According to a few stories seen online recently, Christmas lights like the kind Americans decorate their houses with during this time of year may interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. If this is true, that means your router’s data traffic could slow or perhaps cease altogether. We all know that few things are more frustrating than a slow Internet connection.
And since at weBoost we know a little bit about how cell phones work, we figured if Christmas lights can block the radio frequency (RF) signals that carry your Wi-Fi traffic, wouldn’t they do the same for mobile phone voice and data which also travel via RF signals? So we decided to look into this question.
First some context. The decorations and lights we discuss here are those mounted on or around your own home. Your neighbor’s Christmas lights will not interfere with your Wi-Fi nor cell service even if he’s a contestant on that TV reality show The Great Christmas Light Fight.
If your neighbor’s Christmas lights are going to interfere with Wi-Fi and mobile signals, they would interfere with your neighbor’s own Wi-Fi and cell traffic, not yours.
Some more context: If your ISP is a terrestrial telephone company or cable TV provider, then your Wi-Fi probably cannot be affected by Christmas lights. Why? Because your Internet service most likely gets to your home over a well shielded copper wire, rather than via RF signal. And the whole issue we’re discussing here is whether Christmas lights can interfere with RF signals.
But of course everyone gets cell phone service via RF signal, and many millions of Americans and Canadians also get their internet service wirelessly as well. So let’s find out about the truth about Christmas lights interfering with wireless communications.
In the short video above, weBoost embedded firmware engineer Miklos Zoltan describes how, in theory, unshielded wires on faulty Christmas lights could cause a house to be enveloped in a cocoon of RF interference. If this were to happen, then RF signals carrying Wi-Fi data and/or cell voice and data could be blocked, or able to enter and exit the house only in a weakened state.
However, Miklos points out that the combination of events that would create the described cocoon of interference is extremely unlikely. He put the odds at about a million to one, or even higher.
But just to be sure, we put this to the test. In the video above, repeated tests with and without Christmas lights show no ill effects to cell signal nor Wi-Fi.
So, bottom line, if Christmas lights are your thing then go all Chevy-Chase-in-Christmas-Vacation on your house this holiday season. And don’t worry about interfering with your Wi-Fi and cell service.