Wi-Fi Jamming: Your Stores Might Be The Problem, Not The Victim

Written by Frank Hayes
January 4th, 2012

With so many consumer devices using the same wireless frequencies, it was bound to happen: Just before Christmas, a U.K. family in a village 50 miles southwest of London lost the use of all wireless devices—everything from key fobs for unlocking vehicles to a wireless thermostat and a digital shower—until the problem cleared up without explanation several days later. The BBC reported that faulty wireless equipment had caused similar incidents in the past, including a street in northern England of homes whose wireless was jammed in 2010 by handheld wireless devices used to take orders at a nearby restaurant.

Retailers get understandably worried about customers who might intentionally or unintentionally block store Wi-Fi that’s used for POS, associates’ handheld devices or free customer wireless service. But there’s a risk the other way, too—the newest Wi-Fi access points have a range of more than 200 feet indoors and 800 feet outdoors. That’s easily enough to jam neighboring stores’ Wi-Fi in a mall or interfere with homes near a standalone store. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to know whether a store’s Wi-Fi is causing problems in the neighborhood—at least not until the FCC shows up to investigate a complaint.


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