 dBm (nearly no noise).

You want the biggest gap between the signal and noise levels as possible. The smaller the gap, the worse the Wi-Fi performance. When the gap gets very small, the signal could be drowned out by the noise. To help you keep an eye on this gap refer to the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) value. It’s the difference between the signal and noise. So, if the signal is -60 dBm and the noise is -90 dBm, then the SNR is 30 dB.

Here’s a cheat sheet for the key signal and SNR levels:

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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