What are WiFi "channels" and why should I care?

  1. x509's Avatar
    Posts : 692
    Windows 10 Pro
       #1

    What are WiFi "channels" and why should I care?


    I keep seeing references to these channels but I thought that only the frequency ranges were important.
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  2. Posts : 147
    Windows 10 Home v1903
       #2

    Within the same frequency band (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, etc.), each band is segmented into a number of channels, dependent on the band standard (802.11n, .11ac, etc.). For example, the 2.4 GHz band in the US is segmented into 11 channels.

    You, as the admin of your own router, can select to use the default channel set up by your manufacturer -- or you can change it, to prevent easier detection by "wargamers" or to reduce interference. (Consider: if you live in a large multi-family dwelling unit, you could have tens of routers set to the default channel, all colliding for the same channel.)
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  3. bro67's Avatar
    Posts : 8,169
    Mac OS Catalina
       #3

    x509 said:
    I keep seeing references to these channels but I thought that only the frequency ranges were important.
    Wifi Channels are just like TV Channels appear on an Oscilloscope. They are a square waveform that the ends can overlap other bands. The problem that you run into is congestion, just like if you were in a huge market area, say NYC or Chicago and cannot tune in a low strength channel, because a higher strength channel is causing you to not be able to tune it in.

    I use Channels 1 & 5 for my Wireless N Access Point that is 2.4 GHz. Cisco has a lot of good networking stuff, along with some of the other websites that get into the meat and potatoes about it.
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  4. x509's Avatar
    Posts : 692
    Windows 10 Pro
    Thread Starter
       #4

    gpstoloff said:
    Within the same frequency band (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, etc.), each band is segmented into a number of channels, dependent on the band standard (802.11n, .11ac, etc.). For example, the 2.4 GHz band in the US is segmented into 11 channels.

    You, as the admin of your own router, can select to use the default channel set up by your manufacturer -- or you can change it, to prevent easier detection by "wargamers" or to reduce interference. (Consider: if you live in a large multi-family dwelling unit, you could have tens of routers set to the default channel, all colliding for the same channel.)
    So are you saying that I should change the default on my router to something else than the manufacturer's setting? That is, if my cable modem allows me to do that, and I'd have to check.
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  5. bro67's Avatar
    Posts : 8,169
    Mac OS Catalina
       #5

    Yes always change the channel setting for "Out of the box", since it could be set to be on a congested channel. inSSIDer has always been a go to for everyone. It is no longer free, so you would have to pay for it, or try one of the other free choices out there. You can get around extra software, by opening up a Command Window and enter "netsh wlan show all" (do not use the quotes, they are just there to make the command stand out).

    You will be able to see signal strength of A/P's around you and what channels that they are set to.
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  6. NavyLCDR's Avatar
    Posts : 13,232
    Windows 10 Pro
       #6

    inssider is free here:
    inSSIDer 3.1.2.1 Download - TechSpot
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  7. Winuser's Avatar
    Posts : 6,488
    Windows 10 Pro Insider
       #7

    inSSIDe is a nice little program. It suggested for me to change from channel 3 to channel 11. My Link Score went from 35 to 100. :)
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  8. Posts : 129
    Windows 10 Professional x64
       #8

    There are even some access points that can choose the best channel automatically. Here in France, where we can use two more channels than in the US, channel 13 is often a good choice since APs never default to this and it's generally underused. I guess channel 14 would be a good choice in Japan since they accept up to 14 channels.

    However, choosing channels outside the US regulatory domain can pose problems sometimes since some bad setups can refuse to connect. I've seen such a problem with an Apple laptop once.
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  9. NavyLCDR's Avatar
    Posts : 13,232
    Windows 10 Pro
       #9

    And you also have to watch for hidden devices that use the WiFi channels as well. I have a Sony home theater system with wireless rear speakers. The speakers have a switch to set channel A, B, C. I looked up the technical specifications and it said that channels A, B, C were something like WiFi channels 1, 5 and 11. So, I've got the wireless speakers set to channel 11 and my internet WiFi set to channel 1-3 (40 Mhz bandwidth).
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  10. bro67's Avatar
    Posts : 8,169
    Mac OS Catalina
       #10

    I always try to stay at the low channels, because some devices have poorly designed chips for wifi in them. They tend to not like the higher channels. Plus where I live, Channels 1-5 have hardly anyone using them.
    Last edited by bro67; 28 Jun 2016 at 20:53.
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