Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Can Pepco's Smart Meters Inferfere with Your Router's WiFi Signal?

by Bill Adler

Can Pepco's smart meters interfere with your router's wifi signal? Can these smart meters, which are being deployed outside homes throughout the Washington, DC area, cause problems with your home computer network?

The short answer is "maybe" for most, and "probably yes" for some people some of the time. To keep this in perspective, other devices that operate in your home can cause router interference, including cordless telephones and baby monitors.

Pepco's smart meters operate on 2400 MHz and 900 MHz, and it's the former frequency that's also used by wireless routers.

In Maine, the Portland Press Herald reported that the Maine Public Advocate's office "put out a statement this week saying Central Maine Power Co.'s 'smart meters'-- which use low-power radio frequency transmissions to send meter readings to the company-- are interfering with a wide range of household
electronic devices, from garage door openers and WiFi devices to security systems" (http://bit.ly/u6SQvw ) As Maine goes, so goes the nation?

The 2400 MHz part of radio spectrum is used by a lot of devices and radio interference is both common and expected. Pepco's smart meters don't operate continually; rather they turn on for very brief intervals during the day to talk to Pepco central. These on-times are not at scheduled times, so the potential interference may happen at any moment, brief as it is. Because of this, it's hard to tell if Pepco's smart meter is causing your router's problems, should you have any. (It's comparatively easy to determine if your cordless phone or garage opener is creating interference.) Smart meters actually talk with other smart meters though a mesh network, rather than each meter talking to a central dispatch.

And it may not be just your own smart meter, but your neighbor's smart meter that is interfering with your router.

What can you do about this? If you think that Pepco's smart meter is causing network woes, try changing your router's channel. (Each router has a different way to accomplish that, so you'll have to delve into your router's FAQ.) You can also move your router farther away from the smart meter, and away from your
neighbor's smart meter.

Keep an eye out for my next Tech Column (both here and on the Cleveland Park Listserv), which will be about how to make your router work better.


  1. "Pepco's smart meters don't operate continually; rather they turn on for very brief intervals during the day to talk to Pepco central."

    Not true.

    Watch this 3 minute news clip from TV station WUSA9:


    BTW, I found the same thing when I spent 6 days measuring "smart" meter broadcasts in Arizona, and others have found the same when measuring in other states.

    Power companies are lying about this and just about every other aspect of "smart" meters.

  2. The neighborhood collector tests have shown to be disruptive of our high speed signals as they are on the same signal as our network, B.C. hydro has yet to settle this and aside from tests have not turned them on or installed new meters in our small, remote community. They paid our ISP compensation for the last time they caused major and costly system disruptions with their collector tests and said it was a one off payment. We await resolution and many have locked their meters and posted signs here.