WiFi Frequency Bands and Channels

Frequency bands and channels are often mentioned when talking about wireless network technologies. These aspects are important for the optimum efficiency of a WiFi network and learning about them may help you improve your current WiFi speed.

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What is frequency band?

This is a range of frequencies which has an upper and lower frequency limit. Currently, routers have three frequency bands, 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz, some routers are quad-band because they usually have an additional 5GHz. Higher frequencies can transmit data at a faster rate because they have higher bandwidth but have a shorter range. Lower frequencies, in contrast, have larger coverage but data transmission is slower.

What are channels?

Channels are the passage where the information is being transmited. Like in a TV, we have to put it on a specific channel so that a picture will show up. Channels in WiFi are found within the frequency bands, there are even tinier ranges like mini-bands and are 20Mhz to 160MHz wide.

What are the different WiFi frequency bands?

2.4GHz band

This frequency band is comprised of 14 channels and each channel is 20/22MHz wide. These channels are overlapping, hence, a lot of interference and congestion is going to be experienced which can greatly affect the performance of your internet. Although 2.4GHz has only 11 usable channels, it is the most commonly used of the all the bands for WiFi. Almost everything that is wireless, specially non-WiFi devices, operates on 2.4GHz because lower frequencies penetrate better through solid objects.

There are also non-overlapping channels in this band which are 1,6, 11 and 14. It is recommended that routers be set to these channels for less interferences.

As mentioned above, there are 14 channels but the availability of these varies on your location, as some countries banned channels 12 and 13, and almost all, with the exception of Japan banned channel 14.

5GHz band

5GHz has 25 non overlapping channels at 20MHz wide, 13 40MHz wide, 6 80MHz wide, and 2 160MHz wide. That is a lot of channels compared to 2.4Ghz which has only three. Since there are more channels to choose from, you can have the option to operate on a different channel if you find that others are congested. Another factor that speeds up the connection, is there are less devices that are operating on this band, so there are less interferences from non WiFi devices.

5Ghz band signals also have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies which really make data transmission faster. However, because of it’s wavelength, higher frequencies do not travel very far. They also don’t penetrate walls and solid objects as easily as the 2.4GHz so the range is more limited.

It is also important to note that some channels are DFS(Dynamic Frequency Selection), they are being used for weather radar and radar systems. The good thing though is current routers and access points have DFS capability so if this feature is on and they detect that a channel is being used by a radar, they will automatically switch to another channel that not in use.

6GHz band

This is the newest addition to the WiFi band, FCC signed the new regulation into law that opens 6GHZ band with 1,200MHz of spectrum to WiFi and other unlicensed uses last April 23, 2020. It has 59 20MHz channels, 29 40MHZ, 14 80MHz, and 7 160MHz. This additional spectrum is expected to be the solution to the growing demands for wireless connection making even the 5Ghz seem crowded already.

6GHz has more on almost everything. It has more channels, more bandwidth, more enhancements, and of course, more speed. Very few devices are also operating on this frequency since older devices aren’t programmed to use it, and not everyone is ready to give up or change their current routers and APs yet.

Additional things to know

⦁ On best-case scenarios and theoretically, 2.4GHz can support up to 600Mbps speed, 5GHz up to 9.6Gbps with WiFi 6, and 6GHz up to 9.6Gbps, same with 5GHz. Older generations that operate on 5GHz have a top speed of 1300Mbps.These are combined download and upload speed or access point to client and vice versa. It is important to remember that these are usually for advertisement purposes and they do not really happen in real life. When we do speed tests, it is usually far from these adverstised speeds.

⦁ WiFi connection speeds depends on a lot of factors such as your devices. The maximum speed you can get depends on the WiFi standard your routers and access points support and on which band and channel it is set to operate. The channel and band is something you can change if your device is dual, tri or quad band. The interferences, obstructions, how far you are from your AP/router and the speed of your WiFi subscription are also other things that affect your network speeds.

Watch this video about WiFi 6

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