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Why does Wi-Fi use the same frequency as microwaves?

When you start your microwave, do you lose the Wi-Fi signal on a nearby device? Wi-Fi and microwaves work at a similar frequency, which can cause interference. But why? And if this is the case, why does Wi-Fi not cook you?

Microwaves and Wi-Fi use the same unlicensed spectrum

In 1

947, the International Telecommunication Union established the ISM bands (Industrial, Scientific and Medical). The goal was to define which devices are allowed to work in certain frequency ranges so that they do not interfere with other radio communication services.

The ITM describes the 2.4 GHz band as an unlicensed spectrum especially for microwave ovens. This band has three compelling features: it does not consume much energy for transmission, it is easy to contain and at relatively low power it can heat food. All this lowered the costs and barriers to entry for consumers.

As the name ISM suggests, the original intent was only for devices that did not provide communication. In the years since the prospect of an unlicensed spectrum was used outside its original intended use, e.g. As cordless phones, walkie-talkies and more recently also Wi-Fi. The 2.4 GHz band was ideal for low cost, low power, and reasonable distance implementation.

Microwaves are not a Faraday cage; They Leak

Everything that runs on the ISM bands should be designed for incompatibilities to avoid interference. Wi-Fi devices are equipped with algorithms. However, a microwave is strong enough to overcome all nearby Wi-Fi signals.

Microwaves have a shield to prevent this, but they are not a perfect Faraday cage. The nature of a mesh window on the door prevents this. It is not uncommon for something to escape from a microwave – just look at one that has not been cleaned for some time. You'll probably see dirt and grease on the outside, which could only come from food on the inside. If solids can escape, radio waves can also escape.

Microwaves and Wi-Fi devices use a similar high frequency that they can interfere with each other. Of course, your Wi-Fi does not do anything that is perceptible to the microwave, partly because of the shielding and partly because it's just trying to heat your food.

Wi-Fi and microwaves use an extremely similar radio frequency, but there are two main differences: focus and performance. A wireless router sends its signal omnidirectional. That is, it sends it in all directions in a rough circle as far as it goes. In contrast, your microwave sends its signal in one direction, approximately in the direction of the middle of the stove. This signal stops until it hits a wall, rebounds and returns (at a slightly different angle). Due to the nature of the radio waves, it is not a perfect system and therefore every microwave has hot and cold spots. That's why microwaves have turntables.

Microwaves also consume more power than a wireless router. As a rule, they generate a power of 1000 watts. Conversely, a standard wireless router generates about 100 milliwatts (or 0.1 watts) of power. You would have to increase the performance of the wireless router 10,000 times and limit the beam to cook anything at all.

You may not need a new microwave

You do not need to replace the microwave. Most likely, the leak is small and not harmful to you. Wi-Fi is much more sensitive and there is not much time to cause a problem. Instead of replacing the microwave, you can move it. Alternatively, you can buy a new wireless router that operates on the 5 GHz band. Not only do you avoid interference from the microwave, but also interference from your neighbors.

Credit: Sergey91988 / Shutterstock.com

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