Wi-Fi's workplace enemy: Boughs of holly

Tech Culture

Companies are being warned that festive trinkets such as Christmas decorations can interfere with office Wi-Fi coverage.

Though rarely considered in past years, a well-dressed Christmas tree and some decorations hung around the office could diminish the strength of a business's Wi-Fi signal by as much as 35 per cent.

And that drop could be the difference between a usable signal and a connection that is faltering or intermittent.

It's not just the physical interference of added "clutter" in the office, but also an increase in reflective surfaces that can make the signal even less effective, according to Wi-Fi optimization and troubleshooting experts AirMagnet.

Some enterprises are already aware of the problem. Paul Broome, IT director at 192.com, whose offices use Wi-Fi, said Christmas decorations are just the latest in a long line of items that can affect the strength of a company's Wi-Fi signal.

Broome said: "Christmas lights can play havoc if you have a very cheap and nasty power transformer. It will radiate lots of RF gleefully over the twisted 12v DC cable powering the lights."

But Broome said it is no stranger than other problems he's encountered in the past. One office he worked in had a number of women who wore large amounts of jewellery and who would cause a dip in signal strength as they passed access points, he said.

AirMagnet's top tip for preventing problems this year is to ensure whoever is responsible for positioning the Christmas tree and any large decorations is also aware of the whereabouts of wireless access points. Problems are certainly far less severe if trees aren't placed directly in front of, or below, access points.

This news follows findings last month, published on Silicon.com, that showed the effect even normal decoration and fixtures, such as plants and lighting, can have on the strength of Wi-Fi signals.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

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