You may have heard that USB 3.0 causes some interference issues with wireless devices that communicate over the 2.4 GHz frequency band. Why is this? In this article we’ll dive into the question.
In 2012, Intel published a white paper documenting the issue, why it happens, and mitigation options. It all boils down to the signal-to-noise ratio/RF noise generated by USB 3.0 devices. Due to the nature of the USB 3.0 specification, all data transmitted must be scrambled, and creates noise that can get as high as the 2.4 - 2.5 GHz frequency range. The noise can come from a USB 3.0 connector on the platform, the connector on an external peripheral device, or a USB 3.0 cable.
Through their own testing, Intel found that a significant signal lag occurred at a distance of 3 feet or greater between a USB 3.0 wireless mouse and the computer it was connected to. To quote the summary of Intel’s report, “the noise is a broadband noise that cannot be filtered out, since it falls within the band of operation of the wireless device (2.4-5 GHz).” From this finding it can be concluded that relying on a USB 3.0 wireless adapter for measuring WiFi signal strength on 2.4 GHz may not deliver the most reliable information.
In terms of mitigation, Intel suggested that shielding improvements to USB 3.0 peripheral devices and shielding on USB 3.0 receptacles on computers could lessen this interference, as well as conscious placement of wireless antennas to decrease the impact of potential USB 3.0 interference as much as possible.
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