Limiting interference from neighbors' wifi in an apartment

What actually is Wi-Fi?

In regular-people terms, Wi-Fi allows electronic devices – smartphones, tablets, or laptops – to exchange data, or communicate, using radio waves.

And just like visible light can be obstructed by certain materials, so too can your Wi-Fi signal. Air or clear glass, for example, let light pass through with little problem, while other materials, like water or tinted glass, only let some light through. Wood and metal, though, completely block the light. 

Video

Can my neighbors slow down my internet?

According to Microsoft, “local Internet congestion can result in slower-than-normal connection speeds.” When many people are online at the same time, Internet speeds will slow down for those with cable Internet. That’s because when you’re connected with cable, you share a connection with your neighbors.

How do I stop my Neighbours WiFi interference?

How To Stop Wi-FI Interference From Your Neighbors

  • Move Your Router. Perhaps the simplest thing to do would be to move your router.
  • Use The 5GHz Frequency.
  • Change The Channels You Use.
  • Speak To Your Neighbor!
  • Use Ethernet.

What Do You Do with the Results of a Wi-Fi Scan?

When you see which channels are being used by other networks, you can change the channel on your own network to reduce interference, primarily on the 2.4 GHz band, where interference and overlap are causing the most problems.

If you see that your own network is on the same channel as many neighboring networks, you can change your setup by accessing the settings for your router or other wireless access point and changing the channel there. Follow the instructions provided by the supplier for your router/access point – how to proceed varies from product to product.

Looking like stormy weather?

Perhaps not surprisingly, weather events, like rain, snow, and even heavy winds, can obstruct wireless signals. Trees are notorious for absorbing signal energy. 

Eliminate interference from your own access points

One of the biggest interference issues with Wi-Fi networks is actually the networks themselves. If a wireless network hasn’t been properly designed and configured, the AP signals might be interfering with each other. You want about a 15% to 20% coverage overlap between AP cells. If you have less or no overlap between the AP cells, you can have bad signal spots in the network. If you have too much overlap between AP cells in either band, it can cause co-channel interference along with other issues. You want the APs located so clients keep roaming to the best AP for that particular location, and also so they don’t interfere with each other’s signals.

Causes of 2.4ghz WiFi interference

Interference can be caused by other wireless networks, other 2.4 GHz frequency devices, and high voltage devices that generate electromagnetic interference.

  • Bluetooth devices like headphones and speakers use 2.4 GHz. Newer models of Bluetooth devices are usually built to avoid active WiFi channels.
  • Nearby wireless networks, like those in neighbouring homes, may operate on the same frequency and disrupting the performance of your WiFi network.
  • Cordless phones often use 2.4 GHz. If your network performance drops whenever your cordless phone is in use, consider switching to phones on a different frequency.
  • Baby monitors often use 2.4 GHz. Given the constant connection between the monitor and the receiver, a baby monitor can affect the performance of your network.
  • Microwaves, especially older or poorly-shielded microwaves, can cause a great deal of electromagnetic interference in the 2.4 GHz space. Newer microwaves are properly shielded and should not cause any considerable problems.
  • Wireless security equipment like cameras and motion sensors can congest the 2.4 GHz frequency. Newer cameras and sensors are WiFi ready and can connect to your WiFi network instead of interfering with it.
  • Radios and police scanners operate on a wide range of frequencies and can cause interference to any other nearby radio device. Proximity is likely the deciding factor in radio interference so don’t have your modem located directly next to (or on) a radio transmitting device.
  • Monitors and TVs — especially those that aren’t properly shielded — can cause interference for 2.4 GHz networks (specifically channels 11-14). Avoid placing your modem directly next to a TV, monitor, or screen.
  • High voltage and high-draw household items like laundry machines and air conditioning units can cause electromagnetic interference. If you notice degraded network performance, you may want to move your modem further away.

Possible remedies

While much of the interference in your home can be unavoidable (eg. neighbour’s networks, wall construction), there are things you can do to improve the performance of your home network.

  • Use the 5 GHz WiFi frequency whenever possible. The 5 GHz range is still a newer frequency, so it is less used in many congested areas, and typically provides faster speeds because it can carry more data.
  • For devices that only need a simple connection, such as checking emails or light browsing, you can stay connected to the 2.4 GHz frequency, which will provide range, but for devices such as gaming consoles or devices that use heavy browsing or video conferencing, try to stay connected to the 5 GHz connection whenever possible.
  • Your Shaw modem can automatically switch to a different channel if the current channel is experiencing too much interference.
  • Line of sight works best for signal strength. For example, you shouldn’t put your modem on the floor as this wastes half of its 360-degree field of range and limits or even blocks a significant portion of the signal above the floor by forcing it to attempt to pass through furniture.
  • Extend your WiFi network into every corner of your home using Pods from Shaw. This will not increase WiFi speed, but will extend WiFi range.

Check out our video on WiFi Troubleshooting Made Easy

Other Obstacles

Other issues that can influence the WiFi performance may not fall into any of traditional categories but still need to be considered:

  • Hearing aid can cause some signal disruption when very close.
  • Power lines, power stations, railway tracks may not be the cause of interference but if you have a feeling they may be affecting your network, try playing with that too.
  • Blasting area. For example a mine.
  • Your hand. Yes, the way you hold your phone may interfere with network signal as well. Change your grip and see if you can get a better WiFi signal.

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Use beamforming

Dynamic beamforming focuses Wi-Fi signals only where they are needed while automatically “steering” them around interference as it occurs. (If your AP’s support beamforming, that’s great! If not, it’s another reason to upgrade if you have an older system.)

Dynamic, antenna-based beamforming is a technique developed to alter the form and direction of RF energy as it emanates from the AP. Dynamic beamforming focuses Wi-Fi signals only where they are needed while automatically “steering” them around interference as it occurs.

These systems use different antenna patterns for every client, changing antenna patterns as problems occur. For instance, when interference is experienced, a smart antenna can select a signal pattern with attenuation in the direction of the interference, thereby increasing SNR and obviating the need to lower the physical data rate.

Antenna-based beamforming uses a number of directional antenna elements to create thousands of antenna patterns, or paths, between the AP and client. The result is that RF energy is radiated over the path that yields the highest data rate and lowest packet loss.

Example: How to Assess Interference and Select a Channel

The picture below shows a scan done in a regular neighborhood with the program inSSIDer. In this example we see that there are many wireless networks on the 2.4 GHz frequency band.

AirTies_Air4920_EI78 is our network in this example. Ideally, this would be the only wireless network in the area, but this is of course quite a far-fetched idea these days.

Interference on the same channel

Interference on the same channel

Most networks here are clustered around channels 1, 6, and 11. This is what is called “co-channel interference” – networks on the same channels that interfere with each other. The Wi-Fi standard addresses this, making the networks have to try to adapt to each other, almost like driving in a queue.

Interference on other channels

Another challenge comes from the networks Mr Orange, Langestolen, WhiteMouse, SAAB and Telenor2105sot. They do not use channels 1, 6, or 11, and they therefore interfere with multiple channels simultaneously. This is called “adjacent channel interference”, interference from surrounding channels.

With such noise from others, there is little we can do, except maybe ask the neighbor nicely if they can change the channel for their network – or hope that they read this article!

Noise on adjacent channels is worse than noise on the same channel for Wi-Fi equipment, and the experience is probably better for everyone if they also adhere to channels 1, 6 and 11.

In addition, we see that Whitemouse and Langestolen are much wider than the other networks, this means that they are running 40 MHz mode on their routers to get higher speeds. This gives them a larger transmission area, but also makes them more susceptible to interference from adjacent channels – and these networks are probably quite unstable.

Choosing the Best Wi-Fi Channel

So which channel should we use? Please note that this only shows a scan run from a single location in the apartment – ideally you should measure in different locations and select channels based on where you use the wireless network.

Based on this scan, we reach the following order of priority:

  1. Channel 6
  2. Channel 11
  3. Channel 1

Channel 1 is our last choice because there are many other networks using it that have about the same signal strength as ours and will steal airtime.

Channel 6 admittedly has several networks on adjacent channels that interfere a little for us, but as long as our signal is as much stronger as it is here, this should still work well. It is also a plus that there is only one single other network on the same channel here (Mannevonline).

Channel 11 has more networks than channel 6, but fewer than channel 1 – the question is whether our network will have a stronger signal than the others that are already on channel 11 if we move there.

Conclusion

Stronger WiFi signals interfering with weaker signals is not an uncommon issue. Fortunately, there are various ways to block neighbors’ WiFi from interfering.

We suggest you follow our instructions if you want to prevent these interferences from occurring. In addition, we’ve mentioned quite a few quick and easy ways to solve this issue.

If all fails, you can try talking to your neighbor to work out a solution between the two of you. For example, we’d suggest asking them to relocate their router or changing their frequency.

Alternatively, you can try contacting your service provider to help you solve this interference issue.

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