Why does my wireless go down?

I’ve worked for Cable ISP’s in several markets and can tell you one thing. It’s most likely not your equipment or your cable companies service. This might be confusing you somewhat. Most people think that if something is not working, something is wrong with the equipment. I can tell you from experience that is not the case. Unfortunately most techs and every single customer service rep you will speak to about this type of issue will be clueless and unable to help you solve the problem.

Wireless equipment shares the same radio frequencies as many other consumer grade electronic devices. Cordless phones, baby monitors and a slew of other devices broadcast signals all over the place. The closer your equipment is to rogue unwanted signals, the higher the chances are of interference. This is especially true of cheap, mass produced wireless equipment. As a field technician for Bright House networks for 5 years. I investigated and attempted to solve thousands of these types of complaints.

What’s the Frequency?

One of the most common causes of WiFi interference is neighboring WiFi routers operating at the same frequency. To explain what interference is in a term that everyone can understand, I’ll explain this as I would to customers that were interested in hearing more information about their problem. Let it also be known that most customers are not interested in hearing the technical details, they just want their service to work without problems.

Interference can be summed up into something similar to one person sitting in between two people that are talking about different subjects, at different volume levels and trying to discern everything that is being said from both. Or even worse you are attempting to hear one person speaking softly across the room, while another person is screaming obscenities in your ear. That is basically what Wireless interference is in a nutshell.

How can I tell if that is the problem?

If you have a smartphone you can download a wireless network analyzer app and determine if your wireless router is broadcasting at the same channel as one of your neighbors routers.Screenshot_2016-01-19-09-41-56

This is very common in apartment communities. Wireless routers can be configured to broadcast on different wireless channels and most of the newer routers can determine if a channel is clean.

There is also a very strong probability that the channel contains a rogue wireless signal. Let me say this, finding a rogue wireless signal is not an easy task. I had a customer in a very expensive waterfront home that had intermittent wireless problems. They had numerous service calls, and on my first visit with them, I began asking questions about what was done and said in the past. If they had purchased any new wireless equipment etc. Turns out they had purchased a video transmitter and receiver set for their kitchen television. The cable installer had explained to the homeowner that it was not possible to route a cable down the wall where the TV was located and they ordered a wireless setup that plugged into the main television cable in the living room and it broadcast it’s signal over its own proprietary wireless communication protocol on 2.4GHz.

When this was discovered I showed them how it was completely knocking out the system whenever it was in use. Simply unplugging this device fixed their interference and connection issues completely.




Adjust your Routers!

Screenshot_2016-01-19-10-20-17One of the easiest and most successful ways to combat wireless interference is to configure your router to use a quieter part of the wireless spectrum’s available frequencies. Looking at that screen cap above, we can see several devices broadcasting. I am in the process of isolating interference and notice that my Router named HotSpot is broadcasting on the same frequency as another unknown unnamed network. I say unnamed because it is not actually broadcasting its SSID. The router I am using is a Linksys WRT900ACS. This is a $230 router that considered one of Linksys top of the line units. It is configured by default to auto channel select. It should have selected a quiet frequency. Unfortunately for us, it did not, or another frequency came along and interference reared its ugly head.

For now I am going to set my router to manually broadcast on channel three and take a wait and see how that works out approach. In addition upgrading to 5GHz equipment would most likely solve your issues. However that is expensive and to use the 5GHZ spectrum you would likely have to upgrade a lot of your devices. In addition some devices are not going to work on 5GHZ. Chromecast does not, and our wireless printer that is only 2 years old will not connect to the 5GHZ side of our router. We have trouble printing from devices that are connected to the 5GHz network and talking to our printer on the old 2.4 GHz frequency.