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Wireless Networking Hardware

Baby Monitors Killing Urban Wi-Fi 348

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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  • 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).

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

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

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:19AM (#27907357) Homepage

    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.

    Throw a chumby in your bedroom and it's all done. Problem is that most parents are cheap bastards and dont want to pay $399.00 for a IP based baby monitor plus have the education or the IQ to read the instructions to set it up and use it.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by digitalchinky ( 650880 ) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:57AM (#27908041)

    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 without tripping over 5 or 10 people :-)

    I'm not sure what our SIDS statistics are like, I don't think we keep much of a useful count.

    Kind of on topic, the spectrum over this way isn't terribly regulated. I can buy any number of Chinese made radios that can transmit anywhere from DC on up to a GHz or two. The equipment on the market is supposed to pass through the telecommunications authority for approval, but nobody really tells the truth on the import documents. Tune up a scanner and you get all kinds of stuff all over the place. Pretty cool really.

  • 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.
  • by stevied ( 169 ) * on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:59AM (#27908101)

    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 ..

  • 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.