The Best 5Ghz WiFi Channel for Your Router [April 2020]
To most people, all WiFi might seem created equal. As long as your router is properly connected to the internet, a network is a network, allowing you to stream Netflix, check Facebook, send emails, and anything else you’ve built your online life around. Those in the know, however, are aware that a lot of technology goes into your network, and depending on how you configure your network on both the hardware and software sides of things, you can improve your experience with faster speeds and more reliable connections.
WiFi bands make a major difference in how your network operates. The 5GHz WiFi band is immensely better than the old 2.4GHz band. It is faster and can transfer far more data in shorter amounts of time. It also has more available channels, which makes fine-tuning your router not just a possibility, but a must.
So, how to pick the best WiFi for 5GHz channel for you? First, if you don’t have a specific need for 5GHz then it probably isn’t worth the trouble, but if you’re seeking better performance then it’s worth exploring. If you’re Wi-Fi and Internet are working well enough then there’s not much need to mess with something that works well enough for your needs. Well, unless you enjoy tinkering, seeing if you can improve the performance of your equipment.
The primary benefit of using 5GHz is that under ideal conditions, your Wi-Fi will support up to 1300 Mbps, whereas 2.4 GHz WiFi supports only a very fast 450 Mbps or 600 Mbps. For most people doing most things online, 2.4 GHz may be enough, but 5GHz is the future of WiFi.
There is no definitive answer to this question. However, there are guidelines you should follow to determine the best channel that’s available to you at the moment. Keep reading to find out how to pick the best channel at 5GHz.
Channels at 5GHz
While the old 2.4GHz network has only three available channels, the more modern 5GHz network has well over 20 channels. The channels at 5GHz are split into four bands which are intended for different types of users. Here’s a brief rundown of each range before we skip to the selection process and considerations.
Starting at the bottom, the lowest four channels at 5GHz are collectively referred to as the UNII-1 band. Channels 36, 40, 44, and 48 make up the roster. This band covers frequencies from 5,150MHz to 5,250MHz. The vast majority of devices run on one of these four channels. They are designated for general domestic use, and you can access them freely at any time. The main problem with these channels is that most people use them so the traffic is very heavy.
The UNII-2 section also contains four channels – 52, 56, 60, and 64. They occupy bandwidths from 5,250MHz to 5,350MHz. This range is also referred to as UNII-2A. The UNII-2B range sits between 5,350MHz and 5,470MHz. The UNII-2C/UNII-2 Extended range is found between 5,470MHz and 5,725MHz. This range includes channels from 100 to 140. In order to use this range, your device needs to be equipped with Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) and Transmit Power Control (TPC). These ensure it doesn’t interfere with weather stations, radars, and military devices.
The UNII-3 or the UNII- Upper range goes from 5,725MHz to 5,850MHz. It contains the following channels: 149, 153, 157, 161, and 165. Due to the overlaps with the frequencies designated to the ISM band (industrial, scientific, and medical), it is often referred to as the UNII-3/ISM range. You will need to have SPF and TPC on your device if you intend to use the channels in this range.
The highest region is named UNII-4 or DSRC/ITS. DSCR stands for dedicated Short Range Communications Service. Channel 165 is the lowest in this region. The channels in this range are reserved for licensed radio amateurs and DSRC. It is not recommended to use these channels even if your device can use them.
With a full understanding on how these 5GHz bandwidth channels work, it’s time to pick the best one. Before you do that, however, you’re going to have to consider how your house, business, or surrounding areas may interfere with your network.
By far the most common cause of slow internet and frozen pages is caused by interference. There are two types of interference – interference that comes from other Wi-Fi devices and interference that comes from other electronic devices that are not using Wifi. For example, you might have appliances that could interfere with your WiFi signal even though the appliances don’t use the WiFi signal.
The UNII-2 and UNII-2 Extended channels have the lowest amounts of interference of all. These are channels from 52 to 140. However, for them, you’ll need TCP and DFS. Next, devices using the UNII-1 channels are mostly not capable of producing signals that can make strong interference. Therefore, they rank low on the interference table.
Channels in the UNII-3 range tend to have the biggest interference problems. Like with the UNII-2 channels, you’ll need TCP and DFS to use them.
Next, you should consider how much traffic there is on a channel before hooking up. If there aren’t many users, it might be a good option. However, if the interference is strong, you’ll be better off on a busy channel with weak interference. That’s why the UNII-1 range tends to be the best choice.
In crowded neighborhoods, you might want to examine each available channel and skip to the one with the least traffic. If the situation is extremely bad, you might want to coordinate with your neighbors.
Depending on where you live, you should know the laws and regulations regarding the use of 5GHz channels. In most of the world, including US and Canada, the UNII-1 channels are recommended for general use. In the US, you can use channels from the UNII-2 and UNII-3 spectrums, but certain restrictions do apply. Because the UNII-3 range allows stronger devices, it is more likely that you’ll get strong interference if you opt for a UNII-3 channel.
In the United States and much of the world, you’ll need Dynamic Frequency Selection if you want to hook up to a UNII-2 or UNII-2E channel. DFS listens for radars and will only allow you to hook up to the channel if there are no radars on it. Typically, scanning time is 30 seconds.
What’s the Verdict?
When searching for the best 5GHz channel for your device, you should go for a channel that has low interference and low traffic. If you’re going anywhere above the UNII-1 range, it is recommended to have DFS and TCP on your device. And again, if you don’t need faster than the 450 to 600 Mbps that 2,4 GHz offers, it might not be worth the hassle to switch to 5 GHz.
Have you switched your Wi-Fi from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz? Did you notice a difference? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!