How to prevent Roku Wifi Direct from breaking 5ghz devices

By on June 1, 2016 - Geekery Tags: ,

A Roku 3 or streaming stick uses Wifi Direct to communicate with the remote control. This works well… unless you intended to use your wifi for some other purpose, that is. If your Roku is near your wifi access point or between your device and the access point, you’ll experience horrible wifi connectivity. A Roku in the apartment next to you could break your wifi connectivity. People have been forced to stop using them in condos due to neighbor complaints.

Well, I’ve found the problem and how to fix it.

Symptoms:

  • Roku will grab the same wifi channel as the nearest wifi access point (e.g. yours)
  • It will broadcast a Wifi Direct SSID DIRECT-roku-123-A2 on the same channel
  • It will increase its power to stay above your AP if you up the transit power

Most people don’t have the training or tools for wifi problem diagnosis, and probably weren’t even aware this was their problem. I know someone who said wifi was unusable in his apartment every evening. I asked him to check, and sure enough there were two nearby Rokus interfering with his wifi.

You don’t want to disable Wifi on the Roku because you won’t have a working remote control. It’s a serious problem. People were purchasing the previous generation IR remote controls just so they could break the wiki antennas off their Roku devices with impunity.

Well, I have found the problem. The roku has interference mitigation enabled by default. This is technology which deliberately disrupts traffic to nearby APs to attempt to improve local traffic. Yeah, it’s a nightmare in action. And frankly this technology violates US FCC regulations! Check out sections 301, 302(b), and 333 of the Federal Communications Act of 1934, as amended.

Here are the instructions to fix it.

  1. Start up the Roku and get to the home screen.
  2. Press these 10 buttons quickly: HOME-HOME-HOME-HOME-HOME-FFWD-PLAY-REWIND-PLAY-FFWD
  3. Select “Wireless Secret Screen” from the menu choices
  4. Select “Interference” from the menu choices
  5. Choose “None”

This should solve it. Instead of trying to interfere with the AP, the Roku goes off to an used channel far away from your wifi like it should have originally! In my case it went up to channel 165 which is as far as you can get away from my wifi AP’s channel 40. It does not appear that a reboot is necessary. However the settings persist after a reboot.

I have also gone into the Power menu and changed it to Low. This does not affect my wifi remote from working, but it didn’t lower the power sent onto the spectrum either. My wifi analyzer showed the exact same power level coming from the Roku as before.


Jo Rhett

Overloaded Geek: writer. devOps engineer. operations architect. motorcycle racer. Jo's latest book is Learning MCollective published by O'Reilly Media. You can track Jo's professional efforts through Jo's business resume

4 Responses to “How to prevent Roku Wifi Direct from breaking 5ghz devices”

  1. HPG says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve tried it, but it has no effect; the Roku continues to cheerfully chase the wifi signal up and down the channels and sit on top of it. Any thoughts on what I might be doing wrong?

    • Jo Rhett says:

      I’ve heard that this solution only works for those of us with wired connections. It still continues the bad behavior with people who must use wireless for their uplink.

  2. HPG says:

    Thanks — that certainly matches my experience. What a bizarre piece of engineering, eh?

  3. deviantintegral says:

    I’m wondering if this is fixed in the latest firmware – mine had interference mitigation off by default. I’m using a decent AP (A Unifi AC Pro), and running some tests, there’s no significant interference or performance issues with other clients when actively using the remote or streaming audio to it’s headphone jack.

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