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Baby Monitors Killing Urban Wi-Fi

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the along-with-my-full-night's-sleep dept.

Wireless Networking 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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348 comments

I see it red (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27906915)

and I get first post!

WHAT!!!!???? WiFi KILLING BABIES!!!!???? (5, Funny)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907367)

This is how rumors get started, Beavis!

Re:WHAT!!!!???? WiFi KILLING BABIES!!!!???? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907543)

I think I'm going to rig up an amplified baby-monitor as a kill-switch, and aim it at all the houses on my block that look as if they might be broadcasting the SSID of "Mittens The Kitten's Cuddly Coffee Corner"

Thanks /. I knew there was a good reason I read you!

More PERTINENT Post... (5, Informative)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907427)

So after reading the article, I can't really agree on this. I have "lots of EE friends in high places" and they also disagree to a large extent.

Back in 03 when I was deploying my company's first wireless networks, this article explained a lot [wi-fiplanet.com].

And further reading here [slashdot.org]...funny how this has already been covered this year.

And remember, the ISM band *was allocated because of microwave ovens* as in...it wouldnt be fair to license out this band because it is interference prone, so they made it a sort of free for all...if a baby monitor is interfering with your cordless phone or WiFi, that is probably the least of your problems!

Moderators!1eeee1!!1!!!.! !ee!!..1!!! !1!!!!!1! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907631)

Why was parent modded down? I think its informative

Baby Monitors (5, Funny)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 4 years ago | (#27906937)

Frank: A lot of people are bugging their babies these days. I guess babies can't be trusted.

Re:Baby Monitors (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907071)

Don't worry. When the monitor lizards grow up they'll eat all the wayward children.

Think of the children? (5, Funny)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 4 years ago | (#27906949)

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

Re:Think of the children? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907363)

Actually it is the other way around using the baby monitor baby slows down the connection as a distraction so they can go and play in dog's water bowl without the parent's interference (that is what my baby is doing anyway).

No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (0)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#27906953)

Consider this, though. If you lived in the countryside, you wouldn't be able to leech wifi from your neighbor because he'd be outside of the wifi AP's coverage.

So essentially you'd get the same service as far as wifi goes, but you also get the benefits of living closer to work and not having to own a car and be able to save all that money just by living in the urban area.

(or are we using code words like "baby monitor" and "urban" to mean something racist?)

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (0)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#27906969)

(or are we using code words like "baby monitor" and "urban" to mean something racist?)

That is funny!

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (4, Insightful)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 4 years ago | (#27906987)

(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?

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907031)

No. I'm genuinely curious.

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (2, Insightful)

Spazztastic (814296) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907139)

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.

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907227)

That might just be me but maybe the gp was thinking of something along the lines of 'baby monitor' being someone and not something....
Now bear with me a second, maybe he thought that way because he can't fathom a baby monitor being anything else than a babysitter?
Now get this, is he thinking that babysitter from the urban area are killing WiFi?
And that doesn't make any sense either

captcha : thoughts....

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907361)

Now get this, is he thinking that babysitter from the urban area are killing WiFi? And that doesn't make any sense either

captcha : thoughts....

By the time these Chinese whispers finish we will have someone calling police saying that they discovered a paedophile ring on Slashdot who were conspiring with a baby sitter to kill a baby called Wifi, (or maybe it was Wilfie or Whitney or something like that).

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907701)

I just heard the police saying that they discovered a paedophile ring on Slashdot who were conspiring with a baby sitter to kill a baby called Wifi, purple monkey dishwasher!

Re:No, it's okay. Urban living still rocks (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907247)

I see. So what you're saying is that in the country someone could build a directional baby monitor antenna and effectively create a universal jamming device. That's pretty interesting.

But it still doesn't make sense that people of African descent would be somehow more likely to make use of such technology than anyone else. They want their wifi too, I'm sure.

You know what that means... (5, Funny)

Crashspeeder (1468723) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:You know what that means... (4, Funny)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907221)

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:You know what that means... (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:You know what that means... (5, Insightful)

frieko (855745) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:You know what that means... (3, Interesting)

es330td (964170) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:You know what that means... (5, Informative)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:You know what that means... (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907271)

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

Re:You know what that means... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907381)

Amen. I'm so tired of sacrificing everything for the fucking children. I don't have children, fuck the children.

I Had This Problem (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#27906977)

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:I Had This Problem (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907491)

Did you get your guild to testify that you were in Naxx when that shit went down? Couldn't possibly have been involved.

Channel 14 (5, Insightful)

Kulaid982 (704089) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907239)

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

Re:Channel 14 (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907281)

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 (5, Informative)

phoxix (161744) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907553)

The article is from the Uk, and most countries allow all 12,13(meaning 1,4,7,10,13 don't overlap) to be used

Most other European countries are almost as liberal as Japan, disallowing only channel 14, while North America and some Central and South American countries further disallow 12 and 13.

(Un)fortunatly most people don't know about 12/13 so if you can set it up (some drivers are a PITA) in europe, you'll get much less congestion.

Re:Channel 14 (3, Informative)

svirre (39068) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Channel 14 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907847)

So yes, you're Wifi

I most certainly am *not*!

Re:Channel 14 (3, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

For me... (4, Interesting)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 4 years ago | (#27906999)

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:For me... (2, Insightful)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:For me... (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907437)

(this was my post) Hey Slashdot, can we make it so the AC checkbox isn't so easy to accidentally click?

Re:For me... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907711)

I think they should just get rid of usernames and make everyone an AC. Anonymity is better for discussion because it keeps the focus on the topic, not the posters' egos.

DECT monitors (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907505)

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.

Good feminists abort male fetuses (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907249)

Good feminists abort male fetuses

Re:Good feminists abort male fetuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907311)

Good feminists abort male fetuses

Really good feminists never get close enough to a man to make a fetus.

Re:For me... (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907269)

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.

Re:For me... (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907291)

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... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907325)

This could make wardriving fun again!

Re:For me... (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907349)

Are most baby monitors mains operated or battery, the only problem i can envisage is when the power dies (i live in a PAYG flat) the baby monitor would stop working as the router would be down, ofc if this happens anyway its not a problem.

Re:For me... (2, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907357)

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.

Re:For me... (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907643)

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 though.
  • Like you mentioned too, the setup curve, I suppose we can do dedicated devices that form their own WiFi hotspot though, than just reduce to plug and play (hopefully).

Re:For me... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907417)

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 jobs, so it's going to be a fricking ton of traffic regardless...

Frankly, the best case would be to restrict monitors to a subset of the band, to keep them from screwing with routers, and if your neighbors have a couple of monitors and they're causing problems with your monitors, you can just set their house on fire or something.

Hopefully some of the newly open space on the spectrum can help with this crap. The tiny sliver we've got is way over utilized.

Re:For me... (1)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907477)

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.

Portable phones too. (3, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Portable phones too. (3, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Portable phones too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907479)

The UK does not have unlicensed, open, free spectrum ... these devices that use spectrum they shouldn't are illegal ....

What of 5GHz? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907057)

I'd start using the .11a and .11n stuffs, were I you.

Re:What of 5GHz? (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907415)

Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to RF. At higher frequencies solid objects become more opaque to radio waves and transmission, especially at the low power levels used for WiFi, becomes more difficult.

A good example of this is the mad rush to 2.4 and 5.8 GHz phones. This was all stupid sheeple consumerism that led to the mass adoption of phones that underperform the previous generation. The situation is finally improving with the introduction of DECT phones operating at a more sane 1.8 GHz but, in the states at least, it has to be marketed as "v6.0" to get the dummies to let go of their foolish 5.8 phones. You might say "900 MHz sounded worse" but that's only because the modern phones are all digital spread spectrum and very few 900 MHz phones were made with DSS. Most were plain analog or analog spread spectrum. That doesn't change the fact that the higher frequency phones are not optimal for the intended application and experience more dropouts and artifacts than 900 MHz when there are significant obstructions between the phone and base station.

Re:What of 5GHz? (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907549)

It is amazingly difficult to get .11a stuff through typical commercial sources (i.e. walk into Best Buy, Fry's, etc). I've found a few routers a with "dual band" capability. But very few NICs/dongles that work in that band. I finally got one that was used, stripped out of an old laptop, through eBay. Netgear has an 11a USB dongle, but it really doesn't work worth a crap.

Almost all the 11n stuff I've seen is really just repackaged 11g band equipment. New protocols, but the same 2.4GHz frequencies.

Urban Wi-Fi Killing Baby Monitors (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907067)

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.

Then why isn't this happening is rural areas? (2, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Then why isn't this happening is rural areas? (4, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907119)

Packets in the country are friendlier and more courteous than those goldang city packets.

Re:Then why isn't this happening is rural areas? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907329)

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

Re:Then why isn't this happening is rural areas? (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907335)

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:Then why isn't this happening is rural areas? (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907425)

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 knows what the heck he's talking about to refine my explanation.

"Smashes" the myth? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

fun with titles (2, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Nothing to see here (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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!

"Unlicensed devices" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

All 2.4Ghz devices are unlicensed! (5, Informative)

tjhayes (517162) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Where is the "ThinkOfTheChildren" tag? (0)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907289)

I rather expected it since it is actually about children.

Speaking as a father who has actually lost a baby to some form of SIDS, I can tell you that concerned parents are not simply being overly cautious. The death of a baby is a kind of darkness that can never be cured or healed.

So what is the solution to the problem? Digital monitor devices that use WiFi protocols to transmit crystal clear sounds and images.

What solves the problems of currently deployed systems that "work just fine and don't need to be replaced?" I dunno... a gift-giving campaign?

Wireless providers -- how about A BETTER STANDARD? (2, Informative)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#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....

My personal experience. (3, Interesting)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907319)

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:My personal experience. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907429)

Time to get a new AirPort Extreme (new version). Sell the old one on eBay.

Re:My personal experience. (1)

prator (71051) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907473)

Disturbing acronym collision detected!

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

Why 2.4GHz? (1)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907369)

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? (3, Informative)

dwye (1127395) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

What else is new? (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907393)

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

Not 'unlicensed' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27907409)

IFAIK there is a general licen{s|c}e for the use of approved products in the 2.4GHz ISM band in the UK. Baby monitors and video senders with a 'CE' mark are approved, and Wi-Fi devices have to share the spectrum with them (and the bloody ovens!). The idiocy was putting Wi-Fi in an ISM band to start with - it should have been allocated its own band to be used only by approved Wi-Fi products.

Time for a "semi-licenced" band? (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907443)

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.

Modem == Radio (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907497)

AM radio stations nearby can also be a big source of problems. When I moved I didn't have high-speed for a while so I used my 3-year-old US-Robotics dialup modem. It didn't work, and when I listened to the dialing, I heard music. Turns out the local AM station signal, which is only about 1.5 miles away, is getting into the modem, making it into an AM radio. "Dammit, Jim, I'm a modem, not a radio!:

I tried to buy a filter, but the shop said they were out and the web ones were expensive. Fortunately, a cheap $11 internal modem was able to work. Here's a toast to the cheapy! Made in Taiwan (not mainland China). Thank you Taiwan: cheap & works.

This is all true (2, Informative)

89cents (589228) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907689)

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 with my wireless devices reconnecting and had to reconfigure most of them. I was really surprised that these devices were permitted to use the 2.4GHz frequencies, but at least I found a way to cope with it.

File under: DUH! (2, Informative)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 4 years ago | (#27907777)

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...).

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