Wi-Fi has now become the heart and soul of the online world. Along with smartphone Internet connection, wireless networking has transformed the world in a very big way in the last 3 years. Wi-Fi comes with an added benefit of additional bandwidth and lets you connect from almost anywhere; at home, at work, in libraries, schools, airports, hotels and even in some restaurants.
The current Wi-Fi or 802.11 networking covers the specifications laid down in IEEE 802.11. The major advantage of Wi-Fi is that it is compatible with almost every PC operating system, smartphone, gaming console, and printer.
Despite these advantages, sustained Wi-Fi speeds still continue to be a frustrating problem, which could be due to a lot of reasons such as a nearby interference, or the way your router is set up, or if you live in an apartment building or a separate house, then how far apart your devices are from the router, etc. Even some other gadgets and electronics like cordless phones and microwaves can interfere with Wi-Fi as well.
Fortunately, there are possible ways to get the Wi-Fi speed fixed. If you are among the people who have been able to mess around with your Wi-Fi router’s settings, you might have come across Channels indicating the availability of more than one channel for the user. It is proven fact that there are some channels which indeed provide more speed than others.
Read on to find out more about 802.11 channels, interference, and the massive difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi.
Channels 1, 6, and 11
Most of the modern Wi-Fi home routers broadcast in various frequencies. The Wi-Fi home networks make use of a narrow radio frequency range between 2.4GHz and 5GHz for signal transmission. Since the signal travels distant and obtains the ability to penetrate through walls very easily, normally a 2.4 GHz is sufficient for large homes with multiple floors. However, 5 GHz is the best to go for smaller homes, as it offers much faster speeds, even though in a shorter range.
A spacing between the channels is really important as overlapping can result in awful data speeds. Recent observations has highlighted that using the 40MHz channels gets affected due to airwaves being congested. Although the band of 5GHz seems to be getting promoted by the launch of 802.11ac in the year 2013, 2.4GHz still is the chosen band due to varied reasons.
All of the versions of Wi-Fi up to and including 802.11n (a, b, g, n) operate between the frequencies of 2400 and 2500MHz. Similar to television channels, this range has been distributed further into some smaller bands or channels. There are 14 channels allocated in the 2.4GHz range separated by the 5MHz individual except a 12 MHz spacing before the channel 14. This insignificant signal range is the main reason that leads to overlapping of channels and poor throughput on your wireless network.
Fortunately, channels like 1, 6 and 11 are spaced with enough distance ensuring no overlapping. You should always try to use channel 1, 6, or 11 on a non-MIMO setup (i.e. 802.11 a, b, or g). Further, stick to channels 1, 6, and 11, if you use 802.11n with 20MHz channels. However, if you want to use 40MHz channels, be aware that the airwaves might be very congested unless you live in a detached house in the middle of nowhere.
What channel should you use in a crowded area?
Channels 1, 6, and 11 are your best choice for minimal interferences and maximum throughput. But depending on other wireless networks in your vicinity, choosing the other channels might also help in getting hands-on better speed. For instance, tools like Vistumbler can help you find the best and clearest channel. However, remember using any other channel apart from channels 1, 6, and 11 can make you the reason for interference among other residents in your vicinity.
The biggest advantage of 5GHz (802.11n and 802.11ac) is the availability of more free space and also high-frequency access. Both 802.11n and 802.11ac can offer 23 non-overlapping 20MHz channels. It might be a good time to switch over to 802.11n wireless technology if you are among those who still depend on 802.11b and g. This new router has the necessary hardware that has the ability to choose as well as modifies the right channel for maximum output with minimum interference. If you’re using the 5GHz band, and are staying in an area with thick walls, you should be expecting less interference and faster channels like 40, 80, and 160MHz channels.
Choosing the right channel will most likely become a thing of the past, as everyone eventually upgrades to newer hardware and moves towards 5GHz. However, fine tuning the channel on the router might still be required. We should be ready to cope up with the future changes in the wireless networking with the hope of higher frequencies and new adaptable antennas.