What Is Radio Frequency Interference?

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What Is Radio Frequency Interference?

How RF interference can have a big impact on your Wi-Fi, and what you can do about it

Your organization’s high-performing WLAN keeps business running and customers satisfied. But what can you do when service drops or slows?

One big culprit of Wi-Fi issues are radio frequency (RF) interference, which is a common problem faced by many IT teams, whether running a network for a small office or a large enterprise. With all the devices out there fighting for a connection, RF interference will only continue to make negative impacts without the right solutions in place.

It’s first important to understand what RF interference is and what causes it, followed by the ways to mitigate this interference, including solutions from 7SIGNAL.

What is RF interference?

RF interference occurs when there are radio frequency signals that are essentially competing with one another. And this isn’t something new that was created with Wi-Fi—it’s been around as far back as we’ve had radios.

Interference looks a bit different today with the host of electronic devices we have in our offices, homes, cars, and now even on our bodies via the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables. The Statista Research Department forecasts that by 2020, there will be close to 6.58 network-connected devices per person across the globe. That’s a lot of competition.

There are many devices that compete especially on the 2.4 GHz frequency, such as Bluetooth devices and cordless phones. However, sources of RF interference aren’t all wireless and include an assortment of electronic devices in your home, like a microwave.

All electronic devices emit electromagnetic radiation (or “noise”), and this traffic causes other equipment to pick up their signals, mistaking it for another signal. This is what causes that buzz or static noise that you may hear in your speakers when another device is interfering nearby.

RF interference can occur in your WLAN when 802.11 devices are trying to send packets and another device is sending a packet at the same time. These interfering signals then disrupt your Wi-Fi service, leading to problems that the end-user experiences, decreasing performance and satisfaction with the network.

Your wireless network can suffer connection loss and throughput issues because of RF interference from neighboring WLANs, for instance.

How to avoid or minimize RF interference

If your WLAN is experiencing a lot of RF interference, it could be a design issue. It’s always important to conduct a site survey, which accounts for high-traffic areas and places where a lot of interference is likely to occur. This allows you to address some of these problems from the start.

Another simple fix would be to turn off nearby devices when they’re causing RF interference, if possible. This, of course, requires knowledge of what the culprits are, so some trial and error may be needed before you find the cause.

Because there’s so much traffic on the 2.4 GHz band, it also may help if you try deploying the network or portions of it on the 5 GHz band. Putting some of the surrounding devices causing interference on a different frequency will reduce conflicts.

However you begin to address RF interference in your network, one thing’s certain: you must have visibility into what’s going on to quickly find an accurate solution.

Wireless network monitoring and optimization

Implementing a wireless network monitoring system is an easier way to keep control over RF interference. 7SIGNAL’s equipment continuously monitors interference and other areas of WLAN performance, such as packet latency, voice quality, client throughput, and data rates, and signal strength. This solution allows you to discover and solve issues with your WLAN before end-users experience drops in service or slowdowns.

Because RF interference can be a major issue for larger wireless networks, it’s even more important to implement a tool that will provide all the data you need to get your network back to a high-performing state—and have one that will adapt to changes in Wi-Fi and the numerous devices that connect to it.

7SIGNAL also offers a WLAN Optimization Service which enhances the performance of your Wi-Fi network by focusing on the end-user experience and offering specific configuration recommendations.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.

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