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How to Change Your WiFi Channel
What is WiFi?
20:41 16 June 2020
WiFi is a wireless network technology which creates Internet and network connections using radio waves. It can operate with a frequency of either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. WiFi can be received by a variety of devices, such as phones, computers, and tablets. The quality and speed of WiFi connections can be impacted by a variety of factors, including physical obstructions, the distance between a device and router, and what channel the router is set to.
What does Frequency Mean?
Frequency is a physics term describing waves which measure the rate the wave vibrates. Radio frequency describes a specific type of wave, which WiFi uses to transmit information.
WiFi frequency uses two “bands”, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Most modern routers have the option of either band, which is useful in different situations. In general, 2.4 GHz covers a larger area at a slower speed while 5 GHz provides faster speeds but at a more limited range.
What is a WiFi Channel?
The frequency of a WiFi network is broken into smaller bands, called channels. These are similar to television channels. There are a total of 11WiFi channels that can be used for a wireless network. These channels are numbered in order of increasing frequency, meaning Channel 1 uses the lowest frequency, while Channel 11 uses the highest frequency.
How do WiFi Channels Work?
A unique factor of WiFi channels compared to TV channels is that wireless channels can interfere with one another. Because of this, only channels 1, 6, and 11 are used since they do not interfere with one another. Channel interference occurs when multiple wireless network signals cross over one another, which can slow down the network.
Even though channels 1, 6, and 11 do not interfere with each other, two or more devices using the same of those three channels can have interference and suffer from a slower network connection as a result. Many wireless products are produced and set to use Channel 6 by default, which makes this issue worse.
When suffering from slow Internet speeds or poor performance, one measure that can increase performance is switching WiFi channels if the one your device is using is crowded. Although intuitively, you may think that switching to a channel other than 1, 6, or 11 will help because they are not commonly used, this is generally not recommended because 1, 6, and 11 interfere with all other channels.
Types of WiFi Interference
There are three primary types of WiFi interference: Co-Channel, Adjacent-Channel, and Non-WiFi.
Adjacent-channel interference is the worst type of WiFi interference. It occurs when devices in close proximity of one another are operating on different channels which interfere with one another. For example, if one router was using Channel 1 while another nearby router used Channel 3. These two channels interfere with one another, which will cause reduced performance and speed of both WiFi networks. This is the reason that using a channel other than 1, 6, or 11 is not recommended – it will likely not help your network speed, and might actually make it worse. Even if all three WiFi channels are crowded, your best bet is to use one of those.
Co-channel interference occurs when multiple devices in close proximity to one another are using the same WiFi channel. This type of interference isn’t actually caused by the radio signals themselves crossing paths, but rather the WiFi routers themselves “taking turns” to pass signals. Although a device using Channel 1 will not interfere with a device on Channel 6, it will interfere with other devices also using Channel 1. There is only so much you can do to prevent co-channel interference because there are only three usable channels. If all three are crowded, it is best to simply choose the least crowded one. Using any channel other than 1, 6, or 11 will cause adjacent-channel interference as explained above.
Non-WiFi interference is caused by other electronic devices using a radio signal with a 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz frequency. Some of this interference is caused by similar devices to routers which pass information, including cell phones, Bluetooth devices, and wireless video cameras. This interference can also be caused by devices which do not pass information, but simply emit high levels of electromagnetic waves such as microwaves. Avoiding non-WiFi interference is simply done by putting your router in a location away from devices which may interfere with it.
How do you Select the Best Channel?
The best WiFi channel is generally the least crowded. In order to identify your network performance and visualize the channels being used by other networks around you, there are many services available, and I have found that NetSpot offers the best WiFi channel scanner. Whenever you have WiFi network related issues, NetSpot can visualize the network coverage created by your router to help identify the issue. Its Discover mode will show which channels are being used around you and which are interfering with one another.
How do you Change Your WiFi Channel?
Once you have identified the most favorable channel, you must change your router to use that channel. All routers will provide a way to do this, even the most basic. First, find your router’s IP address.
On a Mac computer, go to System Preferences, Network, Advanced, and click on TCP/IP. There will be three numbers displayed, copy the number next to “Router:”.
On a Windows computer, open control panel, then View network status and tasks, click network connections, and finally details. Copy the number next to “IPV4 Default Gateway”.
Once you have copied your router’s IP address, paste it into your browser’s URL bar. This will open a login prompt asking for an admin password. If you have not changed the default password, “admin” is likely to work. If it does not, look on the router itself for a sticker listing the default password or look in your router’s owner’s manual.
Once the password is accepted, you will be able to see your router’s administrator interface. These differ depending on what particular router you have, but the option to change WiFi channel is often found in the advanced settings menu. Once you have changed WiFi channels, open NetSpot again to verify that you successfully changed channels.