It’s not uncommon for Bluetooth and Wireless connections to fight with each other. When these two technologies are used together, you may occasionally run into some problems. While you may think these two types of connections are completely different from each other, they’re actually a lot more similar than you may think.
Bluetooth can interfere with Wi-Fi because, in some cases, both connections are using a similar radio frequency range to transfer data. The more congested the frequency, the more connection issues you will have. Restart your devices, and move them around to reduce interference.
Shaky Wi-Fi or a perpetually disconnecting Bluetooth device is incredibly annoying. When you don’t have stable internet, operating at a consistent workflow is almost impossible, and it’s never convenient to have to reconnect your Bluetooth device from scratch just to make it work again. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce this interference which you can read more about below.
Can Bluetooth Really Interfere With WiFi?
Some users suspect that this can’t happen, but what we’ve seen is that there are typically more BlueTooth signals in your space interfering than you probably know about. Take for instance the most modern Playstation and Xbox controllers can broadcast BlueTooth, as well as smart speakers, tablets, and other devices. You may have more BlueTooth connections dancing around the space than you realize.
This becomes a problem when you also have a WiFi network operating. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both wireless communication technologies that operate in the same frequency range. As a result, there is a potential for interference between the two technologies. We’ll go deeper on this detail later in the article, but now, let’s just look at what this interference looks like so you can spot and diagnose it.
How to Tell if You’re Experiencing Interference
When it comes to diagnosing the problem of interference, you should first assess your device’s issues. As we talked about in our guide on the Apple TV and WiFi, there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth troubleshooting, but here are some symptoms of interference:
- Unreliable Connection – is your device unable to connect, or does the connection cut in and out?
- Slow Signal Strength – If you are continually seeing low signal strength but are near your router, you might have some interference issues.
- Bluetooth Audio Issues – these could be audio skipping, cutting in and out, static, and buzzing.
- Slow Communication – This happens with other devices that use Bluetooth like a computer mouse or a keyboard.
These issues all together can paint a pretty clear picture of electromagnetic interference. But if you are experiencing these issues, how do you fix them? Let’s look at some typical bad actors and how to go about troubleshooting and fixing them.
Some attentive users (forum link) can actually see the WiFi signal strength drop when they connect Bluetooth devices like headphones. One common moment where this interference can happen is when streaming content over WiFi and trying to enjoy it on BlueTooth headphones (forum link). This can be super frustrating, but luckily there are some quick things we can do to try and address these issues.
Quick Tips For Reducing Bluetooth/WiFi Interference
There are several strategies you can use to combat this dilemma. Most solutions will require little effort and can have some significant effect on your interference issues. This list of quick and relatively simple tactics can get you back to having a stable connection in no time, but if they don’t work, don’t worry: we’ll spend the rest of the article dissecting the problem a little further and giving more detailed advice based on our experience.
- Connect to a Lower Traffic Router Network – Most modern routers will be designed to operate on multiple channels, like 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. If you can, change which channel of your router you’re connected to to relieve network congestion. For instance, see if you can log into the 5GHz network. We’ll discuss this in a bit more depth later in the article.
- Upgrade Your Bluetooth Devices – Most modern Bluetooth devices are designed to hop along the multiple channels in the 2.4 GHz band, helping alleviate interference issues. This is called frequency hopping. But Devices need to have the most updated software to perform this maneuver properly.
- Remove Physical Barriers – Different materials can cause your signal to degrade. Walls, glass, concrete, brick; all these can cause weaker signals and connectivity issues. So, if your Router is in a solid-wood cabinet or behind a concrete wall, the signal will be weaker.
- Move the Router Closer – Because different materials are weakening your connection, it is always a good idea to be as close to your home router as possible.
- Re-Pair Everything – This can take some time and is frankly annoying, but the nuclear option is to go to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi settings on all your devices, forget all the networks, and then re-pair everything. This will clean out older connections you aren’t using that may still be crowding the network.
How Does Bluetooth/WiFi Interference Happen?
To understand how Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections transmit data, you first need a basic understanding of frequency bands (and what this technology is capable of – our guide). The Radio Spectrum is a series of electromagnetic frequencies that are used for telecommunication and other applications. Each “band”, or range of frequencies, has a specific use and often are regulated at a federal level.
Some notable frequency bands:
- Marine Band – Used for ships communicating outside of shore range.
- Citizen’s Band – Also known as CB, this public radio frequency is often associated with truckers.
- Broadcasting Bands – Multiple bands are used to broadcast radio signals like FM and the multiple AM bands.
There are millions of devices that use the radio spectrum to communicate and transfer data. However, when it comes to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, our focus is on a particular band associated with the ISM (Industrial Scientific Medical) bands. These bands are home to the significant applications of radio telecommunications. One band, in particular, 2.4 GHz, is popular for the use of network connectivity.
Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz occupy this frequency spectrum. Unfortunately, things can get crowded on the band, and the result is electromagnetic interference. When this happens, you can start seeing your devices not communicating effectively which can show up with a number of symptoms, including the following:
- Bluetooth connections, especially audio, cutting in and out
- Slowdowns and complete stoppage of pages loading
- Errors on the devices themselves alerting you to network issues
These symptoms can cause unreliable access to the internet, data corruption, and overall frustration with your devices because of their inability to work properly or communicate with the network. Unfortunately, the issue is not an easy one to solve as more and more devices are using these bands for operation.
In fact, the reason we use ISM bands for telecommunication is that traditional radio frequencies were becoming too populated, causing frequent interference. Interestingly enough, the original use of ISM bands was not about communicating data but about transferring heat. The most notable application of this technology was the microwave.
Microwave ovens use the same technology as your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network, but the radio waves are at a different frequency. This is why it is recommended to place your router or any device that uses this band far away from any microwaves. Any device that gives off an electromagnetic frequency could interfere with your home network. Even fluorescent lighting has been known to cause issues, although it is only rarely noticeable.
Common Sources of Interference and How to Deal With Them
Ok, now that we’ve armed you with a few quick solutions and an understanding of the bedrock fundamentals of the problem, let’s look at some more detailed troubleshooting notes.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from Outside Your Home
One problem you may run into is that your network is picking up interference from other Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals that don’t originate from you. This can be an issue if you live in a dense area like a city or just have many Wi-Fi networks up in your neighborhood or apartment building. The more networks you see when you connect your device, the more likely there could be some interference.
Unfortunately, this means that some of the causes of interference can be out of your control. Router technology is also advancing to alleviate some of these interference issues. As discussed earlier, newer routers will usually support transmitting on higher frequencies, like 5 GHz.
This helps because there aren’t many devices that operate on this frequency band, meaning you are less prone to interference with devices that use Bluetooth. Some routers, like the TP-Link AC1750 (on Amazon), offer dual-band use. This means they can transmit on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands.
Material Interference like Walls, Furniture, and Glass
Keep in mind that with 5 GHz, since you are operating on a higher frequency the connection will be more susceptible to material interference. This could be walls, chairs, furniture, glass; anything that can block the signals strength. It is recommended that you are using 5 GHz to be as close to your router as you can when using the network.
Some routers can transmit on multiple channels on the 2.4 GHz band. This, combined with newer Bluetooth devices’ ability to frequency hop, means that you won’t have interference between your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in most cases. So if you’re experiencing problems, it may be due to issues like physical barriers and not so much frequency interference due to Bluetooth.
While it is true that both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi transmit on similar frequency bands, most manufacturers take this into account when designing their products. If you are experiencing issues connecing all your devices, always check to see which devices may cause some interference issues. If you have older Bluetooth equipment or an older router, their outdated hardware may be the culprit.
Getting (And Staying) Connected
If you are working with newer equipment, there are usually features installed to help alleviate some of these problems. A sure-fire way to avoid these issues, though, is to use a 5 GHz router. Since it is a higher frequency band than Bluetooth, this should help solve the problem.
In addition to a 5 GHz router, you can always be more strategic with the router and device placement to ensure you don’t have an obstructed path for your devices.
No matter what, though, keeping in mind the overall volume of wireless signals in your space (from gaming consoles and their wireless controllers, to all manner of other Wifi and BlueTooth enabled devices) will help you know if you could be causing some interference, and it’s pretty easy to diagnose and solve!