What do I need to know before selecting a different wireless channel?

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Your choice of wireless channels can have a big effect on network performance. Your goal is to choose settings that avoid interference from other networking and radio frequency equipment. This is especially important if your equipment uses the 802.11n or 802.11ac wireless networking standard. Consider adjusting your channel selections in the following situations:

  • You are experiencing interference (shown by lost connections or slow data transfers).
  • You want to improve your wireless coverage.
  • You use multiple access points or wireless routers, which requires you to use different channels on the devices.
  • You aren’t the only person nearby running a wireless network.

Simple spacing of channels:

Improving signal strength is not like adding more lights to get a brighter living room. Devices that transmit powerfully, such as routers, access points, and cell phone base stations, can interfere with one another. To prevent that, place them as far apart as possible, and ensure that they use different channels.

Devices that use 802.11b and 802.11g can be tuned to one of 11 channels in North America, 13 channels in Europe. If you experience interference from overlapping wireless networks, each network should use one of the non- overlapping channels. These are channels 1, 6 & 11 in USA. Channels 1, 7 & 13 in Europe. This allows three networks to use the same space with minimum interference. If you can not do that, choose channels as widely spaced as possible, preferably at least five channels apart. For example, use channels 1 and 6, or channels 4 and 10.

In addition, instead of trying to cover everywhere in your home, use a combination of access points and antennas and other equipment to create local “spotlights” of strong transmission.

What if a channel I want to use has too much interference?

Unfortunately, you can’t completely avoid interference just by using other channels. Wireless protocols 802.11b and 11g only have three non-overlapping channels. When four or more channels are used in the same area, the level of interference can increase notably. If you and your close neighbor both have a router and a wireless access point, a total of four powerful transmitters are in close proximity and you both experience some interference.

If you’re experiencing a severe problem, a practical and sociable thing is to talk to your neighbors using wireless networks that can be seen when you scan. Together, you can choose optimal channels for your respective networks. Tune your equipment to channels that at least five channels apart. So, for example, you might use channels 1 and 8, and your neighbor might use 5 and 11. Setting Power to Half or quarter should be considered.

You might be able to place routers and access points farther away from each other inside your homes. After all, the kinds of physical barriers that reduce your transmission range also reduce the signal that your neighbor doesn’t want to see.

Using a directional antenna, or an antenna cable to shift an antenna, can help you both.

Reducing wireless network traffic:

Interference causes your network performance to drop, so in addition to reducing noise, you can also reduce the amount of network data being transmitted.

In a noisy environment, it might be useful to keep part of your network wired. If Ethernet cabling isn’t an option, consider NETGEAR’s Powerline products, which use existing home electricity wiring instead of patch cables.

When your network name (SSID) is broadcast, it’s easiest for equipment to find the strongest signal. However this also causes network overhead. When the SSID is broadcast, your neighbor’s equipment might keep a record of it and automatically try to connect several times a second; this practice can cause significant performance reduction. If a network is nearby, turn off SSID broadcast and change the default SSID.

Turning off WEP and WPA security can increase network throughput, but exposes your network to hackers. NETGEAR does not recommend turning off WEP or WPA except for testing purposes.

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