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Ofcom Survey Highlights Interference Problems for UK Wireless Networks

Posted: 11th May, 2009 By: MarkJ
Ofcom has published the results of a new survey into the performance of wireless broadband networks, specifically those based off the unlicensed 2.4GHz ( Wi-Fi ) band or IEEE 802.11b/g/i (you probably have one in your home). The study (DOWNLOAD - .PDF), which was carried out by Mass Consultants, reveals a wide variety of problems encountered by users that can seriously impact performance, especially in urban areas like London.

Multiple Wireless Wi-Fi Networks Working Together

Typically the 2.4GHz band (2.4GHz to 2.483GHz) isn't just used for Wi-Fi (WLAN) and is involved with Bluetooth (short range wireless technology used by mobile devices [phones, laptops etc.]), mesh networks, microwave ovens, security cameras, remote controls as well as audio/video senders and baby monitors etc.

Mass Study

It was clear from our research that the majority of problems experienced by WiFi network users are not spectrum-related. There are many ways in which the user experience can be affected, but only some of the problems can be attributed to working over a shared radio link.

With 83 MHz of bandwidth available and a restricted range for WiFi services, the 2.4 GHz band can support many users simultaneously in an area. It is only in the centre of London that wireless congestion was found to be a significant problem.

For example, there is a view that some domestic users generate excessive amounts of WiFi traffic, denying access to other users. Our research suggests that this is not the case, rather the affected parties are almost certainly seeing interference from non-WiFi devices [microwave ovens, Audio Video senders etc.].

Mass predicts that, at least in the short term, these interference problems will only get worse, especially for inner city (dense urban) locations where both congestion and interference were found to impact performance the most.

The study suggests solving this with the introduction of a new certification scheme, which would place a '2.4GHz Friendly' logo on devices that adhere to co-existence standards. This would be similar to the 'WiFi-friendly' claims that some non-WiFi devices (baby monitors) already sport. Credits to The Register for spotting this report first.
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