Interference is a major threat for Wi-Fi networks

the Farpoint Group
02 Nov 2006

New studies by the Farpoint Group have brought to light the significant impact of non-Wi-Fi devices on both the performance and security of Wi-Fi networks.

Wi-Fi and non-Wi-Fi devices share the same unlicensed radio spectrum and compete for bandwidth with a Wi-Fi network. The new studies highlight the ways non-Wi-Fi devices - including Bluetooth headsets, wireless video cameras, cordless phones, and microwave ovens - degrade the performance and integrity of wireless networks.

Over the next few years, as wireless becomes the default network technology for most enterprises, Wi-Fi networks will be expected to deliver the same quality of service as traditional wired networks have for the past decade, according to Farpoint Group principal Craig Mathias.

To deliver this quality of service, network managers need to understand and address the challenge of RF interference.

'The air is the new wire,' says Mathias, 'but it is a much more difficult medium to manage and control.'

Farpoint Group believes that there are three key components to effective interference management: constant monitoring for interference, identifying the source of interference that threatens the integrity of the WLAN, and taking steps to mitigate the threat.

In a white paper titled 'The Invisible Threat: Interference and Wireless LANs,' Mathias says wireless network deployment will continue its dramatic growth for the foreseeable future.

He estimated that just 10% of all enterprises have installed wireless LANs for general office use, but within a few years, nearly all mobile users will connect to a wireless LAN in the typical office environment, even replacing, in many cases, wired desktop phones.

Interference with Wi-Fi networks is thus 'a major concern,' he says.

Interference threatens to degrade and even disrupt core enterprise applications, e-mail, and telephony within an organization.

Another report published by Farpoint Group, 'Evaluating Interference in Wireless LANs, Recommended Practices,' offers a comprehensive set of recommendations for evaluating the impact of interference in the office, including determining a workload to evaluate, establishing baseline traffic/interference measurements, obtaining benchmark results, and evaluating the impact of impairments.

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