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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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  • by Spazztastic (814296) <spazztastic AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @10:58AM (#27906937)
    Frank: A lot of people are bugging their babies these days. I guess babies can't be trusted.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:04AM (#27907071)
      Don't worry. When the monitor lizards grow up they'll eat all the wayward children.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:12AM (#27907217) Journal
      This is Britain. If we don't monitor them from birth, how will they grow up to be well adjusted members of society?
      • Re:Baby Monitors (Score:5, Informative)

        by c0p0n (770852) <copong@g m a i l . com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:02PM (#27908141)

        You are right sir. We can be proud of our British offspring [youtube.com].

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gandhi_2 (1108023)
          omfg...after that video I think British baby monitors should have a claymore [wikipedia.org] option. and i thought "a clockwork orange" was fucked up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by arth1 (260657)

        If I found a baby monitor feed broadcast where I live, I think my first reaction would be to override it with a stronger goatse/tubgirl feed.

        That should teach the parents not to put (for them) critical services on a best-effort no-guarantees must-accept-any-and-all-interference part of the radio spectrum. However, I fear that they would fail to understand.

        • 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 :)

          • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by timeOday (582209)
              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.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by afidel (530433)
              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.
        • Baby crying (Score:5, Funny)

          by Roger W Moore (538166) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:38PM (#27910725) Journal

          If I found a baby monitor feed broadcast where I live, I think my first reaction would be to override it with a stronger goatse/tubgirl feed.

          Forget that, just override the audio with prerecorded sounds of a baby crying. Send that 4 times a night at random times and I'm sure it won't be very long before you don't have to worry about any interference.

          • by iphayd (170761) on Monday May 11, 2009 @04:04PM (#27912059) Homepage Journal

            Umm, those of you without children probably think that a cry is some generic thing. It's not. I can tell my daughter's cry from other babies, and putting some pre-recorded sounds will probably not do anything other than have me pull out a yagi and hunt your ass down.

            I'll play some pre-recorded crying to you when I find you. (after I make you cry.)

      • by GameMaster (148118) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:32PM (#27909673)

        Besides, if you don't monitor them you can't be sure they've eaten their meat. Think of all the children that might get pudding without having eaten their meat.

  • by laffer1 (701823) <luke&foolishgames,com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @10:58AM (#27906949) Homepage Journal

    They're just trying to slow down the net for their parents so they'll have time to play with them!

  • by Crashspeeder (1468723) on Monday May 11, 2009 @10:59AM (#27906965)

    Do away with the babies, then we don't need baby monitors anymore. Voila! Better wi-fi. I'm willing to sacrifice all your babies for better wi-fi.

    • Sarcasm aside :-p I more realistically forsee a banning of baby monitors actually happening as the 2.4ghz airspace continues to clutter, either that or baby monitors actually joining WiFi spots as I said in an earlier post below, though what did they do in the days before baby monitors? Even when my baby monitor has a failure (forgot to turn on, unplugged, dead battery, etc.), I can usually still hear my baby screaming me awake, I keep telling my wife we really don't need the monitor just to amplify the volume of said scream...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267)

        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 Maximum Prophet (716608) on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:50PM (#27908947)
          Ack, I can't tell if you are joking or not.

          Microwave ovens use this space, because water absorbs it very well. Because ovens use it, and atmospheric water absorbs these frequencies, the standards people knew it wouldn't be very useful for communications, so they made the band unlicensed for limited output power. (Microwave ovens are not supposed to leak, but sometimes they do. If your or your neighbor's microwave causes much interference, have it checked out, the leakage could be dangerous.)

          Anyway, because this spectrum was unlicensed the free market took over, and tons of devices started to use it.

          There's plenty of licensed spectrum that you can use, just get a license.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by frieko (855745)

            If your or your neighbor's microwave causes much interference, have it checked out.

            I'm not an RF engineer, but I would imagine there's a huge decibel difference between "cooks flesh" and "interferes with milliwatt radio transmissions".

            There's plenty of licensed spectrum that you can use, just get a license.

            That's my point, I shouldn't have to make a Federal case out of it to send a radio signal 50 feet. And WiFi has proven that.

      • by es330td (964170) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:30AM (#27907559)
        My 9 month old will work himself into a huge fit when he first wakes up if we don't get him. With the monitor we can hear his first few noises and get him before he is fully awake so the monitor is far more useful than "wait to hear him scream." Interestingly, I run a 54 Mbps G WLAN at my house and can watch youtube video over it when the monitor is on. I guess they must be in completely different parts of the spectrum.
        • by KillerBob (217953) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:42AM (#27907783)

          They could be in the same part of the spectrum, but designed by sane people. If your router is newer, for example, it probably supports frequency scanning and self-configuration for channel. Routers which have that ability will scan the usable channels, and pick the one that has the least interference, and are able to change channels on the fly when somebody opens up and starts cluttering your channel.

          Likewise, higher end baby monitors are able to broadcast/receive on at least a dozen channels, and I've seen ones that are capable of using 48 different channels and more. These will pick a frequency where there's less interference in order to work.

          You could be being affected by engineers who actually knew what they were doing when they designed your hardware, in other words. I know. it's rare. But things will be ok.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by digitalchinky (650880)

          It's interesting to note the cultural differences. In the Philippines and other nearby Asian countries it's more common to have ones child sleep in the same room (with the parents) until they are 2 or 3 years old. (Often older) Even then many people tend to employ a "yaya" (essentially a live in maid exclusively for the child) for the first 10 or so years. For the most part the child is never out of "someone's" sight for very long.

          80 million people in a postage stamp sized country, you can't really sneeze w

        • 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 Tiger4 (840741)

      I saw that movie (Children of Men). All I can say is, stay out of coffee shops!

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:00AM (#27906977) Journal
    And it was interrupting my raiding schedule. So I hired a hitman to take out my neighbors baby, execution style. Problem fixed itself soon after.

    I had him plant some weed on the infant to make it look like a drug deal gone bad but I was still questioned at the trial. Thank god Warcraft can't be considered a motive ... yet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Did you get your guild to testify that you were in Naxx when that shit went down? Couldn't possibly have been involved.
    • by ukyoCE (106879) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:44PM (#27910813) Journal

      I was in an instance last weekend and a guy has to go AFK because of the baby crying. Came back and said

      "Wife took over, have a newborn"

      I jokingly asked if he was still at the hospital:

      "Yep, wifi on a laptop. Baby was born 9:00 server time"

  • 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?
    • Re:Channel 14 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:13AM (#27907239) Homepage

      Because channel 14 is splattered hard by baby monitors.

      Get yourself a spectrum analyzer and be appalled at the splatter these damned baby monitors have.

      Move to A or real N and get away from the wasteland that is 2.4ghz

    • getting windows drivers outside of US frequencies can be a PITA, I live in the UK we have up to 13 available, while setting it up on the WAP and my laptop was easy, the drivers for a friends atheros didn't allow it (i found some website to get better atheros drivers, but it was on a weird tld, poland or something :S)

      I'd guess the baby monitors leak into surrounding frequencies a fair bit aswel. I've always wondered if bluetooth/xbox360 controllers have a noticeable effect as they are also on 2.4 ?

    • Re:Channel 14 (Score:5, Informative)

      by phoxix (161744) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:16AM (#27907285)
      Channel 14 is entirely illegal to use in the USA (and many many many other countries) because it exists outside of the 2.4Ghz spectrum that is allocated for consumers to go nuts on. So yes, you're Wifi will be awesome because nobody is using that spectrum .... but you'll really piss off the FCC, ask your local HAM why this is a bbbaaaddd idea.

      That being said ...

      Using channel 14 in the USA (and other non-channel 14 countries) can be done via a DD-WRT compatible router, and Wireless cards where you can change the CRDA to Japan (like Atheros cards that work with ath5k and ath9k on linux.)

      The linux command to change your regulatory domain is:

      bash# iw reg set JP

      The issue with channel 14 is that it is reduced power, meaning in most cases you'll only get 802.11b speeds with it.

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

      • Re:Channel 14 (Score:4, Informative)

        by svirre (39068) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:42AM (#27907789)

        WIfi IS stupid consumer shit. ;-)

        There is currently a huge uproar over how the 802.11 wants to use 40MHz bandwidth leaving no space for other (arguably more critical) devices like 802.15.4 based sensors and controls.

        Interestingly 15.4 can cope much better with filthy 2.4GHz radios as the modulation scheme is designed for robustness rather than speed.

        Get you bandwidth hogging butts out of 2.4GHz.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by guruevi (827432)

        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'

    • by Alphager (957739)
      Because channel 14 is not licensed.
    • Re:Channel 14 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:27AM (#27907483)
      The devices in question, such as the analog video senders and spread spectrum analog cordless phones, are programmed to automatically scan the bands and grab the cleanest "channel" in the 2.4ghz spectrum (the unlicensed anything goes portion) and blast through any interference (i.e. their response to interference is to switch around channels and shout louder to be overheard by the intended recipient above the rest of the noise). The devices are programmed for maximum rudeness because the customers (idiot parents who need a 24/7 video feed on junior) wouldn't stand for any static in their video stream or on their cordless phone calls to grandma. The only reliable way to shut these people up is to get a larger antenna and a third party firmware that allows one to "increase the power" on the WiFi and hope that the baby monitor crowd isn't smart or motivated enough to realize that their signal is being "jammed" by a more powerful source.
  • OMG (Score:5, Funny)

    by idontgno (624372) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:01AM (#27906997) Journal
    Won't someone thing of something besides the children!?
  • For me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tekiegreg (674773) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:01AM (#27906999) Homepage Journal

    I've somehow been able to run Wi-Fi with a baby monitor at home in the same general vicinity without a problem. I'm in a fairly dense suburban apartment complex with at least 10-12 WiFi hotspots when I look, it stands to reason other similar baby monitor devices, cordless cellphones, etc. are probably around. I also have a cordless landline phone, but it's on 5.8ghz and annoying everything but my WiFi there :-)

    If this becomes a problem, I imagine they'll make baby monitors actually run on Wifi. Imagine your baby monitor being an internet device even if it's only relaying packets back and forth through your hub with nothing special. 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).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thaelon (250687)

      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

      • Two words: DECT monitors. Much better range, you don't hear or cause interference at all. Plus the battery life's better. Been available for years.
    • 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).

      Can these monitors be given a ridiculously large cache (2-5 minutes worth), and then dump the cache to the computer when it detects a sound? I ask because it may be beneficial to see what happened just prior to the noise.

    • by SQLGuru (980662)

      I would love to see more and more wireless devices become specialized network devices. Why can't my cordless phone do some magic VOIP in my house (even if the base still sends the signal over POTS)? The biggest hurdle is that wireless devices would get more expensive in the short run, so who would buy it?

      Baby monitor: $40 or $150? The $150 won't interfere w/ my network, but who's going to pay that?

      • Re:For me... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:50AM (#27907907) Journal

        Why can't my cordless phone do some magic VOIP in my house (even if the base still sends the signal over POTS)?

        I don't know, why can't it? WiFi SIP phones exist, and you can buy adaptors that will bridge POTS to SIP. Although, if you're using SIP for the endpoint, why not go the whole way and use SIP for the entire call? My mobile phone can talk WiFi and SIP and so when I'm in my house (or near some other WiFi point I've told the phone to trust) I can receive incoming calls to my SIP number and make cheap outgoing calls. The idea of having a phone for a house, rather than for a person, is quaint but not very useful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      I imagine they'll make baby monitors actually run on Wifi. Imagine your baby monitor being an internet device even if it's only relaying packets back and forth through your hub with nothing special. 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).

      It's called an IP camera. They have been available for a really long time.

      Thro

      • by tekiegreg (674773) *

        A few tweaks to the IP Camera idea in order for this to work:

        • Like you mentioned, the price, but I imagine by baby monitor Wifi Device idea won't come in much cheaper than a web cam/chumby combo.
        • I still need to have something constantly listening on the other end such as your chumby which is bought separately and expensively, I suppose I could keep my computer powered up through the night too, though power supply noises might get annoying. I imagine an audio only type of chumby would come out cheaper thou
    • The thing is, they already use the same band. I had issues with mine, and I've got the only baby for like 200 meters, and I sprung for a high-end digital monitor with a lower footprint on the band.

      They offer the ability to switch channels, but I can see how having 5 or 6 of 'em around, with multiple APs, there would be problems.

      I'd be perfectly willing to have a network enabled monitor, I'm just not sure how that would solve the problem. The damn things have to broadcast more or less constantly to do their

    • I have to say....I just got one of those 6.0 DECT phone bases with 4 sattelite phones, and its pretty damn awesome. We replaced all of our 5.8ghz phones with em and it works so very well.

  • 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 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?

    • by Spazmania (174582) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:59AM (#27908083) Homepage

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

      No, it only means that anyone can use it. There are still rules about how it can be used; it can't be used for just anything. for example, the maximum transmit power for 2.4ghz is something like 1 watt. If you transmit over that power, you're in violation and the FCC can shut you down.

  • by teflaime (738532) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:04AM (#27907059)
    that children do not belong on the internet!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Many leave their baby monitors open and unencrypted.

    I've found many open baby monitors being leeched by a dozen on more losers. The stolen bandwidth really lagged out the pictures and caused little Johnny to stew in his own poo longer than necessary.

    And just try to get one of these leeches to do even a single changing. The second little Johhny finishes an upload the leeches scatter without the courtesy of seeding.

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:04AM (#27907079)
    If the cause isn't network-traffic-related, then why aren't those same interfering devices causing problems in rural areas? Even people in rural areas these days have microwaves and baby monitors.
    • Packets in the country are friendlier and more courteous than those goldang city packets.

    • by alen (225700)

      more traffic in urban areas. in a city you will have internet, the baby monitors, telephones and maybe something else on the 2.4GHz band from a lot of people in a small space. in the US in rural areas you will have maybe 2-3 families in the range of a wifi device so there is very little overlap if any from multiple people using the same frequencies

    • 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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by berashith (222128)

        I took this article to mean that not enough people in the city line their living space with tin foil .

    • by jdgeorge (18767)

      If the cause isn't network-traffic-related, then why aren't those same interfering devices causing problems in rural areas? Even people in rural areas these days have microwaves and baby monitors.

      As I understand it, these devices don't tend to have very high-powered transmitters, so they may only be a noticeable problem when you have another device competing for that spectrum within 10-20 meters.

      Results will vary based on the power of the devices in question, but when the nearest neighboring house is 30 meters or more away, you're unlikely to see a problem. It's a different story than when you have 5 neighbors with devices operating in that spectrum within 10 meters.

      Of course, I invite someone who k

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stevied (169) *

      I'm right out on the edge of suburbia here - green fields on two sides - and my (admittedly pretty old) microwave kills the WiFi network nicely.

      Fortunately about a year ago I got off my lazy arse and ran Cat5e for all the important machines. The Wifi is really only for visitors and for playing with toys like my eee PC ..

  • 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.
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:08AM (#27907127)
    So which baby is it that's monitoring the killing of urban WiFi? If he/she weren't monitoring it, would it still be happening?
  • That works both ways (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nick Ives (317) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:08AM (#27907141)

    A friend was having trouble with a TV signal repeater he was using to send his TV signal from his aerial to the screen in his kitchen as his DVB-T signal was poor in that room. He couldn't figure out why it was experiencing intermittent interference but he had noticed it was worse when his PC was turned on.

    I guessed straight away it was probably due to his wi-fi and moving his network over to channel 1 (reggae ftw!) sorted the problem out. I'm sure it still happens occasionally though, most likely do to someone else in his building having a network on the default channel 11.

  • 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!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eil (82413)

      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 fair

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by oasisbob (460665)

        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.

        That's simply not true. Do you even know what ISM stands for?

        Saying that the ISM band is unlicensed because there is no commercial interest in it is like saying that they don't build condos on artillery ranges because there is no developer willing to buy the property.

        From CFR Title 47 Part 18 [gpo.gov]:

        The rules in this part, in

  • 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.

  • by tjhayes (517162) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:13AM (#27907229)
    Does the article not realize that "Wi-Fi" devices are also unlicensed? By definition any device operating in the 2.4GHZ UNLICENSED BAND is an unlicensed device! Wi-Fi devices have the exact same priority as any other device using this frequency band. And really, there's nothing wrong with this. Since this frequency band is unlicensed the FCC is basically saying "use at your own risk, anyone can use this frequency for any purpose they like, and there is no guarantee of any quality of service". If you want something that's more reliable and guaranteed to work shell out the $$$$ for some spectrum and equipment that works on a licensed piece of spectrum that you own.
    • by vlm (69642) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:53AM (#27907967)

      By definition any device operating in the 2.4GHZ UNLICENSED BAND is an unlicensed device!

      Close, but not exactly correct. Technically if you get a amateur radio / ham radio license you can operate on a secondary basis in that band up to 1500 watts as per FCC 97.301 with special notice of 97.303(j)2(iv) and 97.303(j)2(B). Note that there is a heck of alot more to following FCC part 97 than just these two little sections. You probably mean any device operating under FCC unlicensed rules is an unlicensed device, but thats not saying much, more or less?

      (B) Amateur stations operating in the 2400-2417 MHz segment must accept harmful interference that may be caused by the proper operation of industrial, scientific and medical equipment.

      (iv) The 2417-2450 MHz segment is allocated to the amateur service on a co-secondary basis with the Federal Government radiolocation service. Amateur stations operating within the 2417-2450 MHz segment must accept harmful interference that may be caused by the proper operation of industrial, scientific, and medical devices operating within the band.

      http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/news/part97/ [arrl.org]

      It's non unusual for multiple services to be allocated on one frequency or frequency band with some being licensed and some not being licensed and some being primary allocations and some secondary allocations.

  • by swb (14022) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:17AM (#27907313)

    It kind of annoys me to see big rollouts using 802.11.

    First there's the snowjob the ISPs give the cities to get the municipal monopoly, then there's snowjob the eager, wannabe-techno-savvy politicians give their constituents for giving away the farm to yet another municipal monopoly (where I live it was a sweetheart contract to provide in-care wireless to cops and city workers to prop up the ultimately unprofitable sale of wifi to end-users), and then there's the inevitable whining from users about why it doesn't work like the access point within 25 feet of them everywhere else they use 802.11, which they inaccurately call "wireless" and lump the in same category as cell phones, FM radio, etc.

    Then we get to the point where providers using a technology not designed for lighting up whole cities start bitching about everyone else using "their" unlicensed spectrum....

  • by Bender Unit 22 (216955) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:17AM (#27907319) Journal

    I moved ½ a year ago from a apartment to a house. I moved from a place where I could se 20x SIDS to a place where I could see 2-3.

    I had some connectivity problems with my different devices + a lot of bluetooth dropouts on mouse and keyboards.

    When I was done moving in I got around to setup Wi-Spy to monitor for an entire day.

    Channels 6 and 11 was populated with 2-3 access points that did not really make much traffic and I had placed my on channel 1. But all channels from 1 to 11 has a lot of signals that you need at tool like wi-spy to see, signal that looked like cordless phones, baby monitors etc and then cell phones with bluetooth enabled(on top of my wireless keyboard and mouse)
    And since I can use channel 13, I moved my AP up there even though it had a bit overlaps with the APs on channel 11.
    I got much better sustained throughput because of much less background noise.

    I also monitored the 5 GHz band and it was dead quiet compared to 2,4. So I would move everything there if only my stupid airport extreme(old version) could run both channels at the same time, but I have 2 devices that does not support 5 GHz.

    • by prator (71051)

      Disturbing acronym collision detected!

      At first, I thought you were referring to SIDS [wikipedia.org].

  • Why the heck are baby monitors on 2.4GHz anyway? What the hell do they need that much bandwidth for?

    Why can't they operate on lower frequencies, like the 900MHz bands? 900MHz goes through walls better, too.

    • Re:Why 2.4GHz? (Score:4, Informative)

      by dwye (1127395) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:44AM (#27907833)

      > Why the heck are baby monitors on 2.4GHz anyway?

      It is an unlicensed band. Anyone can use it, and no one can (legally) complain, since they "knew" that it was a free-for-all (it is hidden in the fine print in your router directions, probably).

      > Why can't they operate on lower frequencies, like
      > the 900MHz bands? 900MHz goes through walls better, too.

      Because those are all licensed bands, with only the selected providers allowed to operate their (your cell phone can use it only to connect to a licensed provider) equipment in your area.

      • Re:Why 2.4GHz? (Score:5, Informative)

        by marquis111 (94760) on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:17PM (#27908401)

        My old 915MHz WaveLAN network I still have set up at home hasn't been bothered at all by the baby monitors. Last I checked, 902 to 928 MHz is still open for unlicensed ISM use in Region 2.

        > Because those are all licensed bands, with only the selected
        > providers allowed to operate their (your cell phone can use
        > it only to connect to a licensed provider) equipment in your area.

  • I've worked tech support a long time, and three years ago we already had dozens of calls every week about wireless network signals disrupted by those bargain bin 2.4 GHz cordless phones
  • Is the solution.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:23AM (#27907443) Journal
    The story of wifi is an excellent demonstration of the virtues of a technology that, while sucky, is cheap, fairly easy to use, and freely usable without any sort of licensing hassle(beyond that undergone by the manufacturer, of course). The fact that just anybody can set a system up has made wifi ubiquitous. Unfortunately, this only works because wifi uses a rather nasty bit of unlicensed spectrum, which isn't all that great in physics terms, and is shared with all sorts of sources of noise.

    Perhaps, with subsequent spectrum allocations, we should (rather than selling it off to the phone company) create blocks of "semi-licensed" spectrum. Like the unlicensed spectrum, anybody would be able to set up a device anywhere, without legal interference; but, unlike the 2.4GHz band, only devices compliant with a wifi-like open industry standard would be allowed to use it, preventing interference from arc welders and microwaves and horrendous super-noisy legacy designs and things. Since RF devices have to be tested and licensed anyway(to prevent interference with licensed bands) the additional regulatory overhead on the manufacturers of these wifi-like modules would be fairly small. It seems to me that this would preserve the virtues of wifi, while simultaneously protecting that slice of spectrum from severe interference.
  • by Arthur B. (806360)

    Call me when urban wifi starts killing baby. That'll be news !

  • This is all true (Score:2, Informative)

    by 89cents (589228)
    I have a Summer Best View baby monitor http://www.summerinfant.com/categories_products_view.php?id=322 [summerinfant.com] that I found at Target and as much as I love this little device, it brought my wireless G network to a crawl. I could no more longer stream movies across my wireless. The camera end does let you choose between two frequencies and I found that if I change the channel on my router to 1 from the default 6 and changed the channel on my baby monitor, I have the speeds almost back to normal. I did have a problem
  • File under: DUH! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sandbags (964742) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:42AM (#27907777) Journal

    It's no secret that 2.4G and 5GH devices screw with wireless networks... heck, I bet they also found that in dense areas, WIRELESS NETWORKS EFFECT THE PERFORMANCE OF WIRELESS NETWORKS! Guess what, so do microwaves!

    Network and other data devices should 1) be relegated to dedicated frequencies, like TVs, radio, and phones already are. Restrict only data systems to that band. 2) narrower band restrictions should be employed (or expanded ranges) to allow more chanels to agregate in the same space. 11 chanels, including the crossover which really leaves us with 5-6 viable chanels, is not NEARLY enough... 3) Portable household devices (like phones, monitors, etc) and other wireless systems (home theatre speakers, game remotes, etc) should be relegated to their own bands not used for network/data.

    I just moved into a new house. I bought a lot of new equipment to go in it. My new wireless phones are 8.2GHz. My HT rear speakers run on line-of-sight, not 2.4GHz like most. My Wifi runs on 5GHz (and also 2.4, but that's reserved for the guest network SSIDs which are disabled completely unless I have a guest). My baby monitors run in the 900MHz range. Everything that COULD be wired IS wired. As a coutesy, on the devices I can, I have turned down the gain so the signal is only clear to the distances required. (my wifi penatrates all my rooms at 4 or 5 bars at only 60% signal strenght, i have no need to be on wifi 250 feet from my house...).

  • 2.4GHz hobby RC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Speare (84249) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:57AM (#27908049) Homepage Journal
    I know that my household wifi drops like an anchor whenever I start using a typical 2.4GHz hobby remote-control. The RC transmitters and receivers in that band usually work with a digital encoded "sub-channel" and communicate in a broadband fashion, unlike the older 72MHz analog schemes that had specific narrowband sub-channels. I empathize with the wifi users who get blasted offline when an RC conflicts, but I'd be more concerned if my RC helicopter can't communicate due to wifi interference: a comms drop-out at 100ft can cost a lot of money and repair time, unlike a wifi connection.
  • "Unlicensed"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:26PM (#27908543) Homepage

    > Instead it claims that unlicensed devices operating in the 2.4GHz band are dragging down
    > signals.

    Um, WiFi devices _are_ unlicensed devices. They use the 2.4GHz band on the condition that they do not interfere with authorized uses of the band and accept any interference with their operation. Baby monitors have just as much right to use the band as do your WiFi devices and both must yield to authorized uses.

  • "US Navy SEALs, armed with baby monitors, successfully attacked and destroyed the North Korean Iranian Al Qaida scary nuclear weapons plant, by disrupting their communications command and control systems . . . by using the baby monitors."

    "A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment that a Defense Department Special Warfare Squad was being trained exclusively with RC toy equipment obtained from 'Toys R Us.'"

    "Although an anonymous comment from a person familiar with the situation, stated 'That truck that can flip over is real cool.'"

  • Here in the U.S. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Monday May 11, 2009 @12:46PM (#27908871) Homepage Journal

    I don't buy 2.4GHz wireless phones any more. Not worth the trouble.

    I don't call the RV park across the street and ask them to change channels on any of the 6 Aps I can receive. I set up a cantenna and blasted their nearest AP until they changed the channel. ps- their 'Internet Guy' is the owner's brain-damaged nephew. He means well.

    I don't bug my neighbors about their changing channels almost weekly. I just rig the cantenna again and blast 'em. They change. Life is good. ps- they do NOT understand that the RV park has 9 APs, and we can easily get 6 of them. They don't know it's me trying to use a channel they chose. pps- they moved in 3 months ago, and just got their AP running. They barely know what to do, and I profess ignorance - I'm not into unpaid support any more. Their 9-year old son is handling the admin duties, I think.

    My niece has a baby monitor, but it's probably a 27MHz one, never hurt their WiFi.

    WiFi has its limitations. At least here in the US, we let the NSA handle the surveillance, and thyey usually don't interfere with the signal. Nice guys there. Kinda wierd, but nice.

    • by joe_n_bloe (244407)

      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.

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:39PM (#27909771) Journal

    My parents' cordless telephone kills the wireless every time it rings, and for as long as it's in use.

    Sometimes.

    I think it depends on the channel the router was using... it was set to automatically pick the "best" channel. Well, until the phone rang.

    Changing the channel to a fixed value solved the problem, I think. Apparently the phone was only interfering on some of the channels' frequencies.

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