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Wireless Networking Hardware

Baby Monitors Killing Urban Wi-Fi 348

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the along-with-my-full-night's-sleep dept.
Barence writes "Baby monitors and wireless TV transmitters are responsible for slowing down Wi-Fi connections in built-up areas, according to a report commissioned by British telecoms regulator Ofcom. The research smashes the myth that overlapping Wi-Fi networks in heavily congested towns and cities are to blame for faltering connection speeds. Instead it claims that unlicensed devices operating in the 2.4GHz band are dragging down signals. 'It only requires a single device, such as an analogue video sender, to severely affect Wi-Fi services within a short range, such that a single large building or cluster of houses can experience difficulties with using a single Wi-Fi channel,' the report claims."
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Baby Monitors Killing Urban Wi-Fi

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  • Channel 14 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kulaid982 (704089) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:01AM (#27906985)
    Why not use some awesome alternate firmware to use a channel (14, anyone?) that nobody else in the area is likely using and thus avoid interference?
  • (or are we using code words like "baby monitor" and "urban" to mean something racist?)

    Or are you just following up an otherwise interesting post with a flamebait comment?

  • by Nursie (632944) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:03AM (#27907047)

    Wireless telephones work around the same frequencies. Not true mobile phones, but the house ones that need a basestation. Ours used to interrupt the network when a call came in, or ring when there was a large transfer going on. Until we ditched it.

    Isn't that what being part of the unlicensed, open, free spectrum means though? Anyone can use it for anything?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:05AM (#27907095)
    The research smashes the myth that overlapping Wi-Fi networks in heavily congested towns and cities are to blame for faltering connection speeds. Instead it claims that unlicensed devices operating in the 2.4GHz band are dragging down signals.

    Since WiFi is yet another one of those "unlicensed devices" that operates in the 2.4GHz frequency range, how exactly does this smash the myth? We all knew that all these various devices operating in the same frequency range would stomp all over each other once there were enough of them.
  • No. I'm genuinely curious.

    I don't see a correlation between "urban" and "baby monitor" to be racist. All it is making a point of is that in more urban environments it is closer contact with other people, therefore rather than in a rural environment like you pointed out where the baby monitor being used to bug a child is a half mile away, it is only several yards and is within range of your average 802.11x device.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:10AM (#27907183)

    2.4GHz is known "garbage" band, precisely because it is the frequency for microwave cooking ovens.

    Consequently, due to obviously low channel availability, licensing was and is unnecessary. Wi-Fi was intentionally designed to use this unlicensed band to avoid over-regulation. Wi-Fi was never meant to be a Metropolitan Area Network technology it now tries to be, but to achieve some kind of "no pigtail" LAN connectivity inside single room/office instead, just a little bit more then Bluetooth. It's main competitor at the time was IrDA!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:11AM (#27907199)

    All devices in the 2.4GHz ISM band are unlicensed devices. Baby monitors and wireless TV bridges are just as legitimate users of the bandwidth as Wifi networks. You can use the relatively free 5Ghz band, but it's only a matter of time until other applications also start to crowd that frequency. That's why the ISM bands have power limits, so that interference is limited to the vicinity of the device.

  • Re:For me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thaelon (250687) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:13AM (#27907233)

    I imagine they'll make baby monitors actually run on Wifi.

    Upon reading that I couldn't help but think what a horrible idea that would be. I can foresee no end of problems with making that work reliably. People need something that just works when the turn it on.

    With this context in mind I initially misread this:

    Maybe as a side benefit you can capture baby audio noises to Wifi network as MP3 or something for posterity, with a noise detector to catch anything significant (I envision emailing grandma 12am baby babble heard through the monitor).

    as "maybe as a side benefit you can capture baby audio noises to wifi network...I envision 12am baby babble sent to grandma's heart monitor" which is about how well I would expect a wifi baby monitor to work.

  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:14AM (#27907259)

    That's why the DECT band was set aside. The 1.9 GHz band is reserved exclusively for voice communication, and as such doesn't overlap wireless networks, baby monitors, etc.

    No, I don't know why baby monitor makers haven't interpreted "voice communications" to cover baby monitors. Maybe the FCC ruled it doesn't count until they can speak a language?

  • I think you're just reading this whole thing with the wrong emphasis. The interesting part of this is not that a baby monitor can cause interference for WiFi. The interesting aspect is more that the interference many people experience in urban areas is because of devices like baby monitors.

    Lots of people in big cities find trouble maintaining a stable WiFi network because the signal keeps dying even though everything is well within range. The assumption has been that it's a result of too many people having WiFi in too great a concentration, and so they're all interfering with each other. So the news here is the idea that, no, it's not other WiFi devices, it's baby monitors.

    Part of the problem is, being in a city, it's not easy to tell what the problem is. If at random times of the day your WiFi cuts out, how are you to know that one of your neighbors is turning on the baby monitor? If you live out on a farm with nothing in range but your own house, you're probably going to figure it out much more quickly.

  • Re:For me... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:21AM (#27907399)

    I envision 12am baby babble sent to grandma's heart monitor" which is about how well I would expect a wifi baby monitor to work.

    Respectfully disagree, the backup plan for baby monitor failure for me (and it's happened for power outage, battery outage, human error, etc.) has been "baby screams loud enough anyways when there's a problem". Which any good parent should keep their baby room close enough to be in shouting range of their bedroom anyways. The reliability expectation of a baby monitor for me is somewhere around 80% for me, so I think a WiFi monitor could fill that role.

    The other option is that the WiFi monitor can transmit independently on it's own WiFi network, form its own internal hotspot and everything. Better than just blasting away on Analog in the 2.4 ghz spectrum, now it's footprint is reduced to that which the other hotspots in the area do. Which in small doses, Hotspots play well.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:26AM (#27907467)

    Sarcasm aside :-p I more realistically forsee a banning of baby monitors actually happening as the 2.4ghz airspace continues to clutter

    I was going to say, I foresee a massive, uninformed, ridiculous protest against wifi on the part of parents and family advocacy groups, on the grounds that this is somehow endangering babies. Although one could easily head that off at the pass by selling an overpriced baby monitor which uses your wifi hotspot to alert the authorities if they sense some type of danger, like terrorism.

  • by frieko (855745) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:29AM (#27907523)
    It's so sad that everybody has to squeeze everything from microwave ovens to wireless into 1% of the useful airspace. With basically every computer on Earth having WiFi, the government should stop kissing the corporations asses and allocate a slice of free spectrum where CSMA/CA (collision avoidance) is mandatory. Problem solved.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:50AM (#27907909)

    Good thing most WoW players will never have to worry about becoming parents.

  • by GigG (887839) on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:25PM (#27908519)
    As the father of an 18 YEAR OLD who was at one time a 9 month old I hate to be the one to tell you but you have been trained. He won't stop working himself into those huge fits until you stop running into the nursery every time he wakes up.
  • by solweil (1168955) <`humungus.ayatol ... at' `gmail.com.'> on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:50PM (#27908963)
    How is it inaccurate to call it "wireless" if, in fact, no wires are used to transmit signals? What in the world do you propose?
  • Re:Channel 14 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:56PM (#27909059) Homepage

    Now why something is critical as wifi has to exist with stupid consumer shit is the real crux of the issue ...

    Well, WiFi IS consumer shit. 2.4GHz is simply the band that the government has given consumer to use (and fill) without any licenses or other papers. All you have to make sure is to keep within the allocated frequencies and not exceed a certain power (somewhere around 100mW or 250mW). Several solutions do exist:

    - I have seen radio-based wireless equipment (professional) that has directional antenna's and uses a different frequency. We use it in a MAN to connect one building that would be too expensive or even impossible (authorities don't like to give permission to break open major streets) to connect using fiber. Our company probably paid for a license but recently they have come out with a solution in the (free) 60GHz band. The problem is that all of this equipment is non-compatible with each other while 802.11a/b/g/n is at least (somewhat) compatible.

    - You can use optical wireless (laser) but it's kind of a problem if you don't have a line of sight between the transceivers.

    - You can just wire everything. That's what I will do in my new house, just replace the phone wires with 2 Cat6 cables. I only use WiFi for convenience, not for high-speed, low-latency, fixed location stuff (like security camera's, desktop computers and internet access)

    - Get a license and use different bands. You can rig up an ethernet cable (10Mbps, non-duplex) over an FM transmitter with the correct conversion hardware. This would be a hassle for most consumers though. If you do use different bands without license you might get into trouble.

  • Re:Baby Monitors (Score:4, Insightful)

    by black6host (469985) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:45PM (#27909881)

    I do understand the need to prevent service degradation and I like my wi-fi signal as strong as anyone. However I'm also the parent of a 6 month old and there's no way I'm giving up my monitor. Fortunately I live in an area where this does not affect others as the closest house is quite some distance away. And actually, neither does it interfere very much with my wi-fi either. Most parents have no clue what frequency various items in their household are operating on. Nor do I expect them to. I would suggest that manufacturers are the ones responsible to ensure that devices do not step on each other. I do understand that many businesses will do whatever is legal without regard for what you or I may think is right. In that case, since we're operating in the public spectrum, oversight perhaps is required. In any event, expecting parents to not use monitors is wishful thinking :)

  • by Eil (82413) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:58PM (#27910091) Homepage Journal

    2.4GHz is known "garbage" band, precisely because it is the frequency for microwave cooking ovens.

    No, but that's an unfortunate side-effect. It's garbage because 2.4GHz is the resonant frequency of water, meaning its completely unsuitable for reliable long-distance communication anywhere but in a desert or for very short-range communications. (Foliage and atmospheric moisture strongly attenuate the signal.) It's unlicensed mainly because agencies and corporations didn't express any interest in it until fairly recently. They were more than happy to buy bands in more reliable parts of the spectrum.

    What the FCC really ought to do is open up more unlicensed bands to fuel wireless innovation and satisfy consumer demand for more and more of their services to go wireless. But that's hardly going to happen since:

    1) Corporations want to "own" as much of the usable spectrum as they can, and the FCC has always bent over backwards to sell it to them with minimal justification.
    2) The FCC, being a regulatory agency and all, wants to regulate as much as possible. Making large swaths of spectrum unlicensed would effectively lessen their control and responsibility.

  • Re:Baby Monitors (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:03PM (#27910183) Homepage Journal

    The point is that they need to understand that any device run on open frequencies can not and must not be trusted or relied on.

    If I jam your baby monitor, you have no recourse, because the FCC blurb on it states quite clearly that it must accept any and all signals, including harmful ones.

    If you rely on your baby monitor, or trust what it sends, switch to one that doesn't run on open frequencies.

  • Re:Baby Monitors (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:51PM (#27910953)
    You're going way overboard with this. A baby monitor is just a walkie-talkie, if it stops working you can tell because you can't hear your child any more and makes white noise. It almost sounds like you're worried about is secret agents spoofing the baby monitor, or parents letting their kids starve because they would never think to feed them unless they heard them crying on the baby monitor.
  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Monday May 11, 2009 @04:36PM (#27912589) Homepage

    If you have a problem with collisions on a protocol newer 802.11a/b, then it's a problem with your equipment, not the channels your neighbors select. g and n get along fine with other devices sharing frequencies. Anyway, base stations channel hop all on their own.

  • Re:Baby Monitors (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afidel (530433) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:30PM (#27913527)
    Actually if you are CAUSING interference in the ISM band and you are not a licensed operator (HAM) on that band then I DO have recourse. Just because the band is unlicensed doesn't mean you have carte blanche to intentionally interfere.
  • Re:Baby Monitors (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Linden Jones (994332) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:53PM (#27913901)
    Are you from fucking outer space? Have you ever used a baby monitor or been in a house with a baby?

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