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04/14/2005 Entry: "Look ma, no cables!"
Posted by CKL @ 10:03 AM PST

5.8GHz is better than 2.4GHz... for now.

For the past few years, we've been using a wireless video sender which transmits at 2.4GHz to watch TV in bed. It worked great in our previous and current houses-- we didn't have to run coaxial cable from the living room, where our TiVo is stationed, to the bedroom, which didn't have existing connectors (because we're renting, we're somewhat reluctant to punch lots of holes in the walls). The only major problem was interference.

Many of our other devices, including the 802.11b gateway and microwave oven, radiate in the 2.4GHz range. We also had to use a separate, even more finicky device to relay the infrared signals from the remote control. And recently, we started getting constant interference on the video signal, which appeared in the form of flickering horizontal lines and crackling noises. Not cool. I suspect one of our neighbors got a new Wi-Fi setup or cordless phone system. What to do?

I considered running coax from the living room to the bedroom. We would have had to get a new wall plate for the living room, and punch a hole into the bedroom. Since I'm lazy, I actually considered measuring the temperature in our central air ducts (there's a vent that connects the two rooms) and stringing cable through there if it wouldn't get too hot. I even thought about getting a second TiVo, which we could network wirelessly, but since we don't have a TV antenna in the bedroom (and thus couldn't actually record anything there), I would have been paying for a very expensive repeater. Not cost-effective.

But then I did some research and found that there are now wireless video senders that transmit at 5.8GHz, and they're advertised as being resistant to interference from 2.4GHz devices. I was a bit skeptical because I couldn't find many product reviews or stories from actual users. A few people said the effective range was short and didn't penetrate walls very well. But there was no way to find out how it would perform in our environment without actually testing it, so I just bit the bullet and ordered the RF Link AVS-5811 from (hate their pop-up ads, but can't beat their price: $123 shipped).

The package arrived yesterday. I set it up last night, and it works flawlessly. No interference at all, and the picture and sound were clear even when I fired up the microwave oven, the worst disruptor in the 2.4GHz spectrum. My tradition of watching The Daily Show in bed before going to sleep can now continue. Huzzah!

Of course, this won't last forever. As more 5.8GHz devices are produced, that frequency range will get more crowded, and we'll run into the interference problem again. But hopefully, by then, the whole HDTV and networked-media-center market will be less muddled, and we'll have better options for setting up a whole-house entertainment system that transmits digitally. And a bigger house, since a two-bedroom cottage isn't big enough to justify (or hold) all that equipment.

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