Microwave Oven Jams Video Streaming Over Wi-Fi

Tonight is movie night and it’s time to make the microwave popcorn – but don’t forget the butter and salt! While the microwave oven cooks a bag of popcorn, the video streaming from the local Wi-Fi stalls, and then after some delay Netflix pops up an error message saying the network link went away. The attached video clip shows exactly this scenario occurring. Some people may not think the two (microwave and Wi-Fi) are related, but they are:

Microwave Ovens Make Excellent Wi-Fi Jammers

Essentially, what’s happening in the situation described is the microwave oven acts like a jammer against the iPad streaming a Netflix movie. When the iPad can’t reacquire a clean Wi-Fi channel it kicks up an error message telling the user that there’s a problem with the network. What’s elusive about this kind of failure is the receiving device (in this case an iPad) will show full signal strength and but not be able to transmit or receive data. This scenario frequently occurs in commercial and industrial settings – not just in someone’s kitchen adjacent to his or her home theater.

The solution to the problem may be counter intuitive to some because their first instinct might be to simply boost the power of the existing network and adding more access points. Adding more access points will just raise the average power level of the Wi-Fi channel, but it does nothing to mitigate sources of interference.

Oscium’s WiPry-Combo tool is helpful for properly diagnosing the problem in these situations. The wifi spectrum analyzer lets users monitor Wi-Fi channels in the 2.4 GHz band, and the peak power meter is used to measure signal strength of possible interference sources. In this way WiPry-Combo helps users find a clear Wi-Fi channel to resume communication with their LAN, and identify active interferers so the right actions can be taken to isolate them.